Out of a trilogy of HOGs, the middle child presents an average experience that should please fans of the genre, but wouldn’t draw interest from those who dislike these kind of games.
Genres: Hidden Object
Developer: Artifex Mundi
Publisher: Artifex Mundi
Release date: 25 Sept, 2013
Having played and reviewed the first game of the trilogy, of which I own the entirety of, it was only a matter of time before I’d tackle Enigmatis 2: The Mists of Ravenwood (E2). I was hesitant because I wasn’t overly thrilled with the first game, but I’ve been trying to procrastinate less as I have too many games to get through as is. Was I right to not want to play through it, or were there enough changes made that more of the same somehow wasn’t quite so bad this time around?
E2 is a hidden-object game (HOG), and it follows the gameplay mechanics you would generally expect from one. You’ll navigate locations, one area at a time, coming across barriers that prevent you from moving forward. In order to advance, you’ll have to find tools and trinkets in the environment and HOG sections, and use them to get past somewhat reasonable barriers, as well as puzzles that’d be unorthodox or bizarre to find in real life. Some of the items you acquire need to be combined with something else to work right, but most of them are used as expected. For instance, chopping down wood with a hatchet or placing logs down to cross a creek.
Since this is a HOG, you control the game with your mouse, though I guess this has also been ported to console, so those versions at least work with a controller. I think most people would prefer playing a HOG with a mouse since you’ll be moving your cursor all over the screen, which is the whole point of a mouse. There weren’t any problems with the controls, though a few puzzles could be a bit fickle.
Although it might sound obsessive, I’m glad that there weren’t any characters with amnesia in the game. That was used in the first one to explain why the protagonist was so dazed and confused, allowing the story to be revealed through flashbacks as you figured out what was going on in the small town. In E2, the location is much more remote, as you’re exploring a tourist trap. However, although it has the general trappings and appearances of a decent one, it must not be that popular, as you’re the only patron checking it out. While you try to figure out what’s going on in this area, you’ll meet new victims, and see at least one familiar face along the way. As you encounter the first NPC, your evil detector should get tripped immediately, as he makes up the antagonist for E2.
I’m ambivalent on how I regard the villain and his scheme. It’s so similar to what was going on before that it could be seen as maintaining a consistent nefarious goal, yet it also feels like reused material. A decrepit man is snaring people who crosses his path, he carelessly disposes of any traces someone came by, and doesn’t take you as a serious enough threat to stop you when the opportunity was available multiple times. However, it does build upon the lore of the demonic entity in more detail, which I expect will develop into the concluding story in the last game. It’s basic, but that’s what you want from a series of games like this.
Taking a look at the backgrounds, hidden-object sections, puzzles, and interfaces, most things look alright. I have a hard time expressing it, but I’d say that the visuals convey everything fairly well, yet when paying attention or checking more closely, there’s a noticeable lack of quality or refinement I’d want from a video game. Where the graphics suffer the most is with the cutscenes and animations. It makes the character models look worse, and the most egregious was when the ticket lady spoke to the antagonist near the end. The mouth flaps were so terrible looking that they shouldn’t have made any attempt at all. Overall, the graphics look really cheap, and is a low point of the game.
I wasn’t able to find a soundtrack for the game, so I’m not sure how much variety there is in the game’s music. From what I checked and remember, it’s appropriately mysterious and lightly spooky, but I don’t recall it ever getting foreboding or unsettling, as it’s a bit too laid back for that tone. The voice acting is of the quality you’d expect for a HOG. Nothing struck me as particularly atrocious sound-wise, but some of the voice clips were rushed through in an unnatural way. It made their delivery hilariously off-kilter, though it was most noticeable with the antagonist, while most other characters were paced much better.
- I did play on the easiest difficulty setting, since there wasn’t a relevant achievement for it, and this might be why the hidden-object sections weren’t so bad. However, I had a much less frustrating experience trying to find all the objects this time. I only remember an item or two that I thought was rather vague or unclear, with most being much more obvious in contrast to the first game.
- If you don’t like the hidden-object part of a HOG, you can play a matching mini-game to progress if necessary. I think the aesthetics of it could have been cleaned up, but it’s a nice alternative regardless.
- There are some useful quality of life designs included. For instance, being able to go straight to the evidence board and locked door, and return to where you started without going area to area.
- Although I’d say most objects are used in a way I expected, many items pulled off feats far beyond what they’d be capable of doing. A pair of hair ribbons were used to tie together planks to support a broken leg, and human grade sleeping medicine knocked out a bear instantly. You can put in whatever objects are necessary to get past the barriers you devised, so at least try to make them reasonable.
- With the protagonist supposedly being a detective, she didn’t have the sense to question the locked-up individual regaling her with a story stretching back centuries if not millennia. Considering the details suggested a first-hand nature to it, the person would have to be involved somehow, and most likely not as a hero.
- There’s much less backtracking in this game than I’m used to in HOGs. What this means practically is that you get access to new areas, you’ll usually find the stuff you’re looking for in those locations instead of having to return to earlier spots.
- When you get round discs for the locked door, put them in sooner than later. Some of these are necessary for deductions and to get objects for progression.
Looking at E2 on its own, it isn’t a game that thrills me. I find the story cheesy, how real life items are used wildly impractical, and the puzzles were rather easy. However, when seen through the standard of it being a HOG, I’d say that it’s quite average, if not above so. What makes it slightly better is the inclusion of quality of life improvements, less need for going back and forth repeatedly like you’re a forgetful airhead, and lists of items to find that are mostly clear or easy to figure out. Also, when comparing it to the first game, it’s a significant step up, as I thought the entire trilogy was going to be a miserable experience based on that playthrough. Understanding the full story without playing the first game might be a bit difficult, but with Let’s Plays available, including my own *Shameless Self-Promotion*, there are ways to get the overall summary without having to play it yourself. I don’t think this game would be the game changer to make someone a fan of HOGs, but I can recommend it for those who like the genre.