As the first game out of a trilogy, it doesn’t set up a strong beginning for the sequels. Many characters are idiotic, and with unclear items to search for, the hidden-object portions are frustrating.
Genres: Hidden Object
Developer: Artifex Mundi
Publisher: Artifex Mundi
Release date: 1 Sept, 2011
Whenever first looking at a HOG, I almost always have low expectations. They tend to follow a checklist and stay within certain guidelines, which is safe but boring. At least, it is for someone who isn’t infatuated with HOGs. Regardless, this is the first entry out of a trilogy, and I have all the games in the series (somewhat uncommon with how I tend to acquire games), so I thought I’d play through them in order and see what comes of it. Unless the sequels make significant changes though, I don’t think I’m going to be blown away by this trilogy.
Like most hidden-object games (HOG), the game is broken into 2 sections. You have different environments to walk back and forth to, and will need to combine items acquired throughout various locations and solve simple puzzles to get to new areas; wash, rinse, and repeat. These locales will generate hidden-object sections as you meet certain requirements, and you’ll have to find 12 items, which will net you 1 tool or puzzle piece you’ll need. Over time you’ll come back to certain areas a few times, clearing out the puzzles and hidden-objects until you’ve made it all the way to the end.
As would be expected, everything is controlled with nothing but your mouse, as it would be inefficient to arrange it any other way. There’s little to discuss here as it works as well as your own mouse does, but I did have 1 issue with the controls. Sometimes, it seemed that I would click on a correct object, but the game wouldn’t register it, because I had missed the hit-box for the object. I understand a smaller hit box helps prevent random spamming from easily getting everything without even looking, but there were times it seemed unfairly particular or skewed.
HOGs aren’t known for having outstanding stories, and I’ve gotten used to typical tropes they tend to incorporate. However, like watching a lousy movie so you can riff on it with your friends and yuk it up, I am unable to observe the story without incredulity. One example, though it’s not particularly poignant, was how the villain was selfish enough to be a soul-stealing murderer to maintain an indefinite lifespan and vitality, yet wouldn’t have any vanity and make himself look young. Wicked behavior and vices tend to pile up together, so it seems unlikely he wouldn’t preen about his unnatural handsomeness.
A more significant criticism about the villain is his general incompetence combined with how successful he is. He lets someone who is motivated to destroy him and knows what’s going on wander freely, doesn’t change his appearance or name in spite of having decades old records and pictures showing he looks exactly the same, hides his victims’ remains poorly, and yet gets away with his wicked deeds without disruption for years. It’s pretty hard to take this seriously when it’s so inconsistent and illogical.
I don’t find the graphics to be very good in this game. The backgrounds, characters, and items scattered around look to be hand-drawn, or at least made specifically for Enigmatis, but I’m not fond of the art style. They’re not stylized enough to stand out from any other HOG, with the colors looking drab and washed out. I have to wonder if the same art team has worked on several of these HOGs.
As you solve puzzles and find hidden-objects, a sound effect plays for your effort. It’s noticeable, but I wouldn’t say it’s an enjoyable, rewarding noise. There aren’t many SFX otherwise, except to acknowledge when you collect items in the environment or interact with puzzles. The game has cutscenes and animated moments, where the game has some voice-acting, though I use the term acting loosely. I’m sure the people made an attempt, but it’s nothing spectacular. The music wasn’t memorable to me, but with the game’s spooky, supernatural vibe, the tunes and accompanying sound effects were adequately moody and appropriate.
- Though the story didn’t entertain me, at least as intended, it ends the game decently enough. It brings a conclusion to what’s going on currently, and sets up for a sequel without having to infer the villain died… or did he?! He just escapes.
- The prequel shows the backstory and motivation for an NPC, though it only displays his overall incompetence.
- If the game had more quality of life improvements, like fast-travel to areas you’ve already been to, and the hidden-object sections weren’t so challenging, the game would be even shorter than its 5 hour playtime.
- More than a few hidden objects were given vague names or terms, making it hard to know what it is you’re trying to find in the first place.
- Some hidden objects were obnoxiously small or blended in to the background, making them hard to spot.
- The game saves your progress consistently, so if you get stuck on a particular puzzle or can’t find a hidden object, take a break and look up a guide.
- There’s no penalty for spamming the mouse in a hidden-object section, so a meticulous back and forth sweep can work, to an extent.
I’ll admit that I can have problems finding things at times, so I wasn’t shocked when some of the hidden-object sections tripped me up. However, I found them to be fairly frequent stumbling blocks in this HOG in particular, and it was frustrating me. This in turn, made it more of a relief than enjoyable when I finally beat the game, and doesn’t give me much hope for the sequels. I’ll try to be optimistic though, as they surely couldn’t be worse, but for most people, I wouldn’t recommend this game. That being said, the game functions without any bugs or errors that I found, and I’ve endured more frustrating puzzles before, so I think a die-hard HOG fan would find this to be acceptable. For those of us who don’t fall into that category, this doesn’t excel or exude enough charm to warrant playing it, and can be passed over without fear of missing anything great.