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Game Review: Hidden object games Letters from Nowhere and Special Enquiry Detail: The Hand that Feeds

23 Mar

So in my last blog post about hidden object games, I jokingly said that I’d approached and failed to get a response from a number of game vendors to see if I could get commercial consideration for featuring their games on my blog.

Obviously a joke, right? Because who, aside from myself, cares what appears on this blog?

And to be totally honest, there are days when even I don’t care.

But, lo and behold, a representative of a gaming company commented on that blog entry!

Either A) they have really good search bots combing the internet for references, any references, no matter how obscure, to tablet games, B) my reputation as a blogger is more impressive than I realized, or C) the rep being acquainted with my wife has something to do with this.

I prefer the middle option, but I’m not kidding myself.

So now that I have their attention, I feel like I should review some games.

I’m still fairly new to the hidden object game genre, but now that I’ve started a few and finished a couple, I think I can reasonably offer my opinions on the ones I finished.

First up, Letters from Nowhere.

I really liked this game. The description implied a supernatural element, which I admit didn’t excite me, but I downloaded the free trial anyway. And was hooked.

The hidden object puzzles were challenging. Objects are not always to scale, which means when you’re looking for a postage stamp, it could conceivably be the wall of that house in the distance. My first thought was, “Hey, that’s cheating!” but I quickly came to realize that it made for a more challenging, engaging game.

The game also makes good use of color as camouflage, blending hidden objects in with like-colored items and making finding everything a real exercise in concentration.

I’m a writer, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that these games have a plot driving the action. Letters from Nowhere is no exception. The plot pushes you from search location to search location, and clues found in those searches open up additional levels.

That said, as a writer I don’t just want a plot, I want a good plot. The storyline in Letters to Nowhere isn’t going to win any literary awards, and there are events where, in the real world, the protagonist would say, “Huh, I appear to have a stalker. Time to call the police” instead of “Oh, I better go to the abandoned museum by myself and search in the dark, since my apparent stalker told me to.”

I understand why the plot has weak points – going to the police, for example,  would stop the game. You have to be a bit forgiving and remember this is a game, not a book, and let that sort of thing go. It’s just a bit harder for me.

Fortunately, the quality of the puzzles more than make up for any shortcomings in the plotting.

I will point out that this game is really Letters from Nowhere 1, and when you reach the end, you don’t get all the answers. For that, you need to play Letters from Nowhere 2. I enjoyed this game immensely, but was a little annoyed that I can’t have all my answers right now.

That said, I’ve started the sequel, and so far, it’s good too…

Special Enquiry Detail: The Hand that Feeds

I downloaded the trial for this game, and when I reached the end all too soon, I was all, “Nooo! Now I have to buy it!”

The first part plays very well, and the game expands on the hidden object genre by throwing in some forensics, interaction via email, and in general seemed like a game working ‘outside the box’.

The police procedural stuff seemed a bit light on authenticity, but there wasn’t enough for me to properly gauge it in the trial.

So I bought the game.

Things went downhill from there. If you read or watch police procedural shows, you will not like this game. The main protagonists are two detectives, and they keep doing things cops can’t do. Just involved in a shoot out? We’ll do the hidden object search rather than call for backup. In the middle of an interrogation and about to get an important disclosure from a suspect? Well, the Chief just called so never mind.

It drove me crazy. And yes, I said you have to be a bit forgiving of plot when reviewing Letters from Nowhere, but this was in-your-face wrong, and just booted me out of the game every time.

The quality of the puzzles was a bit of a letdown too. Sure, there were always one or two objects that were a (reasonable) challenge to find, but most were not. In some cases, the object would be on the floor, or on a table, surrounded by nothing else. And other objects were infuriatingly hard to find, because more than two-thirds were off the screen, and you couldn’t see the first third unless you zoomed in on that portion of the screen.

The game also has puzzles, including one mini-game where you have to sneak around an apartment building. It had a very PC game feel to it, and wasn’t what I was looking for. Watching the credits at the end confirmed that impression – Special Enquiry Detail was adapted from a PC game.

Another issue I had with this game was that sometimes the dialogue screens didn’t make sense – the words were all in English, but the order and choice of words just left me confused. This was fairly rare, but each time it happened, it pulled me out of the game.

I have to give the creators kudos for trying to expand the scope and feel of the hidden object game, but can’t help but feel let down by the poor attention to detail (some broken English, inauthentic police procedural, throwing in red herring suspects out of nowhere, some text scrolling off the screen so that the last letter or two of a word was missing).

Also, I found it disconcerting that while interviewing people, such as the murder victim’s parents and best friend, that the graphic of that person was smiling and not looking utterly crushed.

The trial portion of the game did a good job of hooking me, but the rest of the game disappointed. By the end, I didn’t care who the killer was. That said, I hope the developer continues to explore expanded the scope of the hidden object game as was done here, but while paying more attention to all the other details.

I have been comped some games, and once I’ve finished them, I’ll review them here as well.

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3 Comments

Posted by on 23 March 2013 in Reviews

 

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3 responses to “Game Review: Hidden object games Letters from Nowhere and Special Enquiry Detail: The Hand that Feeds

  1. suburbantimewaster

    5 April 2013 at 10:41 am

    I played both of those games and it was only one of them I didn’t finish. I’ve never seen procedural cop shows except for when they spoofed them on Supernatural but I do have a book on Police Procedure and Investigations. I need to read that before playing that game again.

     
    • ianmdudley

      7 April 2013 at 4:28 pm

      I think what threw me was my expectation that I’d enjoy the cop procedural one more than the supernatural game, and it ended up being the reverse.

      You might not want to read that book – it could ruin badly written police procedural books/games/shows for you… 🙂

       

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