From one of the most prolific HOPA developers, Elephant Games introduces another brand new series. With Sherlock Holmes missing, it is time for Miss Holmes to rise to the occasion. Follow her on an unforgettable investigation as she solves the intriguing mystery of Baskervilles.
Elephant Games’ iconic detectives trio returned for their second adventure as a group in Detectives United II: The Darkest Shrine. Emergency alarms rang simultaneously in three locations around the globe, requiring our detectives to split up and investigate each of them. This leads to the discovery of a secret organization, threatening to take over the world. Can they fight against all odds and defeat the evil once again?
Following a successful first game, expectations are much higher for this sequel. I want to start the discussion by talking about the storyline, which is the most obviously flawed aspect of the game. Even though the game still sticks the landing with its crossover concept and getting to play three familiar characters is still quite interesting, there is simply not enough plot to hold all the pieces together. Detectives United II: The Darkest Shrine pretty much only skims the surface of the storyline, with vague details and an avalanche of unanswered questions. For this reason, it can be difficult to really get invested in the storyline and be intrigued by the game.
While not as much a disaster, Detectives United II: The Darkest Shrine is also a slight letdown in terms of gameplay. The game features all the dull HOPA clichés, from differently-shaped emblems to rusty locks and unconnected wires. Even the hidden object scenes and the puzzles are all very predictable, with very few exceptions.
All that said, Detectives United II: The Darkest Shrine is far from being totally boring. A large part of this has to do with the game’s stellar production. The ominous mood adds a layer of suspense and excitement to the game and the atmospheric sceneries and sounds are perfect for creating a sense that something sinister is always lurking around the corner. This goes a long way in elevating the game from just another run-of-the-mill adventure to an actually enjoyable one.
As an experienced HOPA player, I completed the main chapters of Detectives United II: The Darkest Shrine in just a little over three hours. The bonus chapter was a continuation of the same story, although still did not add much to my understanding, and was around 40 minutes long. The Collector’s Edition contains all the expected features; a strategy guide, wallpapers, concept art, soundtracks, screensavers, replayable hidden object scenes, replayable mini games, achievements, collectibles, morphing objects, and a secret room.
Detectives United II: The Darkest Shrine has some redeeming qualities, but all in all a disappointing sequel, particularly with its poorly-explored storyline.
Artifex Mundi embarks on another Point-and-Click adventure project after the incredible success of My Brother Rabbit. Despite the genre comparison, Irony Curtain: From Matryoshka with Love is a totally unique game on its own. Follow Evan, a wide-eyed journalist from America who finds himself in the middle of two political rivalries in the totalitarian nation of Matryoshka. Can Evan navigate this complex web of governmental espionage in an unfamiliar territory?
On the surface, Irony Curtain: From Matryoshka with Love might not particularly stand out from the crowd of other Point-and-Click adventure games out there. The developer explicitly cited the classic, beloved games of LucasArts as the main source of inspiration for this new adventure, but that does not mean that Irony Curtain’s gameplay is a total derivative of the past. Casual adventure fans will surely appreciate the challenge that the game has to offer. Utilizing a story-driven gameplay, Irony Curtain successfully creates an intriguing and extremely entertaining experience that requires the player to gear up their brainpower to progress forward.
While the main Point-and-Click mechanics are not innovative by any means, the creativity that is showcased via various cryptic clues and imaginative tasks is definitely astounding. Moreover, the puzzles, which range from standard to unexpectedly difficult, are also quite fun. However, the ones toward the latter end can sometimes end of the difficulty spectrum up being more frustrating than challenging as repeated attempts are often needed.
Another aspect of Irony Curtain: From Matryoshka with Love that is done incredibly well is the controls. Through smart and intuitive controls, Artifex Mundi is able to elevate the game through these interactive elements. With just a mouse and a space bar, you can make the character look, collect inventory items, inspect these inventory items, run, and the most useful of all – show all the hotspots in the scene. Since the game does not come with a “Hint button”, these control keys become extra helpful.
With all that being said, the thing that puts Irony Curtain: From Matryoshka with Love head and shoulders above its peers is its concept. Irony Curtain is an impeccably written satire of Europe’s political history that is filled with clever subtle humor as well as laugh-out-loud jokes. Regardless of your demographics or background, Irony Curtain is accessible to all thanks to its charming characters and witty, genuinely engaging dialogues. Yes, Irony Curtain has some absurd moments – but it totally owns its absurdity and what more could I ask for?
Besides, Irony Curtain’s fascinating concept is also brought to life by an equally-interesting visuals. The game’s hand-drawn art style and subdued colors paint the game with nostalgia and the feeling of a familiar, classic game. I also particularly enjoy the creative scene designs and the distinctive voice-acting – just some of the few things that Irony Curtain does amazingly well, production wise
Irony Curtain: From Matryoshka with Love delightfully intertwines a playful and original concept with an intelligent gameplay, making it one of the most memorably games of the year so far.
Your sister witnessed the brutal murder of her mentor, Judge Maxwell McGregor. Now she has been invited to the reading of his will among other family members on an ominous island – the location of his estate. Will your sister survive the jealousy and the drama of the McGregor family and can she reveal the secrets behind this unsolved murder case?
The world-famous Snuggford Airlines just received a new sponsorship, which led the crew on a journey around the world. Help Amber, now a professional flight attendant, navigate the complex drama between her colleagues and still maintain the optimal level of service. Amber’s Airline: 7 Wonders is the latest addition in the ever-growing Snuggford universe brought to you by Gamehouse and Old Skull Games.
You might remember that I was pretty high on last year’s Amber’s Airline: High Hopes and mentioned that I could see this series mature and prosper with its sequels. Unfortunately, I have to report that Amber’s Airline: 7 Wonders is a slight letdown , compared to what was offered in the first game. While the storyline is still quite entertaining and provides a nice change of pace from the standard gameplay, I am emotionally neutral toward the protagonist as well as most of the side characters. Moreover, many of the humor fall flat and register as cheesy rather than funny, which certainly does not help with the case.
Amber’s Airline: 7 Wonders consists of 60 levels across six different travel destinations. To spice things up once in a while, the first two levels of each set of ten levels take place on the plane, in which Amber gets to perform regular in-flight duties and services. The other eight levels set at the site of the travel destination, from Rome to Rio, in which Amber puts on her tour guide uniform and introduces the passengers to interesting activities on-site. This is definitely a clever idea to avoid repetition and reminds me of another game with a similar concept, the fantastic Jet Set Go.
Like most games in the Snuggford universe nowadays, Amber’s Airline: 7 Wonders has some fun crossover moments. The most prominent one comes from Angela from the Fabulous series, In this game, Angela gives her fashion suggestions by designing new uniforms for the airline crew, which also allows the player to customize. Although this does not contribute to the gameplay itself, it is a neat and clever touch that I appreciate.
However, as I previously mentioned, Amber’s Airline: 7 Wonders disappoints on some levels. First of all, the game is an incredibly easy one. The difficulty progression through the levels is very minimal and even more amateur players can possibly achieve three-stars goals with ease. Further, I find the weirdly distorted, unnatural appearances of the characters to be very distracting. Luckily, this only applies to the cutscenes as the visuals during the game are mostly impressive. Last but not least, some of the mini-games or “challenge levels” are frustrating to play on a desktop. These types of games might work on mobile such as in Heart’s Medicine: Doctor’s Oath, but they are a pain to control using a mouse of a trackpad.
Amber’s Airline: 7 Wonders has some amusing ideas and enjoyable moments, but it has too many flaws to be called an improvement upon its predecessor.
Following Fellow Traveler and The Tall Man, Elephant Games brings back the hit Paranormal Files series with Enjoy the Shopping. Security guards at a local shopping mall are terrified out of their minds after claiming that they saw the mannequins came alive at night. Can Rick Roger, the famous paranormal investigator, solve yet another creepy supernatural case?
Even if all else fails, at least Paranormal Files: Enjoy the Shopping still has an interesting plot. In the past, we have seen countless HOPA games about possessed relatives and cursed objects, but walking shopping mall mannequins is definitely something new. As silly as that sounds, it goes a long way to make Paranormal Files: Enjoy the Shopping a refreshing play. The game delivers the horror elements fairly well through mini jump scares and an eerie environment. While the tone of the game steers more toward the campy territory than actual serious adult horror like the Maze series, it is enjoyable all the same.
Paranormal Files: Enjoy the Shopping is consistently entertaining from beginning to end. The game purely focuses on the HOPA gameplay and includes no gadgets or helpers, which I personally appreciate especially since the it is executed so well. The gameplay is nothing groundbreaking, but there are just enough unconventional elements to throw the predictability off balance a little. The same goes with the hidden object scenes and the puzzles – straightforward, yet quite creative.
Elephant Games very rarely disappoints when it comes to sights and sounds. Although Paranormal Files: Enjoy the Shopping is far from being the the studio’s best works, the quality of the visuals is still hard to deny. The brightness and contrast in some of the scenes could have been better balanced, but the sharp graphics and the atmospheric production are strong and engaging.
Paranormal Files: Enjoy the Shopping has a standard length for a HOPA game at around the three and a half hours mark. As usual, the Collector’s Edition has all the goodies including a bonus chapter, a strategy guide, wallpapers, a screensavers, concept art, soundtracks, repayable hidden object scenes, repayable puzzles, achievements, well-hidden collectibles, morphing objects, a secret room.
Paranormal Files: Enjoy the Shopping lives up Elephant Games’ high standards – another exciting chapter in this increasingly popular series.
Eipix Entertainment’s latest installment of the popular Hidden Expedition series sends you trotting around the world once again. The excavation at Pompeii headed by the respected archaeologist Alvaro De Lucca has revealed some important ancient artifacts that were once thought to be destroyed. Dr. Ann Walters has been asked to join the excavation, but can she discover the secret power of these artifacts before the earth-shattering explosion at the nearby Mount Vesuvius?
Another Hidden Expedition, another powerful artifact, another mission to stop a mysterious force threatening to destroy the world. The Hidden Expedition series has become more like a chore at this point, especially since a better, more interesting explorer-themed HOPA series Wanderlust has recently gained momentum. The storyline in Neptune’s Gift follows a similar path as its predecessors did, but with significantly more dialogues. In this case, the focus on dialogues is appreciated since they are mostly well-written and convincingly delivered by well-rounded characters.
Hidden Expedition: Neptune’s Gift’s gameplay is also not very imaginative. The adventure part of the game is extremely predictable, the tasks are the same-old, and the puzzles are often way too easy and straightforward, even on the Hard mode. Despite all that, the game has several redeeming qualities. Not all, but some hidden object scenes are fairly clever and creative. The game itself also includes a plethora of interesting gadgets, which serve different purposes. While the execution, such as the rather tedious slider mini-game, could have been better, the functions of these gadgets effectively drive the game forward.
Visually, Hidden Expedition: Neptune’s Gift delivers. The locations, especially the outdoor scenes, are beautifully designed and wonderfully polished. Along with that, the game is also assisted by impressive animations, great character works, and captivating musical scores.
Regardless of the familiarity, Hidden Expedition: Neptune’s Gift is still an enjoyable four-hour adventure. The one-hour bonus chapter also adds more context to the main storyline. As for the bonus section, it contains a strategy guide, wallpapers, concept art, soundtracks, cutscenes, repayable hidden object scenes, replayable puzzles, achievements, collectibles, morphing objects, and a souvenir room.
If only the gameplay was as imaginative as the production, Hidden Expedition: Neptune’s Gift would have been an extremely engrossing ride.
A new adventure begins for Sarah when her childhood friend, Julie calls her back to the Buried Kingdom. As the Mother Dragon passed away, unusual phenomenons threaten everyone througout the land. Was it truly the great dragon’s death that pushed the kingdom to the verge of collapse? Or is there something more fearful power working behind the scenes?
The town of Iron Rock launched into prosperity when a vast iron mine was discovered back in 1963. But the unexpected happened when a tragedy struck the town and over half of the town population was at risk to genetic mutation. When a fellow Mystery Trackers agent went missing during an investigation, the prestigious agency has the responsibility to locate and rescue him. Elephant Games presents the latest chapter inn the fan-favorite detective HOPA series with Mystery Trackers: The Fall of Iron Rock.
Mystery Trackers: The Fall of Iron Rock’s main storyline unfolds over the course of three major chapters. Like its predecessors, this sequel is another detective mystery with hints of Sci-Fi and technological advanced gadgets. The game has an interesting premise and although the exposition could have been better, there is enough sense of intrigue and suspense that keeps the game afloat from beginning to end.
As for the game itself, Mystery Trackers: The Fall of Iron Rock remains quite predictable. Fans of the HOPA genre are most likely already familiar with most of the elements in the game; from the easy puzzles to the formulaic hidden object scenes. Similarly, the adventure gameplay does not venture much outside Elephant Games’ safe space. To the delight of some, Elf is still included as a helper – he is well utilized and serves as an adorable and non-distracting companion.
The dominating color palette of Mystery Trackers: The Fall of Iron Rock is quite bleak with a heavy emphasis on gloomy colors such as grey and ash blue. Regardless, the level of details and precision of the artwork is still stunning. Moreover, the game is accompanied by some breathtaking animations, rousing musical scores, and great voice-acting work.
Mystery Trackers: The Fall of Iron Rock took me three and a half hours to get through, plus another 45 minutes for the sequel bonus chapter. The overall experience was enjoyable, despite the game’s predictability – which makes the Collector’s Edition still well worry purchasing. The bonus section includes a strategy guide, wallpapers, concept art, screensavers, soundtracks, achievements, collectibles, morphing objects, and a secret room with replayable hidden objects scenes and puzzles.
Mystery Trackers: The Fall of Iron Rock explores more of the same, but still does it so expertly and successfully.
As a member of the Owl clan, you are forbidden from forming romantic relationships with members of the Bear clan. When you find yourself falling in love with a beautiful girl from the Bear clan and decide to run away together, you discover that this is merely just a myth, but the curse between the two clans is real. Will love triumphs all in this latest Immortal Love installment from 4 Friends Games?