Friday, January 9, 2015

Game Review - Rite of Passage: Hide and Seek

Game Review - Rite of Passage: Hide and Seek
Score: +8/-2
Summary: Interesting and fantastical story. Pacing and variety is very good. Believable action by the protagonist helps to maintain immersion. One of the better Hidden Object Games available and highly recommended.

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.
+- Character animations choppy but artwork overall very good. Also, not everyone is Kim Kardashian or Brad Pitt.
- 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 the game or parts of the game, such as replaying hidden object game scenes to score achievements with better time and accuracy -- unlike other games, where you typically can't rollback to redo anything unless you located and backed up your savegame first. And achievements give you an actual reason to do it again and better.
+ Post-game mini-games.
++ Interesting story with a variety of environments and locations. Unexpected and dramatic scenes keep the game lively. It is often easy to just get bored looking for hidden objects and flip from one screen to the next. Good use of event-driven scenes and plot advancement.
+ Believable action by the character. You are an "average person" who isn't suddenly a powerful fighter or wizard. End game "boss fight" does not involve actual "combat", but competition. This is much more believable than in many hidden object games that simply thrust the protagonist into heroics from zero to hero. Careful crafting of the story and backstory makes this possible.
+1-0 Tries to get you to invest more in the character/action through dialogue choices, but other than a few immediate changes in dialogue, there is ultimately no branching story arc: Characters still you encounter still do the same thing and the story progresses in the same way -- even if it is implausible. For example, in Hope's Edge you meet someone who offers you a device at the end of your first conversation, whether you were nice or a jerk in your dialogue. Why would they offer to help you at all, with the sole reason being that you might be interested in their invention? At the very end of the game, your "morality" locks out a possible ending, but because you are already at the end of the game, you just get a slightly different cutscene. Points for trying, but ultimately a disappointing false sense of choice and an empty threat of consequence.
+0-0 Tries to expand the action through the use of "pets" and skills, but the usage is too predictable (often they outright tell you to use the skill) to be worth forcing the player to click an extra button.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Why Hidden Object Games should not make you feel stupid - part 2

Another example of why hidden object games should not make you feel stupid. This one from Rite of Passage: The Perfect Show.

There is a screwdriver in the game. But instead, we are supposed to saw off the screws from the screw-mounted anchor -- and using a handsaw for wood, instead of a hacksaw.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Game Review - Tales from the Dragon Mountain: The Strix

Game Review - Tales From The Dragon Mountain: The Strix
Score: +1/-7
Summary: Old school adventure game with the right settings. Otherwise no redeeming features. The sequel, "The Lair", has VASTLY improved graphics and animated cutscenes.
-- Compared with contemporary games, the artwork is primitive 3D. Since there is basically no critical animation involved, they might have been better off going for a superior static 2D artwork like most casual hidden object games. Character artwork is also too simple/featureless to compete in the current market.
--- Bad art and gameplay can be rescued by a fantastic story. However, here the clich├ęd story is badly executed with (among other things) poor pacing, lack of tension, and anticlimactic events.
- Cringeworthy dialogue. Not sure if this was the result of something lost in translation.
- Glaring errors. Just the one main one involving fish, but it is so obvious that they should have fixed it. In the pictures below, the left screen shows the type of fish moving around in the fountain. The right side shows the fish you catch when you click on one of them (see bottom inventory bar, right side, the fish in the circle). What you get is nothing like what was in the fountain!

+ Probably the only redeeming feature is the ability to set the amount of user-interface hints/feedback you receive. You can nearly absolutely nothing, even, if you use system cursors and do not get contextual cursor changes. This means you can play the game without any real direction -- just as if you were the protagonist thrown into the situation. There is something "realistic" in the resulting difficulty from lack of prompting--Which is a different sort of challenge as you are not so hand-held as with most games into knowing what can be clicked on and what you need to find.
-0 Initially, objects are often found in plausible locations (e.g., a spare gear sitting on a shelf) but as the game progresses, however, objects are found in increasingly implausible locations in an attempt to make the game challenging. This unfortunately detracts from the "realism", but it is not properly counted as a negative point because the genre is full of this sort of nonsense.

Sample Artwork: