Big Fish Games

[Review] The Fall Trilogy Chapter 3: Revelation (PC)

The Fall Trilogy is a surreal three-game casual series from 2010 that is one of the best of its kind from that era. If you haven’t checked out my review of Chapter 1: Separation and Chapter 2: Reconstruction from the series, please make sure you do. Chapter 3: Revelation is the last of the series.

The plot of the Fall Trilogy starts with you, a man, who wakes up from a fall in a strange place, not knowing who you are or where you are. In Chapter 1: Separation, you wake up in an ancient temple, while in Chapter 2: Reconstruction, you wake up in a high-tech office building. You solve puzzles and mini-games around your environment to find your way out. At the end of each adventure, you learn a tiny bit about yourself – you are a family man with a wife and young son. At the game’s end you find the exit, only to fall again, which is where Chapter 3: Revelation begins.

In Revelation, you wake up in the hallway of an old house. It’s 1882 and you have been summoned as a doctor to look after an ailing patient in a bedroom upstairs. The patient is a man who is unconscious. You have to draw blood and come up with an elixir that will cure your patient. You explore the grounds of the home, which includes a cellar, shed and greenhouse. Tasks pile up and puzzles are there to solve so that you are able to get the proper ingredients for this life-saving elixir and save this man, who is…familiar somehow…

Full disclosure: I had never played Chapter 3 before, but figured since the first two were so palatable, the third ought to be good, right?

Revelation is the weakest and most unbalanced of the three stories. Although the graphics still looked great, the story was underwhelming. The puzzles started out pretty cool; being a doctor, you had to take blood and the patient’s blood pressure. In another mini-game, you had to look under a microscope at blood cells – that was pretty interesting…However, the majority of them were repetitive and uninspiring, as they boiled down to several instances of just finding all of x in one room, solving jigsaw puzzles or matching objects. What was worse is that your character continuously leads you through the tasks way too much. By the end, it was almost like the developers were as bored with this as I was.

I should also mention this game is short, even though it took me 4 hours to complete, but I blame bad graphic mapping for that. In certain puzzles, I’d click on an object knowing it was the right one, yet the game wouldn’t detect it until I hit the hint button, which slowed down the works…That was frustrating! It expanded completing this maximum 2-hour game to 4 hours!

In an attempt to end the boredom already, I sought a Let’s Play on the goggles to watch how this ended but couldn’t find a single one; obviously everyone who has played Revelation was so bored they couldn’t stand it long enough to complete it. So, I was forced to played this game to the bitter end because inquiring minds need to know why this dude keeps falling…And frankly, the conclusion of the Fall Trilogy was dismissive, simplistic and really just…dumb:

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS (highlight with your mouse below)

The man was in a coma as a result of car accident. What is linking him to these weird places are objects found in his hospital room (i.e. a Buddha statuette is found, linking him to the temple). He wakes up surrounded by family. The end.

END OF SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

I was disappointed by Chapter 3: Revelation, and I’m thinking we could have done without it. The plot needed expanding, and the game itself needed more variety of puzzles. Certainly not a favourite…

2.75 / 5

The Fall Trilogy Chapter 3: Revelation (PC)
Kheops Games
2010

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[Review] The Fall Trilogy Chapter 2: Reconstruction (PC)

The Fall Trilogy is a surreal three-game casual series from 2010 that is one of the best of its kind from that era. If you haven’t checked out my review of Chapter 1: Separation from the series, please make sure you do.

To recap on the plot of the Fall Trilogy, you are a man who wakes up from a fall in a strange place, not knowing who you are or where you are. In Chapter 1: Separation, you wake up in an ancient temple. You solve puzzles around the temple to find your way out. At the game’s end you find the exit, only to fall again, which is where Chapter 2: Reconstruction begins.

This time, you wake up in a parking garage of a high-tech 20-floor high-rise, still no idea as to you identity, other than you know you are someone’s husband and father. A phone rings for you; the man on the other end warns you there are security cameras everywhere which you need to disable to find your way out. You are then on a search to shut off the security cameras, dodge a guard who is watching the building and solve puzzles so you can make your escape again…to more mystery.

In Reconstruction, you explore three floors of the building which include the parking garage and the upper deck with an incredible view of a cityscape. But, predominantly, your time will be spent exploring the main offices of Spoehk, a mysterious high-tech chemical company that has a full suite of security cameras and its own chemical lab. Once you get all the cameras turned off (a mini-game in itself), you can explore the floor and complete puzzles as you find them. The puzzles are challenging, but mostly engaging and range from solving jigsaw-like puzzles of ripped paper, to cracking security codes, to mixing chemical elixirs, to actual MATH (not so engaging) where you have to add up tokens properly in a vending machine to get cans of soda (ask me if I enjoyed that…).

The graphics in Reconstruction are impressive for a game from 2010. However, as good as they were, I wasn’t as engaged in the environs as I was with the temple setting in the previous chapter, Separation; I think it had a lot to do with me spending my time in an office environment, dealing with security codes and high technology in my professional life all day every day, so that aspect was a bit of a slog. And overall, I enjoyed the gameplay in Reconstruction, but we didn’t really learn much more about our protagonist and what has been happening to him. I suppose this means that one would not need to play Chapter 1 in order to play Chapter 2.

Overall, The Fall Trilogy Chapter 2: Reconstruction isn’t as engaging as Chapter 1: Separation, but it still has plenty of substance to offer to the casual gamer.

3.0 / 5

The Fall Trilogy Chapter 2: Reconstruction (PC)
Kheops Games
2010

[Review] The Fall Trilogy Chapter 1: Separation (PC)

The Fall Trilogy is a three-game series from 2010 that is one of the best of its kind from that era. Back in ’10, I was ripping through a lot of Big Fish Games’ try-before-you-buy-for-an-hour games, and The Fall was one of them. I’ll never forget how unique it was at the time. Of course now I’ve seen and played many more like it, but having replayed the first in the series, Chapter 1: Separation recently, I find it’s still a charming game with a lot of replay value.

In Separation, you play as a man who wakes up after a fall in a weird temple amid an oasis. Initially, you can’t remember who you are or what you are doing there, but early on you begin to piece together a sepia-coloured memory of your wife, Lisa, and son, David. However, you still can’t figure out what you are doing in this place. Soon, you discover the temple is a giant series of puzzles and games you must solve in order to leave…only to soon find out there is more mystery to your story once you exit.

The temple that you must escape is a series of rooms that stylistically marries ancient Egyptian and Hindu sensibilities. Some rooms are accessible, while others require you to complete a mini-game before you can proceed. The pleasant soundtrack is of birds and waterfalls, as well as the occasional crescendo of music when you get close to completing a puzzle. The challenging and fun mini-games range from hidden object, to matching tiles, to collecting items to create or assemble. The game mechanics are solid and not difficult to figure out. There was no timer on any of the puzzles (which added a casual atmosphere), and there were clue and hint buttons if you ever got stuck.

When I started the game, I had to change my screen resolution to 800 x 600, and this was likely due to the game’s age, but otherwise the game worked well with no hiccups. About the only negative review I can give with Separation has to do with the very lame and redundant task list (1. Find out why you are in the temple. 2. Find a way out of the temple. Really? Really??). As well, the on-board map looked like it was drawn in crayon, and did nothing to help you go anywhere.

The Fall Trilogy is developed by Kheops Games, makers of the adventure game, Return to Mysterious Island 2: Mina’s Fate (which I have not played). The graphics in Chapter 1: Separation are pretty good for its time; I mean, I have seen and played a heck of a lot worse in games released just a couple of years ago…By the looks of things, each chapter is sold separately and not cheap ($10 on Big Fish Games), but if you are so inclined and find a sale (bogo – the only way I could afford all three chapters…), Separation is solid. This game is distributed through Big Fish Games, so you can always play for an hour FOR FREE before ponying up the $$.

More to come…

3.5 / 5

The Fall Trilogy Chapter 1: Separation (PC)
Kheops Games
2010

[Review] A Gypsy’s Tale: Tower of Secrets (PC)

Wayyy back in my early renaissance gaming days (2010), I was ripping through hidden object games at a voracious pace. I would play any hidden object game I could possibly find out there on the internet. Big Fish Games, the pioneers of bringing casual gaming to the people, had it where one could download a game and play it for one hour without paying for it. A great deal to me! It is a great way to play without pay, and decide if it would be money well-spent.

One of the early hidden object games I played was A Gypsy’s Tale: Tower of Secrets. Wow, that was a good game – so good, I remember scenes and details to this day. Last year during a Canada Day 2-4-1 sale, I sprung up the money and bought a digital copy from Big Fish Games.

How does it hold up?

To start, I ran into a problem with the game running on my Windows 10 machine – the graphics card did some funky jive and the game looked like garbage on my TV. I knew this was a possible outcome, what with a game that is close to ten years old. But I hoped BFG had fixed the resolution to these old games enough that they would adjust to large TV screens. Unfortunately not. I wound up installing and playing the game on an old Windows XP desktop my husband had Frankensteined together, and played the game to completion, seated at a desk, using an old LED monitor. It was just like old times! But dammit, sometimes, it’s the only way to play these old standards!

In a Gypsy’s Tale, you are a gypsy hired by a monk to break a spell that has fallen on an old town, the cause of it, a possessed young woman in a tower. Who is this woman? Why the spell? The monk urges you to hurry, but the path to the tower is a labyrinth of locales, each with its own set of mazes, puzzles and characters that finally lead to the woman.

A Gypsy’s Tale has a clicheed plot, but the gameplay is pretty damn good, and once you get it running, it looks pretty good graphically for its age. There is an inventory to hold your items and a decent map where you are able to warp to different areas in this world. As well, the game gives you cues on tasks that need completing.

The game has a look and feel of the Treasure Seekers series, where the puzzles are challenging and fun, with a unique hidden object system that has you find pieces of an inventory item (i.e., a spade end and a handle to make a shovel) that are to be assembled into something before you can use it. Instead of search items by word, you search by shape of object, which stylistically is my preference, and different from standard HOG fare. You also collect a certain amount of crystals in each scene – little glowing specs that unlock areas on your map and provide needed currency, used to purchase items in the old town’s general store.

Aside from finding items, a Gypsy’s Tale gives you missions to complete that may seem arbitrary to the plot. At the same time, the game is so forgiving and relaxing, you find yourself say, “Sure!” and complete the task. At one point in the game, every spot on the map is open to you and you are made to go back to old haunts to finish up tasks. The clues to the tasks are not always clear, and this caused me to backtrack into rooms quite a bit, trying to figure out what I was supposed to do next. Thanks to the map however, I was able to warp back and forth easily and return to where I was originally without much difficulty.

Overall, a Gypsy’s Tale: Tower of Secrets will forever be in my pantheon of decent hidden object games. If you ever need a starting point to casual gaming, I highly recommend this one. Don’t be surprised if by the time you finish you become addicted to the genre!

4.5/5

A Gypsy’s Tale: Tower of Secrets (PC)
Big Fish Games
2010

[Review] Mystery Case Files: Ravenhearst (Nintendo 3DS / PC)

The Mystery Case Files series is an extremely popular and far reaching series that is mostly known among casual gamers. I have played several and reviewed three. Any of them I have played, I have enjoyed, and I thought it was high time I investigate other MCF games in the series. This time, we will look at Mystery Case Files: Ravenhearst.

Ravenhearst tells the story of a mysterious mansion in England with a past. Inside is the long lost diary of Emma Ravenhearst who tells her tale of love and loss. Her story is slowly revealed as her diary pages are released to you after you have solved hidden object, jigsaw and elaborate domino-effect puzzles. The mansion’s many rooms and grounds are unlocked to reveal further puzzles to solve, and you must beat the clock as each puzzle gives you a time limit (I loathe time limits – what for??).

Having played several PC games as of late, I was feeling a little like my Nintendo 3DS was being neglected, so I decided to play Ravenhearst on the ol’ hand-held. It’s a game I originally bought on the Nintendo eShop. I knew going in that this was a port from PC game, released on the 3DS in 2013 (the original is from 2006 on PC), but took a chance that maybe some independent developer spit-shone it clean to make it a not-so-terrible experience (maybe?).

As I have been repeating like a mantra, ports to the Nintendo DS and 3DS are often not great, and unfortunately, this game was NO EXCEPTION. Dude, I had to make an appointment with my neurologist after playing Ravenhearst on the 3DS for an hour – eye strains and migraines abound. Each hidden object scene had objects appearing too small and blurry like smeared poo. To make it worse, the music was poorly mixed here. In one scene, I could tell where the music looped from the obvious digital “pop” I heard over and over. Really bad. I had to quit before finishing. It was a game for the senses, and not in a good way. Maybe the PC version is better?

Luckily, I hoard boxed PC games, and found a copy of Mystery Case Files: Ravenhearst in my collection. I recollect a few years back, buying the Mystery Case Files boxed collection from EB Games. Once I wiped the dust off of it and loaded it onto my PC, I was ready to go to town on Ravenhearst.

Except…the game did not get along very well with my PC’s graphics card as it flashed incessantly all over my TV. After much fiddling with resolutions and compatibility modes, the only way I could get Ravenhearst to stop flashing was to play the game in windowed mode as opposed to full screen.  The mechanics and gameplay are pretty much the same in both PC and 3DS versions, although things do look better on PC. Having to play in windowed mode however, objects were small, which can be fixed by using the Ease of Access Magnifier. Still, I found playing the game a tad uncomfortable this way.

Once I got it going, Mystery Case Files: Ravenhearst was an ok hidden object game for its 2006 release, if a little stale. In similar fashion to other HOGs I have played, this one offers the same scenes to search, the same objects to search… which can be a bore, especially when what you are rewarded with are diary pages to a story that is unengaging. I think this one does suffer the ravages of time especially since the genre has had a long time to hone its chops and I concede that latter Mystery Case Files games have done this a lot better. Moving on…

Nintendo 3DS (2013) – 1.5 / 5
PC (2006)- 2.5 / 5

Mystery Case Files: Ravenhearst
Big Fish Games

*NOTE: Images are from the PC version of the game.

Now for other Mystery Case Files I’ve reviewed:

MCF: 13th Skull (PC)
MCF: MillionHeir (Nintendo DS)
MCF: Malgrave Incident (Wii)

[Review] Drawn: The Painted Tower (PC)

I first reviewed Drawn: the Painted Tower in October 2013, just when I started to gain traction with this blogging thang. Back then I wrote that I had just started playing adventure games three years previous…people, that was 8 YEARS AGO!!

In the summer of 2013, the hubs and I traveled to Barrie, ON to Video Time, where I found, among other dusty games, Drawn: the Painted Tower in box for $5. The artwork attracted me instantly, as well as the fact it was a Big Fish Game which was my main gaming wingman back then! This was not the first time hearing of Drawn…the game was held in high regard as one of the must-play adventure games in the casual gaming community. At its release in 2010, Drawn: the Painted Tower arrived right at the dawn of the casual gaming “golden era” when hidden object adventure games slowly began to show some decent production value with story, graphics, artistry, menu design and…most of all great puzzle play. It was a slow climb from the pixel dregs, but Drawn: the Painted Tower really gave casual gaming producers a run for their money.

Having already played it, I sort of ignored the Steam bundle sales of three Drawn games for one low price that kept popping up periodically. But, then the price of the bundle last summer became way too good to pass up. Having reviewed it over 4 years ago now, I thought it wise to take another look at Drawn: the Painted Tower. Glad it did!

Iris is a little girl who has the ability to make her drawings come to life (sort of like Simon and his chalk drawings, but this game is a lot more elaborate). She is living in an oppressed and evil kingdom, whose king would like nothing more than having Iris’s powers for himself. Her family sends her into exile to protect her. She goes into hiding in a tower she has constructed in her drawings, making even more paintings in the tower to hide in as well. There you are tasked with finding her in the labyrinth of mazes and gorgeous paintings to save her before the king finds her.

From the first title screen, Drawn: The Painted Tower was nothing but beautiful, sad, and absorbing, with a lovely soundtrack to match.

An interesting twist is being able to enter Iris’s living paintings to explore, find necessary tools and solve important puzzles. The gameplay is linear, yet I did find there was quite a bit of backtracking and some pixel hunting. However, hints are given along the way, as well as a task list to complete, so there is no question as to what you need to do next. The puzzles were not your typical fare, and are memorable; one that I particularly loved was where I got to mix paints and then use them to paint a wooden toy and stone carving!

When I originally played Drawn: the Painted Tower, I had written that I finished the game in under two hours…that can’t be right, unless I am losing my touch or they expanded on the story, because this time it was over 4 hours for me, but it was time well-spent. If you ever find the opportunity, play Drawn: the Painted Tower – I recommend it!

4.5/5

Now to play Drawn’s two sequels!!

Drawn: The Painted Tower
Publisher: Big Fish Games
Released: 2010

[Review] Hidden Expedition: Titanic (Nintendo 3DS)

Thank you for sticking with me through my Titanic-themed games series! This review will be my last for awhile, and let me tell you, I think I saved the best handheld Titanic game for last!

Feeling pissed off about my experience with Murder on the Titanic for the Nintendo 3DS, I was reluctant to take a leap of faith and acquire Hidden Expedition: Titanic, also for the 3DS, through the Nintendo eShop. On preview, I discovered this game is developed by Big Fish Games, the leading authority on casual gaming. Now, BFG have made some choice titles, but they have also made some real bowsers. And as I have written throughout this series, a port from PC to the Nintendo often does not go well at all. I am here to tell you, I got lucky for once; Hidden Expedition: Titanic is pretty good! It is a port, but you wouldn’t know it to play it. Huzzah!

You are working as a professional diver, and have been hired by the Titanic Museum Foundation to do a series of dives to find the Queen’s crown. A cargo manifest from 1912 shows the crown was being shipped on the Titanic to New York to be a part of a museum exhibit. Researchers have some idea where the crown is located on the sunken ship, but it will require several dives into the wreckage to find the exact location. Along the way you are asked to save lost artifacts and gems scattered throughout the ship. Since this dive is a dangerous mission, you are permitted to keep any gems you find.

There are 14 dives in total, with each dive exploring up to three areas of the ship, starting from the top to the bottom. Each dive has a time limit of at least 20 minutes long. Within this time period, you are completing at least two hidden object puzzles and finding at least 10 gems. A hint button is provided, but you are penalized two minutes off the clock for using it. Once you have completed a dive, you are then to complete another casual puzzle in the time you have remaining. If you let the clock run down without finishing, you have to start the whole dive over again.

For once, there is a Titanic game that I can confidently say has some replay value. The hidden object scenes in Hidden Expedition: Titanic are challenging – no getting bored! And the images are crystal clear and detailed, even when zoomed in. My only “complaint” is putting a timer on this game – what for? I suppose it’s to simulate the limited amount of time you can be underwater on a dive?

And I played a decent Titanic game!

Of course, my complaint is a very minor jab on this game. Hidden Expedition: Titanic is enjoyable, and the plot behind it makes some plausible sense. It’s a very enjoyable game, and (I can’t believe I am finally saying this after all this time…) I RECOMMEND IT!

4/5 !!

Hidden Expedition: Titanic (Nintendo 3DS)
Big Fish Games
2014