[Review] Empress of the Deep 2: Song of the Blue Whale (PC)

Empress of the Deep 2: Song of the Blue Whale is another offering from New Brunswick-based Gogii Games. I played its predecessor, Empress of the Deep: The Darkest Secret, in 2014! Back then, I recall it being a damn fine HOG with an adventure element. Gogii does produce a half-decent sequel in Part 2, in graphics and gameplay, even while the storyline itself is a little strange.

In the Darkest Secret, Anna discovered that she is the Empress of the Deep – her sister Pandora was jealous of her and had her locked under sea in a tomb, asleep. Pandora destroyed the tomb, and Anna narrowly escaped with her life. Now in Song of the Blue Whale, she is being summoned to the Temple in the Sky to find the four Children of Light and save them from Pandora’s evil clutches. In this temple she must also seek the animal guardians who will free the children and restore harmony. Yes, a lot of responsibility on Anna’s shoulders!

The sequel holds the Empress of the Deep canon well. My memory might be fuzzy on the past, but I think Part 2 might be stronger than its predecessor. It certainly has a lot to offer… The puzzles are engaging and varied; I found the hidden object scenes clear and interesting, but easy. The game is short (it took me under 3 hours to complete), but there are plenty of scenes to navigate. If I am to offer any critique, it would have to do with being given a map that I had difficulty deciphering, and that there seemed to be quite a bit of backtracking which made me lose my place a lot.

Mostly though, I really enjoyed the atmosphere in this game – the beautiful soundtrack, the odd soundbites of children talking and the serenity of water falling. Like its predecessor, there are aspects of the game that give a feeling of peace, similar to the Fall, or even Myst. And one takes pause at the calming pace at which the voiceover of Anna is delivered, acted by none other than Lucy DeCoutère (Trailer Park Boys). Gogii chose rightly here; just perfect!

Overall, Empress of the Deep 2: Song of the Blue Whale is a fine compliment to the first set, and often goes on sale on Steam – I highly recommend that you pick it up when it does!


Empress of the Deep 2: Song of the Blue Whale

[Review] Infected: The Twin Vaccine (PC)

A timely game coming at you!

Infected: the Twin Vaccine is truly a disturbing tale that I never thought could happen in our times, but here we are in the midst of the Covid-19 outbreak! Cities are shutting down! Mass panic at the Costco! People are dying! Never had I any idea that we would be living in these times – and what the heck – while I am in social-isolation (at least for the weekend), why not play a game about the extreme version of our reality?

A plague has ripped through Oxford City, killing many of its residents. Patient Zero is a set of twins, Tiffany and Theresa Morrisey. Tiffany didn’t survive the illness, but Theresa made a full recovery. And now she is considered the one with the secret to the cure but she has coincidentally gone missing. Oxford has been under mandatory evacuation, and with residents gone, the authorities want to blow it up, but what if the girl is still in Oxford, hiding? The world won’t have a chance of survival! Could her father have anything to do with her disappearance? And what about Carl, the local hobo who is taking advantage of the deserted town – what is his involvement? You as a doctor must return to the abandoned town and find Theresa before it’s too late.

Infected: The Twin Vaccine is from New Brunswick developers Gogii Games. I have had quite a history with Gogii, reviewing several of their offerings – some good, …some not so good…but Infected: the Twin Vaccine is pret-tay good for a game from 2012.

Some decent production value at the onset as we are introduced to the plot via a very realistic-looking news report. The game itself is the average length of 3 hours and has a variety of hidden object scenes with plenty of item-collecting and some fairly easy mini-games in there for good measure. Overall, I recommend the game for the surprisingly timely on-point story.

About my only complaint about Infected is there is a lot of pixel hunting in the HOG scenes, which is a large portion of the game. The map could have been much better too but at least there was a map!

Infected: the Twin Vaccine was sitting in my Steam library a long time – so long in fact that it’s no longer sold in the Steam Store! It’s too bad because this one has a pretty rich story and the gameplay ain’t half bad. It still lives for purchase via Big Fish Games, though, and I recommend it!


Stay safe and healthy out there!

Infected: the Twin Vaccine
Gogii Games

[Review] Escape the Lost Kingdom: The Forgotten Pharaoh (PC)

A young family takes a trip to Egypt to visit Aunt Amy who is curating an Egyptian museum in the latter stages of prep before its grand opening. The museum is teaming with ancient ruins…and unbeknownst to anyone, is on top of an old tomb that contains an ancient Pharaoh curse. It was daughter Emily’s bright idea to bring Jinxie, the family cat, on this trip. When it escapes in the museum, the kids run off after it. Suddenly, the ancient curse is activated and locks the family in the museum in separate areas of the building. The family must separately, then collectively, find a way to escape the museum and ultimately the curse.

Escape the Lost Kingdom: The Forgotten Pharaoh from developers Gogii is a game from 2012 that has been sitting in my Steam library since 2014. I really enjoyed it, particularly the dynamic where you have the choice to play as one of four family members. Each member is armed with a helpful device that aids in solving puzzles. A helpful map is provided, and you are told when you have cleared an area. The game is under 3 hours long, and mostly consists of hidden object scenes and collecting items on your route.

Although a decent game, I must say Escape the Lost Kingdom does have its faults. It holds up pretty well graphically, but I am positive some will find it difficult to see certain smaller objects. Interestingly, this game boasts a 3D mode where users with the old red/cyan 3D glasses can play the game in “3D”, and I can only imagine what that looks like. The music is a bit caciphonic depending on what room of the museum you are in and some may be annoyed at the slightly stilted voiceover acting between family members, but I personally thought the dialogue was cute in a Treasure Seekers sort of way. On a funny note, no one can get a consensus on how the cat’s name is spelled: is it Jinxie, Jynxie, Jinxy, or Jynxy? Inquiring minds want to know!

The game ended on a major a cliff-hanger. I was particularly puzzled when I still had items in my inventory as a black slate went up saying “Game Over”! I read other reviews on Escape the Lost Kingdom, and found out its Platinum Edition provides another chapter that rounds out the story perfectly. That is unfortunate…what happened to Jinxie/Jynxie/Jinxy/Jynxy? What happened to the curse? The Platinum Edition isn’t available on Steam…At this stage I’ll never find out!

I’ve dealt with other Gogii games that end weirdly (Voodoo Whisperer) and I hate to turn the stink-eye towards them…but dude, finish your games! I don’t want to out and out thumbs down Escape the Lost Kingdom, but it is disappointing to see an incomplete ending because the rest of the game isn’t bad at all. Developers, complete your story, then use the Platinum Edition as a bonus for gamers to unlock.

Overall, Escape the Lost Kingdom: the Forgotten Pharaoh is pretty good. Just ignore the confusing ending!


Escape the Lost Kingdom: The Forgotten Pharaoh

[Review] The Beast of Lycan Isle (PC)

Luna and Tara are best friends and traveling buddies who are set to rendezvous on Lycan Island – a normally bustling tourist trap that has turned dark and inhospitable in its off-season. Luna arrives only to find that Tara has disappeared from her hotel room. You go searching the Island for your friend, and find a wolf is on the loose. With the help of Brina, an old woman with special powers to manipulate the wolf, you search the entire island for your friend before it’s too late. Has a wolf got a hold of Tara, or has she turned into one of them?

The Beast of Lycan Isle has been sitting in my Steam library for many years. Obviously, I had forgotten all about it! For the most part I can say this is a game reminiscent in style and feel to Angelica Weaver, right down to the ever present voiceover instructions which can get tedious. There is a lot of leading and hand-holding here, which is perfect for the beginner gamer. Clues are always present but the voiceover is constant. This one is a little low on the hidden object scenes, but high on the puzzles and collecting of items around the environment.

I think others would enjoy the Beast of Lycan Isle, even though there are plenty of elements I did not enjoy about it. On top of the constant hand-holding, I didn’t care much for the look of it, or the characters…and the plot seemed a little odd. Yeah, I didn’t like it, and I would never want to play this again. HOWEVER, the newbie gamer might / would likely get something out of it.


The Beast of Lycan Isle

[Review] White Haven Mysteries (PC)

Something happened at the old White Haven…Dr. Conlon the head researcher was doing trials on a serum that would reverse the effects of mental disorders testing it on young patients. Some would say he managed to help his patients reverse the effects. If only the Federal Drug Administration would have approved the antidote already instead of banning it! It didn’t help that those five children administered the serum ran away from White Haven causing so much negative attention…which inevitably caused the manor to shut down and 20 years on it’s slated to be razed. Dr. Conlon has since disappeared from sight to parts unknown…

How is it you woke up at White Haven’s dilapidated doorstep? You are groggy and can’t remember how you got here, or why. You are met with a little girl who knows you and says you used to live there. She lures you into the manor – and the door shuts on you abruptly. The little girl vanishes down the corridor. You roam the halls seeing her in an apparition. You feel like you are going insane. A voice gets in your head, saying you must find the antidote before you go crazy. Who was that man’s voice? Dr. Conlon? Who is that little girl? Do you know her?

White Haven Mysteries has been sitting on my Steam account since 2013, and I have to wonder why I waited so long to play it. It’s a pretty good game with an interesting story. The game is from 2012, but don’t let its age fool you: everything looks fairly modern. And if you want to get creeped out, you’ll find it in the unsettling imagery, as well as music that reminded me a lot of Alan Wake (one piano note playing on a loop, and the sound of a gust of wind deafening you).

I really enjoyed the hidden object scenes in this one. The game does have typical scenes, but also did something a little different to make the game even more challenging:

Yeah, man! This HOG is worse than looking through a junk pile…

Canadian game developer Gogii also gave some nudge-winks at their Canadian roots, infusing some “very Canadian” items in their scenes, including having to locate Canadian old-school $1 bills (not in use in Canada since 1987…) and an airline ticket that looks destined for Europe, but the YYC destination would send you to Calgary, Alberta.

Overall, I’d recommend White Haven Mysteries. I see it go on sale on Steam frequently: pick it up on sale for cheap!


White Haven Mysteries

[Review] Haunted Past: Realm of Ghosts (PC)

Sara Haverston gets a call from Solicitor Mr. Malloy, and learns she has just inherited a large estate. Details about the estate remain a mystery. But, she soon finds out more as she encounters the ghost of her dead mother who is hiding out from an evil force that has taken over the estate. Room by room, Sara must systematically clear out the evil spirit by finding glyphs and other objects that will chase it away.

The estate itself is a dark and depressing place, but you as Sara gain access to a portal of light in each room – a gateway to a brighter and more cheerful equivalent of the room you are in. There you can also find objects that can be hidden away so that once you “cross over” back to the dark side they can be used to chase the evil away and save Sara’s mother’s spirit.

The first time I played Haunted Past: Realm of Ghosts was back in 2011 when I was tearing through Hidden Object games like there was no tomorrow. I remember writing down on “my list” that it was pretty good… And it is still a good game, albeit a little short at under 3 hours. It’s also a little dated in the graphics department, but the overall plot and mechanics still hold up. The soundtrack to Haunted Past is very eerie; if you play, make sure the volume is turned up and the lights off! Guaranteed to give you the willies.

About my only real complaint is the very tinny voice overs which likely had to do with the game’s age. The music however came out crisp and clean…and creepy!

I found Haunted Past: Realm of Ghosts on Steam at a huge discount. Pick it up if you are so inclined. You won’t be disappointed.


Haunted Past: Realm of Ghosts

[Review] Princess Isabella: A Witch’s Curse (PC)

Princess Isabella is set to marry her beloved Prince Adam, but an evil witch has put a curse on the entire castle. All who live there have been locked away in a series of mirrors which have been shattered and scattered throughout the castle. You must find the mirror shards to free your loved ones. Each room is locked within the castle which you must open to free the curse. A combo of puzzles, hidden object scenes and scattered mirror shards are available in each space. A fairy follows you throughout the game, providing you guidance and hints, as well as the ability to cast spells. Once all the mirror shards are found, you are to fit them together in each mirror frame to make an image of a loved one to free them from their curse.

Hall of Mirrors

When I found Princess Isabella: A Witch’s Curse on sale on Steam, the comments about it were generally positive. A game from 2009, Princess Isabella seemed to conjure up very happy memories for some from when they would play casual games as children. This game was also a nice bonding experience between parents (and in some cases, grandparents) and their kids who would play together. People were going on about how good a game this was, so when it was on sale, I snapped it up. On preview, its graphics appeared a bit dated, but I wanted to see what the fuss was about.

Considered one of the first of its kind according to some sources, Princess Isabella has the notoriety of being one of the first hidden object games to follow a non-linear environment. Most HOGs from this era forced you to follow a certain series of steps to proceed in the game, but Princess Isabella allows you to move freely from room to room as you wish, which is helpful as there are about 20 rooms to navigate. Thankfully, there is also a trusty map to allow you to port to a particular room quickly, and even provides guidance if there is a task that still needs completing (…and y’all know how I appreciate a good map!).

As an expert HOG player and seasoned reviewer, I am careful not to criticize the decade-old Princess Isabella too much. The game is generally meant for newcomers to the genre, not for the expert, although I think it has something to offer both camps. Some of the charms of this game could also be construed as irritating. The constant hinting by the fairy who is always there in wait, as well as the continuous unskippable dialogue would be extremely helpful for some, but would surely grate on others. I chose to mute my game and listen to some music instead of relying on the soundtrack, and my enjoyment of the game improved tenfold. I mean, everything is better with the very à propos RUSH A Farewell to Kings playing in the background!

Overall, Princess Isabella: a Witch’s Curse wasn’t a bad game at all. I would definitely recommend it for newcomers to the genre, and even to the seasoned gamer… It is usually cheap on Steam…so why not?


Princess Isabella: a Witch’s Curse

[Review] Voodoo Whisperer: Curse of a Legend (PC)

Lillian is a young girl growing up in 19th Century New Orleans; a place steeped in traditions of Black Magic. Lillian has been cutting her witchcraft chops with famed Voodoo Whisperer, Marie Leveau…and good thing, because Lillian’s friends and family have just become possessed by an evil demon and it’s up to her to save them from certain fate. Given a trusty recipe book, Lillian (you) scours the town for important ingredients to blend together using a mortar and pestle. A little alchemy…a little chant…maybe a voodoo doll…and poof! She breaks the spell.

Voodoo Whisperer: Curse of a Legend is a hidden object game that had been long forgotten about at the very dingy bottom of my Steam library, and its purchase was likely a flash Steam sale in 2014. I chose to play this one on a whim.

Developed by Gogii Games, Voodoo Whisperer tries hard to do something a little different with the hidden object genre. Sure, there are the familiar puzzles we often see with this type of game. But, being somewhat of a period piece set in the 19th century, Voodoo Whisperer never deviates from the epoch. It provides a good ambiance in decent graphics and enjoyable classical music (great oboe!). It helps too that hidden object scenes have you searching through objects of the time period (monocle, cane, felt hat, lace hanky) which shows great attention to detail.

Speaking of…Kudos to the developers for providing  an on-board magnifying glass so you can zoom in on the hidden object scenes. And, how about that in-game map? Applause!

With all these accolades, I still had a problem with Voodoo Whisperer…in that it got a little repetitive. In the game, Lillian had to save at least 5 people, and each one had a spell she had to break by finding ingredients to create a potion. The game indicates areas to search, but some areas had you look into drawers, closets and rooms only to have the game tell you “there’s nothing there” or “it’s just an empty drawer…” What? Why waste my time with that? There was also a lot of back-tracking to find certain missing ingredients which got tiresome and frankly tedious. With the outcomes of breaking the spell being the exact same with every person, I found myself hoping the end would come soon and that it would all be worth it.

Let me tell you, that ending…

Folks, the end of Voodoo Whisperer left it at quite a disturbing cliff-hanger and concluded with a “…to be continued…” slate. Reading online, there was supposed to be a part 2, but the project has been shut down indefinitely as the developer and publisher parted ways. Too bad, because the ending left Lillian in quite a terrible predicament.

[spoilers spoilers spoilers – (scroll over the area below to see)]

Lillian falls into a well, only to have an evil spirit seal the well head with a wood cap…leaving Lillian in peril.

[End of spoilers spoilers spoilers]

Overall, Voodoo Whisperer had some great gaming elements that I wish other HOG developers would implement. And about the tedium, I admit some people don’t mind the repetition in gameplay that this game offers. I only wish the developers followed through with their plan for sequel, because that ending! Yikes!

2.75 / 5

Voodoo Whisperer: Curse of a Legend
Gogii / Strategy First

[Review] Empress of the Deep: The Darkest Secret (PC)

If I were to assign a particular theme among the games I have played this year, I would have to say that a strong nautical theme would definitely be one of them. Escape The Emerald Star, Myst, and BioShock all have themes where you are out to sea, in water, under water or live in some sort of waterlogged utopia. My latest game, Empress of the Deep: The Darkest Secret can definitely be placed in that category, actually borrowing some familiar plot devices from each of the aforementioned games. But, before you write this game off as a derivative boring game, Empress of the Deep: The Darkest Secret uses these devices by infusing its own flavour to them, creating a charming little hidden object adventure game for the PC that I feel is worth checking out.

Imagine you are coaxed awake by an unfamiliar voice only to find yourself locked in a sarcophagus in an underwater city called the “Ark of Humanity”. This voice calls himself Jacob – your name is Anna, so he says. He tells you that you have been locked away for almost a century; that it’s time to rise and “save your people”. Immediately, you question yourself: who am I? MY people? You don’t understand what he is talking about…This is all too confusing! Then another voice can be heard – that of a young girl. She tells you not to believe Jacob because he is a senile old man. Jacob says the young girl cannot be trusted. Who to trust? You try to extrapolate truth from lies while you search this underwater mecca to find out who you are, what this all means and the secrets of your destiny.

The Good: Great graphics, atmospheric soundtrack, that can unnerve at times. Nice variety of puzzles. Hooray for a great map!

The bad: Hidden object scenes are super easy. Story is a little bizarre, but I forgive it.

Definitely, Empress of the Deep: The Darkest Secret copies elements from other games. Specifically, the underwater Ark reminded me of BioShock, minus the mutant un-dead residents found on rapture. In Myst, there was the round ball gondola to get you from point A to point B; same in this game!

What sets this game apart is, of course, the gameplay. The game bills itself as Hidden Object, but more than that there is an adventure element that forces the player to go from one end of the Ark to the other. There is no getting lost here though, as the game provides you with fantastic navigation, complete with an awesome map. The puzzles in Empress of the Deep: The Darkest Secret are unique and various. Some include searching famous nautical paintings, like Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa for items, or having to line up a drawing of Cassiopeia on a starry sky. The strongest part of this game has got to be the immersive soundtrack. I recommend playing this game with earphones on – it will surround you with the sounds of lapping water and diving bells.

The Empress of the Deep: The Darkest Secret  is a great game and I highly recommend it!


Empress of the Deep: The Darkest Secret
Developer: Silverback Games
Released: 2010