Monday, December 15, 2014

Game Review - Nevertales: Smoke and Mirrors

Game Review - Nevertales: Smoke and Mirrors
Score: +6/-4
Summary: Interesting and fantastical story. Pacing and variety is good. Interesting use of Achievements for replay value. Unlimited casino games for even more replay value.

In many ways, criticisms in review will apply to many contemporary hidden object games, and are not to be taken as faults unique to this game.
+- For the most part artwork is very nice, but character animations when speaking, through the use of image distortion instead of actual facial animation, make the characters look disturbing rather than realistic. This is much improved from previous Nevertales games, however.
- Fuzzy cutscenes, especially if you play on higher resolutions.
+ Convenient replays of hidden object games for achievements involving spotting "morphing items". Because this unlocks achievements and further features, it really helps to have the replay available without having to replay the entire game. Also, if you are only missing a morphing object in a hidden object game, you can just locate that object in the replay instead of completely replaying the hidden object game scene.
+ Achievements for replay value: You can replay hidden object game scenes to score achievements with better time and accuracy -- unlike other games, where you typically can't rollback to redo a scene unless you located and backed up your savegame first.
+ Casino games for even more replay value. None of these are hidden object games, but rather a mix of casino games and arcade games.
- Some sloppy hidden object scenes, such as this one with a non-intuitive answer.
+- Interesting story with a variety of environments and some tense cutscenes where you really don't know how you will end up. They do try hard to keep the momentum and tension, although this is pretty impossible to do in a hidden object game where you can have as much time as you like. However, implausibly hidden items (e.g., a musical instrument hidden behind a stone in a castle outer wall) make you take the hidden objects games less seriously and pull you out of story immersion.
+-0Good use of unexpected choices in the game. For a fuller review of this feature, see our previous blog post. Although ultimately it falls short of its potential, it is still a novelty in the hidden object game market at this time.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Nevertales: Smoke and Mirrors Review - SPOILER WARNING

In this post we will discuss one of the innovative features in Nevertales: Smoke and Mirrors (and Dark Parables: Ballad of Rapunzel), the third game in the Nevertales hidden object game series.


Stop reading if you want to play the game and don't want it to be ruined for you.

In general, hidden object games are linear stories with unlimited time for you to solve each puzzle. It is standard now to allow you to skip puzzles.
For these reasons -- particularly the fact that you have the luxury of time because these are meant to be "casual" games -- there is often little or no ability to inject real tension into the game.

The earlier Nevertales tried hard to invoke this sense with surprising turns of events and sudden "danger" to the character you played. I say "danger" in quotes, because in general you have unlimited time to figure out what to do, so the sense of danger and overall story immersion rapidly deteriorates.

Something that they added in Nevertales: Smoke and Mirrors was choice. In various scenes, you are given a choice of what to do. This is typically non-existent in hidden object games because the story is typically linear (probably to make sure you do not accidentally progress too far by picking up the wrong object or solving the wrong puzzle too soon). When you are suddenly presented with a choice, such as whether to tell your mother the truth or lie to her, it invokes not only the shock of novelty in a hidden object game, but the promise of consequence.

And here is where Nevertales ultimately fails, because there is NO consequence to your choices.

I think there could have been great potential here if your choices did ultimately have some effect, even if in just the end-game cutscenes. Of course, it would be even better if your choices branched the game into completely different tasks, even for a little while before going back to the main story.

This was actually done in Dark Parables: Ballad of Rapunzel, where your choice determined the outcome. There were other minor choices in the game as well, again ultimately of no consequence to how the game played out, but at least there were different scenes to be seen.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Why Hidden Object Games should not make you feel stupid

This is a random example (in this case, from Nevertales: Smoke and Mirrors) of why you should never be made to feel stupid by a hidden object game.

The "puzzle" involves opening a lamp locked by screws. The "solution" is to use a coin found in a nearby fountain -- instead of looking for a screwdriver in the toolbox already in your possession. DUH.