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Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations [Re: Marian] #1151661
05/20/18 06:30 PM
05/20/18 06:30 PM
Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 39,849
southeast USA
Jenny100 Offline
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Sonic Boomer

Joined: Oct 2000
Posts: 39,849
southeast USA

Fantasy Mosaics series

These are collections of the type of puzzles variously called Conceptis, Griddlers, Nonograms, Picross, and sometimes even Mosaics, though "Mosaics" can also refer to a completely different puzzle type.

The first three Fantasy Mosaics games use single colors.
Later games use three or more colors.

Nearly all puzzles in the Fantasy Mosaics games use 15x20 grids, though they start out with a tutorial level with 10x10 grids.

As for how to play the puzzles, the best way to find out is by playing the tutorial in one of the games -- or by playing the tutorial in World Mosaics. Having several colors may at first seem more complicated to learn, but ultimately it makes the puzzles easier, since you can switch colors if you get stuck.

There is sort of an ongoing story running through the Fantasy Mosaics games, where you're following the life of an anthropomorphic penguin and his family as they move around the universe, occasionally visiting and helping out relatives. Backgrounds of puzzles are the places the penguin visits.

There are several games on Big Fish that are collections of nonograms. The reason "Fantasy Mosaics" is my favorite series is that it doesn't throw up gold coins and gold numbers in my face every time I click something in the puzzle (like Rainbow Mosaics does) and it doesn't make me sit around waiting through two screens after I finish a puzzle before moving on to the next puzzle (a flaw shared by Forest Riddles and Worlds Greatest Places/Cities Mosaics).

Currently on #28, the Fantasy Mosaics series seems to be the most successful collection of nonograms series by far -- and for good reason.

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations [Re: Marian] #1151673
05/20/18 07:45 PM
05/20/18 07:45 PM
Joined: Mar 2004
Posts: 1,029
Rockland
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The Emptiness: This game is Challenging! Warning: If you are looking for the usual story line, crowded HOG scenes, hand holding, maps and sparkles that show you where to go and a hint system that is helpful, this is NOT your game. It does requires you to put more time and thought into things as you progress.
The game is not really scary, but there are some creepy moment, which helped to create the special "suspense" atmosphere.

Note: There 2 modes, Amature and Expert, I played in Amature mode and you do get some Hints or should I say they more like clues.. Not sure if you even get clues in the expert mode. Regardless of the modes you choose, it is a long game and requires patience to play the game.

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations [Re: Marian] #1151706
05/20/18 10:33 PM
05/20/18 10:33 PM
Joined: Mar 2000
Posts: 3,837
San Francisco Bay Area, CA
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Caveat as to what I like in a Casual:
I don't like brutality and abuse, and I avoid arcade stuff (Can't physically tolerate timed sequences). I don't play much "creepy."
I prefer my puzzles and mini-games to be darned pesky. If the game is too easy, it feels childish.
I'm no fan of HO scenes in general, especially the brain-dead and unimaginative ones.
If I say a game was more "Adventure-like," it means it required paper and pencil at times (especially to solve pesky puzzles), and required notes on each scene because you had to leave that scene incomplete and come back when you had the necessary Inventory.
I almost always play the CE version of a game. I only play the Standard version if a CE is not available. Can't answer for Standard version of the game.

I have played over 400 casual games and the following were my favorites. I have replayed quite a few; one or two I have replayed twice. This list is culled from my database that goes back 10 years. Initially, there were no pop-ups, so I made no note of them when they began. (I prefer games without them, but can't tell you which ones I might have played that omitted them.) I regret that I can't elaborate more on the specifics of each game, but I was only keeping a list for my own sake, to know which series to watch for and which were not my thing. I would say I am very picky.

Agency of Anomalies: Cinderstone Orphanage = Recently played and LOVED it. I plan to try others in this series. (Thanks, 8dognight)
Amaranthine Voyage: Winter Neverending = On my Top 20 list, delightfully pesky puzzles. Others in the series good, too.
Eternal Journey: New Atlantis = Excellent play, no HOs, great puzzles, longer than most.
Forbidden Secrets: Alien Town = On my Top 20 list, excellent cinematics and puzzles.
House of 1000 Doors: Family Secrets = Best in a series of four games, all well done and long.
Inception of Darkness: Exorcist III = Superb inheritor of the Adventure mantle.
Lost Lands: Four Horsemen = One of the Top 3 HOs I've played. Excellent in all respects.
Lost Lands: The Wanderer = Same as above. On my Top 10 list, complex, challenging.
Margrave Manor: Blacksmith's Daughter = Again, one of the best HO games I have played, and I've played a lot of these. “Severed Heart” is almost as good, too.
Mystery Case Files (MCF): Black Veil = Of this game series, one of the Top 3. Superb, creepy, more Adventure than HO.
MCF: Dire Grove = Again, more Adventure-like than HO.
MCF: Ravenhurst Unlocked = Exceptional game, long, tricky puzzles, good Bonus game
New York Mysteries: Secrets of the Mafia = In my Top 10 because it is long, complex, original. Others in the series also good.
Nightmare Adventures: The Witch's Prison = I'm not a big witch fan, so this recommendation says a lot. Great puzzles all through it and no HO that I remember.
Portal of Evil: Stolen Runes = Fabulous game although a bit “easy,” very Adventure-ish
Reflections: Equilibrium = Terrific, long, great graphics, unusual HO scenes, tough puzzles.
Riddles of Fate: Into Oblivion = Superb detail, challenging, long play.
Riddles of Fate: Wild Hunt = Very “large” game, tough puzzles, fine graphics.
Sable Maze: Norwich Cave = Another “big” game, long and challenging.
Sable Maze: Soul Catcher = Same as above. (Other games in this series too easy to be fun)
Shiver: Moonlit Grove = Best game in the series, although others are fine, too. More Adventure than HO.
Surface: Strings of Fate = Best game in the series, although a bit wonky at times.
Phenomenon: City of Cyan = Best game in the series. I don't remember any HO scenes.
Vermillion: Order Zero = Best game in this series for challenge, unusual puzzles, complexity.

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations [Re: Marian] #1151883
05/23/18 04:40 AM
05/23/18 04:40 AM
Joined: Dec 2013
Posts: 821
SEYMOUR VICTORIA, MELBOURNE AU...
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SEYMOUR VICTORIA, MELBOURNE AU...
Here are my favorite's: Sable Maze Sullivan River (Touching) cry , the Drawn Series which I really got stuck into (Loved it) haha , Redemption Cemetery Bitter Frost (Loved the Story) dance , Haunted Manor Queen of Death (Great Music/Sound) whistle : , Mystery Case Files: Escape from Ravenhearst (Scary and Creepy) witch and the 9 Clues series which made me feel like a detective. sherlock


All off these I highly recommend. joy
penguin

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations [Re: Marian] #1152008
05/24/18 04:54 PM
05/24/18 04:54 PM
Joined: Jul 2005
Posts: 815
deep south
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Exorcist II

Deep Shadows, 2011

This tricky adventure game with HOS was cleverly and deviously designed; many "real" adventure games I have played were not as challenging but then I'm easily fooled. The standalone puzzles in Exorcist II are a snap. Difficulty is not the point of them. There was one I solved in about 3 seconds that I could not figure out the consequence of so I ignored it. Come to think of it, that happened a few times, which brought my progress to a perplexed halt. I admire that.

The opening screen of the game is clumsy and gives an unpromising impression as if it were tacked on after the rest of the game was done to better explain and frame the story. Try not to be put off. The real action gets going when you tootle off to the house you can see in the distance beyond the 1905 to 1915 or so automobile parked in front of the church gate. The visuals improve rapidly and show exemplary attention to detail, for example, the fabulous circus posters in the barn and the mare herself. I'm avoiding using examples with important hotspots.

Exorcism and the supernatural aren't my favorite genres. What I like about this one are the care taken with many of the screens and the way this little adventure combines simplicity with difficulty. Use a coupon or play the demo.


Last edited by 8dognight; 05/25/18 11:17 AM.
Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations [Re: Marian] #1152565
05/30/18 05:06 PM
05/30/18 05:06 PM
Joined: Mar 2000
Posts: 3,837
San Francisco Bay Area, CA
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Secrets of the Dark: The Mystery of the Ancestral Estate (Henceforth: MOAE)
I played the CE version of this game, and would recommend it. The bonus game is long, complex, challenging and worth the extra. I played on the Medium setting of difficulty, because, if you play on Expert, you have no access to Hints. (See below for why you might want that option). "Medium" removes all sparkles and doesn't give anything away unless you ask for a Hint.

What made this game terrific is that it is more Adventure-like than HO, although there were a few HO scenes. So, I became a fan almost at once. This isn't to say it has no flaws, however.

One problem with the HO scenes is that most of them pop up where you already have been and gone, so you don't know they are there and when you get stuck for a piece of inventory, you have to go back hunting all over the entire game world to see where a new HO scene might have appeared. Since there is no Map for teleporting, I found that search irksome. After a while, I just clicked on the Hint to have it tell me where the bugger was (which is why you might not want to play it on Expert mode). It is up to you how much time you want to spend mindlessly roaming around and searching versus whether you want to get a Hint and go on with the game.

There are "morphing" scenes in MOAE. This is a magic world, after all. smile When you find a way to trigger the scene change, an entirely different room presents itself, with puzzles, Inventory and the rest. You will go back and forth several times in these rooms.

I lost track of all the different scenes, and definitely had to take copious notes, probably the most of any recent Casual I have played. To me, this makes for a great game because you really are "solving" a mystery.

MOAE is one of those games where you do a lot of shagging around in order to find out what needs to be done, what you need in the way of Inventory, and where that Inventory is to be found. You come to a new scene and find eight things to do, and all eight Inventory items that you need are scattered throughout eight other scenes. I found myself wishing the game had had a Map, because it would have made it easier to get around, but you have to admit it is more realistic the way it is (Note: Only if you play on the easiest setting do you do get a Map).

For those who like a helping companion, at one point you get control of a flying horse. You use him to reach an alternative location. You will have to go back and forth with him several times.

The puzzles in this game varied from dead easy to quite difficult. There is a tangram puzzle (one of my favorite types) late in the main game that has only ONE acceptable solution. Generally with tangram puzzles, as long as you fit all the pieces into the space, you are successful. In MOAE, alternative solutions to the one the game demanded were not accepted. People who don't like a challenge might end up wanting to skip it (or have a Game Manual to consult ~ another reason to go for the CE version of the game). There are a couple more toughies, one in the Bonus Game. All the rest were just hard enough to be great fun. I never Skipped a puzzle.

One last thing is that I found the mouse a bit picky. At multiple points in the game, I clicked on an object or clicked a piece of Inventory on it, and got rejected, so I went off and tried other things. However, I had been correct the first time. This can be counterproductive if you don't realize it is happening. Eventually, I did. So, when I got stuck, I would resort to the Hint, and it would send me back there and tell me to use that piece of Inventory the way I had tried already.

There is nothing timed, no stressful fighting, no music puzzles, a few easy sliders but not that horrid kind (none of the old hand-held numbers slider type). There are no Collectibles, hence, no annoying pop-ups. Another reason I enjoyed MOAE.

I loved this game. A few years back, I had played SOTD: Temple of Night and was sorely disappointed by it. I don't think I would have tried another without a push from 8dognight. MOAE is now in my Top Ten, and pushed another game off that roll. I now am going looking for more games in this series. happydance


Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations [Re: Marian] #1153099
06/04/18 10:41 AM
06/04/18 10:41 AM
Joined: Jul 2005
Posts: 815
deep south
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Shadow Shelter

Nevosoft, 2014


You play as a detective or possibly specialist demon-catcher. Your exact role as hero or dupe is never explained other than with the musing this is a strange case because your client believes that the heir to an estate in Scotland still resides there despite the fact the owners disappeared 40 years ago.

There are no pop-ups or collectibles whatsoever that I remember so if there are some they can't be too bad.

The graphics are precise and detailed. The opening cutscene and the first HO do not live up to the care that went into the rest of the scenes, puzzles, and HO screens.

The final puzzle is timed but you only get thrown out then start again. It's a simple puzzle. I did it on the second try, and I avoid timed puzzles because I can't beat them 99% of the time. The only other one that is timed merely throws you out but retains your progress. Several other puzzles require some thought and most of them are visually pleasing.

The last cutscene dangles the possibility of a sequel and at the same time is a satisfying "Twilight Zone" type twist, not a cliffhanger.

There is a transport map; however, even using the map be prepared for longish loading times. The game is worth the waits.

The main creative force behind the game seems to have been its producer, Alexandra Ryabchikova, who also got a writing credit in Vampireville. Shadow Shelter's designer was Svetlana Verevkina. I am hopeful Nevosoft and Ryabchikova and Verevkina will make a sequel that is worthy of Shadow Shelter, particularly in terms of the visuals and the writing.

ETA: I liked the supporting character whose sleight of hand guides the structure of the game. On reconsideration, I think reprising his role would be difficult without turning him into just another gimmick.

Last edited by 8dognight; 08/16/18 08:54 AM.
Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations [Re: Marian] #1153269
06/06/18 10:11 AM
06/06/18 10:11 AM
Joined: Jul 2005
Posts: 815
deep south
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deep south
Echoes of the Past: Kingdom of Despair

From: Orneon, 2013

Orneon has made many games I like.

"Kingdom of Despair" is the fourth or so in the "Echoes of the Past" line and was my favorite in this series until I replayed "Revenge of the Witch" for the third time.

The bones of the quest structure are similar to "Portal of Evil: Stolen Runes" from 8Floor Ltd except that in "Kingdom of Despair" you are finding amulets that unlock a passage home while in "Stolen Runes" you are relocking the gates of hell. "Kingdom of Despair" is a more complicated game than "Stolen Runes." One pleasant feature is the emotional strength of "Kingdom of Despair" in that the goal is helping adversaries, even minor ones, to be their better selves and being kind plays out in various ways with NPCs. This comes at the expense of ugly and old shaming in terms of physical characteristics. I forgive that because the goal is to bring people together, not separate them through the fear of the other premise that animates so much of fantasy and horror fiction.

The artwork is good. Characters' lips do not move during voiceover, which is fine with me.

I gather from the credits that Natalia Milkevich was the main creative force behind the game but I can't be certain.


Echoes of the Past: Revenge of the Witch

From Orneon, 2012

I played this for the third time recently and got just as lost as I did the first and second times. The game follows its interior logic well. I'm the one that never learns to make notes when playing casual games. "Revenge of the Witch" is now my favorite in the series.

Last edited by 8dognight; 07/05/18 12:25 PM.
Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations [Re: 8dognight] #1153401
06/08/18 12:23 AM
06/08/18 12:23 AM
Joined: Nov 2000
Posts: 29,428
United Kingdom
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I've posted in the past on this board about the "Vampire Saga" series :

Break Out
Pandora’s Box
Welcome to Hell Lock

I really enjoyed all three. But they might not appeal to everyone as they are a "no frills" type of production where you dive right in and get straight to the business laugh


Time : The Most Precious Commodity
Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations [Re: Marian] #1153468
06/08/18 05:16 PM
06/08/18 05:16 PM
Joined: Jul 2005
Posts: 815
deep south
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Mountain Crime: Requital

From: Alawar Stargaze, 2011

This is a noir murder mystery whose developers also made the Twisted Lands games.

Mountain Crime: Requital starts with the usual car wreck leaving your vehicle teetering on the edge of the usual abyss. You play as Dr. White called to an emergency at the remote White Wolf Hotel. Once you cross the chasm the game, a take on “Ten Little Indians" by Agatha Christie with a tongue in cheek nod to the board game Clue, gets good.

For comments on the setting, NPCs, and a tad of back story on the player character, you can click on many objects in different screens that are not highlighted either by a change in the wolf paw cursor or by a hand. That indicates to me developers put some thought into the ambience and immersiveness of the game. Among White's nonessential to the story quirks: He likes lava lamps and is a little afraid of horses although he rode as a child. He has a girlfriend who is a brilliant pianist whom he hopes to live long enough to see again.

You get a journal and map; in addition, scattered throughout the hotel and grounds are relevant newspaper articles, diaries, bank records, and a few other documents included for the sake of back story, for example, different price lists for horseback riding and skiing. White also makes notes on the numerous characters encountered along the way, mostly as bodies, sometimes as soon to be victims.

This is not a gross-out game, and the artwork other than in cutscenes is good.

The HOs use an annoying wheel technique. The dialog leaves something to be desired but isn't the worst I've heard, and I only mention this to forestall disappointment.

A few of the puzzles were hard for me; most were easy.

ETA: If you want a non-cliffhanger ending and have figured out the twist, skip the final cutscene confrontation. I did the first time I played in part because the cutscene was technically dreadful.

Last edited by 8dognight; 06/23/18 10:25 AM.
Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations [Re: Marian] #1154063
06/15/18 10:05 AM
06/15/18 10:05 AM
Joined: Jul 2005
Posts: 815
deep south
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Mystery Murders: The Sleeping Palace

From: @Casual Arts, 2013

In a 19th century European country, all five members of the scheming and dysfunctional Laroche family have plummeted into comas. They are the hereditary rulers of an unnamed nation, which I hereby christen the Grand Duchy of Larochebourg.

The player character is Sophia, a commoner engaged to one of the king’s sons. Sophia awakens with amnesia that gradually fades as she locates clues to the cause of the malady while restoring a magical steampunk AI that runs the palace. Noni Lewis credibly and artfully voiced Sophia. I liked listening to her as she uncovers a gold-plated soap opera of love triangles and thwarted ambitions. From the diaries and letters scattered around, I speculate the snoozing monarch wasn’t much of a reader; otherwise he would have known his palace is a hotbed of scandal.

The designer who planned the hotspots and structured inventory use is humblingly smarter than I. However, Mystery Murders: The Sleeping Palace is not an intrinsically hard game if attention is paid to surroundings and to the possibility of misdirection. I didn’t do that, so I forgot where to use inventory and missed hotspots both times I played. I always like that kind of challenge, which is not a pixel hunt but rather a gauntlet stitched with the words "stay alert" heaved into my corner.

Most of the screens are attractive although all are flat; visual unity is marred by too much scene to scene stylistic variation in the artwork. The Laroches' taste is already eclectic enough without that. A palace tour would range from harmoniously lavish rooms to a Smithsonian wing to catacombs. The stables are a treat, very old-school European. Unfortunately, Sophia only visits them once.

Downsides: It is not always possible to back out of puzzles, and don’t expect the amusingly Baroque tangle of Laroches’ lives to be resolved.

Mystery Murders: The Sleeping Palace works as a timely cautionary tale whose point I did not catch as other than a cliché the first time I played.

Last edited by 8dognight; 06/23/18 10:32 AM.
Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations [Re: Marian] #1154689
06/21/18 03:23 PM
06/21/18 03:23 PM
Joined: Mar 2000
Posts: 3,837
San Francisco Bay Area, CA
Reenie Offline
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I just finished playing the CE version of Secrets of the Dark: Eclipse Mountain. This game was a HUGE hit with me, for so many reasons. The graphics are excellent, clear and add a great deal to the feeling of each scene. The sound track is not overdone, although the musical theme was repetitious. The game designers left out the annoying pop-ups and searches for useless Special Items. The puzzles are delightfully pesky; I don't think a single one was a gimmee.

The game has a few unique features that I found engaging. First, it has scenes that you learn can be “morphed” into an alternate reality, once you find the necessary Inventory to effect the morph. This is not only fun but increases the number of scenes to be explored, and adds complexity to the puzzle-solving and to the game overall. Second, there are spirit gurus (I don't know what else to call them) who offer to accept certain objects that you find and transform them into useful Inventory, a novel way to acquire those miscellaneous crowbars, puzzle pieces or grappling hooks. Third, half the puzzles themselves are the usual rotation/fill-in/slider type and but at least half are novel to this game. I didn't regard any them as groaners, looked forward to and enjoyed solving them all, and had no need to Skip any. Fourth, the game is not linear at all, but is interlaced with side quests and necessary actions and development of Inventory that required you to explore and examine the entire game world before completing some tasks that arise at the very beginning. (For example, I encountered a bucket at the beginning of the game that knew I could use, but I was not able to retrieve it until I almost was finished with the game.)

I played this game over a period of four days, for a few hours each time. I found it absolutely necessary to take good notes, especially because of the morphing rooms and because you did a great deal of back-and-forth in the game. Also, you will forget where the three spirit gurus are, if you don't make a note of where they stand. I don't believe there is a single location that you visit only once in this game; more likely, you will return to each location (whether morphed or not) multiple times.

There are no action scenes, no combat, nothing stressful or timed, nor any need for agility or hand-eye coordination. Some of the HO scenes involved finding very small items, indeed, and I did sometimes have to resort to a Hint to find the final item.

If we still were allowed to give grades in game reviews, I'd give this game a solid A. The only reason it wouldn't get an A+ from me is that the game had no Map (unless you play on the very easiest setting). I have SOTD: Flower of Shadow waiting in the wings, and can't wait to start it!

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations [Re: Marian] #1154980
06/25/18 12:17 PM
06/25/18 12:17 PM
Joined: Jul 2005
Posts: 815
deep south
8dognight Offline
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deep south
Secrets of the Dark: Eclipse Mountain

Orneon

This post is a brief second of the post above from Reenie. I had forgotten this one. Eclipse Mountain is far and away better than Flower of Shadow. In addition to the puzzles being wonderful, the environmental sounds are brilliantly handled and the deftly rendered setting is South East Asia, not a place these games often take us.


Last edited by 8dognight; 06/28/18 10:36 AM.
Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations [Re: Marian] #1154984
06/25/18 12:46 PM
06/25/18 12:46 PM
Joined: Jul 2005
Posts: 815
deep south
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The Agency of Anomalies: Mystic Hospital

From: Orneon, 2011

The graphics are precise and detailed. Clicking on many items not hotspots or not highlighted by a cursor change yields a remark. The gameplay is adventurish. For me, the HO screens are a downside in that once you find an item another one appears in its place; some of the HOs require replacing items.

The protagonist is male. He has taken on the job of neutralizing several now out of control victims/subjects of a World War I military experiment using paranormal beams to create perfect soldiers. You don't have to be a hardcore science fiction or horror fan to know mixing soldiers with paranormal beams is as bad an idea as splitting up to search a haunted house.

The screens tend toward medical grunge, which is not one of my favorites. "Mystic Hospital" has a lot of offsetting good qualities that allowed me to relinquish distaste and settle into the game. Among them, this is not an easy game; although many of the puzzles are a fast solve, the final one still confounds me because you can replay mini games only if you completed them in the main game, a disappointment I have managed to forget twice.

Other info:

The collectibles are period wartime photos.

Doesn't cover the screen on my computer, and I use the system cursor.

The layout of the setting reminds me of "Charles Dexter Ward."

The main creative forces behind the game seem to have been Sergey Bigas and Olexander Komarov.

Bonus adventure moral: Be sure your paranormal beam is in good repair before setting foot in a parallel universe.



Enigmatis: Mists of Ravenwood

From: Artifex Mundi, 2013

I liked this game best in the screens that are precise and detailed, for example, in parts of the dungeon and some of the puzzles. Most of the establishing shots are too clunky and ill-defined verging on slapdash. That said, the story is not run of the mill in spite of starting off with a kidnapping. In "Mists of Ravenwood" we team up with an archangel imprisoned below a redwood forest roadside attraction to rescue victims of a demonic cult whose powers arise from illusions, brainwashing, and the supernatural.

"Mists of Ravenwood" also has an unusual and creative evidence board.



Enlightenus II: The Timeless Tower

From: Blue Tea, 2010

This normally is not my kind of game because it is a series of HOs but these are extraordinarily clever HOs. The adventuring is minimal. The first Enlightenus has the same format and is enthralling, too.



Haunted Hotel: Charles Dexter Ward

From: Specialbit, 2012

Don't expect a hotel at all or much Lovecraft except in the names and a bit of the story. Not getting too entwined in following the Lovecraft namesake is a good thing.

The protagonist is male in this standout casual game with some tough puzzles.




The Others

From: Paprikari, 2014

I've played this through twice. The Others is science fiction with mystical "Chariots of the Gods" underpinnings. There is no map that I recall and a lot of ground to cover as you try to figure out why all the workers in a toy factory disappeared. One very adventure game type puzzle drove me nuts. The ending is a bit unresolved. That's okay when a game is this good.

Stylistically the artwork took some getting used to; however, it's good and appropriate to the subject. The appearance is detailed Disney-esque any town and citizens meet Art Deco.



Shiver: Poltergeist

From: Artogon, 2012

The theme of Poltergeist is similar to Death and Betrayal in Romania, reunite spirits separated in life. Poltergeist is the better game and in my estimation is up there with Nutcracker, Mercy of the Gallows, Mystery of the Ancestral Estate, Charles Dexter Ward, Stolen Runes, Turning Thorn, and a handful more.



Timeless: The Lost Castle

From: Boolat, 2013

Opening line: "My journey began as a whisper in the night."

In a dream we are instructed to go to Europe, find a mysterious masked figure in a glyph embroidered red robe, and aid an innocent soul. The screen fades to a shot of an airliner angling east through clouds into sunrise. The player character may be impulsive but notice the good auguries here. The action starts without having to pack a suitcase or find keys and a passport or any other typical story stalling impedimenta. Lost Castle ably fulfills that early sign of narrative competence.

As you probably already know, this is a long and wonderful game with some tough puzzles and beguiling artwork.

No violence or gore. No manual dexterity based puzzles. I almost never play games that include the latter. When replaying "Lost Castle" I did come up with a small caveat. While "Lost Castle" is not a fairy tale, it does share a quality with many fairy tales in that the basis of the story is grisly.




True Fear: Forsaken Souls

From: Goblinz, 2014

The first two times I tried True Fear: Forsaken Souls I didn't get past the opening sequence shown as a view from a bank of security camera monitors, so be warned. While the brutality is toned down by lack of detail and the brief use of black and white instead of color, the scene is off-putting and very nearly kept me from ever exploring this ably crafted tale. The third time, I skipped the beginning. Thereafter the game itself eschews graphic horror and plays out as a psychological thriller undergirded by a supernatural premise. As I recall, there is only one scare screen and it is bloodless. In defense of Goblinz's choice of opening, the sequence does work and sets up the action well.

Immersive casual games with this much story are few and far between, and I have played through to the end twice. My only gripes are that most of the screens aren't as crisp as I like and the cursor is too large and clumsy in appearance.




Last edited by 8dognight; 07/07/18 12:30 PM.
Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations [Re: Marian] #1155253
06/27/18 04:46 PM
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If you are familiar with the Secrets of the Dark series, you'll know what I just experienced playing SOTD: The Flower Shadow. It is another large game that requires several days to play, is chock full of great puzzles of many kinds, and is a game that necessitates generating copious notes. It includes a Map. As is my usual preference, I played the CE version in the Custom mode, so I can't speak for any differences that might occur in playing the SE version. The graphics and sound were not exceptional but still above average compared to other casuals.

This game has Collectibles and Morphing Objects, so those who want to collect while playing will be happy. You can ignore them all and it won't change anything. If you find all of the Collectibles, there is a very pesky mini-game reward at the end. It was dead easy to spot every Collectible in each scene, and I wanted to play that mini, so I dutifully went along. I ignored the Morphing Objects.

Most of the puzzles and mini-games are dead easy, but it didn't spoil the game for me. Most were sort of in the middle of the pack. A couple were the challenging kind that you have to pull out paper and pencil (and even colored pencils) to help you solve them. I was happy with those!

Quibbles: 1) If you get stuck and ask for a “Hint,” the direction it gives does not always help. It is the same with some “Clues” that are inexplicable. I don't understand why this should be the case unless it was a cultural thing (the game, as with so many, is of Eastern European origin). 2) Some of the mini-games required a lot of experimentation to get going. Dealing with attacking birds in one scene is an example. You obtain a crossbow with which to shoot them, but you spend time looking around for arrows before you realize that the crossbow came invisibly supplied with them! This is so counter to how most games play out that you don't expect it (BTW, it is dead easy to shoot the birds; not really a “game” at all). 3) One of the puzzles malfunctioned and could not be completed (some of the pieces that were supposed to rotate failed to do so); and twice I had to bail out of non-working puzzles. The rest were terrific.

There is no arcade play, no fighting, no jumping and no timed stuff that I remember.

I found the end of the game to be a bit truncated, after the days of playing. No real “ending” sequence, as with many other games. The Bonus Game (CE version) was shorter than most, and predicated on your having not quite polished off the evil entity after all. Hmmm. It utilized most of the same scenes the game started with originally. It was only moderate in length.

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations [Re: Marian] #1155572
06/30/18 08:06 PM
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The Secret Order: Shadow Breach. I would recommend this to folks who are looking for a loooong game (with an equally satisfying Bonus Game if you buy the CE) that isn't too difficult. The graphics are among the best I've seen in a while and the animations (gentle wind blowing the trees, water flowing, etc) are lovely.

The game has Collectibles and Morphing objects (hence Pop-ups) but can be ignored. If you are into them, most of them are not difficult to find, but if you miss any, the game doesn't let you go back at the end and pick them up like some of the new games are doing.

The game involves a lot of going back-and-forth from one scene to another, so don't expect to enter a site and clean it out before moving on to the next scene. Ain't gonna happen. ha ha Take good notes or be ready to ask for a Hint or check the Map, frequently. Yes, you can "teleport" with the Map. There are a few of those “Simon” puzzles (repeat-a-sequence). There are no music puzzles except one, but you find a walk-through for it. There is no combat or timed stuff, per se, except at the very end and that one was laughably easy. In fact, all of the puzzles in the game but one are dead easy, so don't look for a challenge with this game.

Quibbles: There were no surprises and no real challenges. It has a couple of bad puzzles. One had those rotating rings where you have to sort the colored marbles to fit a given pattern. I don't enjoy those much but I do them. This one was a 3-ring circus and took forever. Second bad puzzle was near the end, where you have to rearrange puzzle pieces ~ but if you start off wrong, the puzzle has no Reset button! Since there was no way to restart it and you couldn't back up within the puzzle, I had to Skip the darned thing. Inexcusable.

I bought the CE, which comes with a Game Manual. I actually resorted to it a couple of times (see “Take good notes” above ~ha ha), but the main reason I go for the CE is for the extra play in the Bonus Game. This one definitely was worth it! Hours of extra play.

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations [Re: Marian] #1155937
07/04/18 02:47 PM
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Shadow Shelter: I bought Shadow Shelter and played it this week. This is one helluva game, although it does have its quibbles (see below). It is available as an SE only, but still was long enough to be satisfying. It takes a lot of patience and thoroughness to get the most out of the game and not be frustrated. Definitely not for “game butterflies” who want an easy coast through a game. Fair warning!

The game takes place in an abandoned mansion: quiet, gloomy, dark, ruined, haunted. The artwork is fantastic. There was a lot of effort put toward setting and scenery. Even in a scene where you spend only a few minutes on an HO, the artwork is terrific. And as far as HO scenes go, this game has LOTS of them. There are no Collectibles and Morphs to seek. This is the kind of game where you explore and return to various rooms repeatedly; none of that going into a room, "doing" it, and not going back.

There is a music puzzle with three dancing dolls in one scene and it is just terrible, if you don't like them. I understood I was supposed to set the music to some theme, but no clue at all what that theme was ~ times three. Fortunately, the Big Fish Game Forums all still are accessible even though no longer active, so you can get either a hint or a big push, whatever you want. You also can Google the game title for more help elsewhere if you simply want the answer.

There are a variety of mini-games, some with quite clever new ideas. I enjoyed every one. There is a disembodied “hand” that is a big help throughout the game, and you'll come back to it repeatedly. You can't get anywhere without learning how to use it.

Near the end, there is a puzzle involving re-assembling two mechanical door guards (easy to do) and then setting their bodies and arms into designated positions to open a gateway (not easy). I had not encountered the usual clue for this during the game, so I was stuck, but good. Even when I went to the Big Fish forums and looked for help, their advice did not work (I was supposed to have found the key during the game, but did not, and when I went back with their directions, it wasn't there). I had to search the Internet for an image showing this puzzle's answer. Grrrr. I would rather have solved it, so I guess this would be considered a "Quibble," as well.

At the end of the game, there is a “Boss,” but he is easy to defeat if you understand that you just need to find and click on all the runes in the scene before he strikes you the first time. If you fail, you are bumped out of the room and have to re-enter. No biggee. It took me three tries, but I did it, and I don't like timed scenes like that at all. There also is a pesky assemble-the-clock puzzle, but it is more of an HO and not timed.

Quibble: The navigation in the game was very tiresome, and the Map contains no labels for the many rooms! (Who gives you a Map with no labels?) When you first enter a room, it tells you what the room is, but after that, nothing. You will go back and forth among the many rooms frequently, and if you don't draw and label your own map as you go along, you'll have to remember or guess which room to enter or click in the game Map. Why is this a problem, you ask? Because, each time you pass from one room to another, there is a delay while a graphic plays, showing feet moving from one room to another. At first, this is cute, but after hours of navigating this way, you REALLY are tired of it. So, I strongly suggest you draw your own Map as you go, and label it.

I enjoyed this game very much. It is closer in feel to an Adventure game than most HO-type games. It is kind of unique in its quirkiness and ingenuity, and I forgive it for its two annoying puzzles. I definitely will play it again!

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations [Re: Reenie] #1155955
07/04/18 07:34 PM
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Marian Offline OP
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League of Light: Dark Omens Collector's Edition

The developer is Mariaglorum.

I am in the middle of a second replay of this game at the moment and it is just as good as ever. While nothing new in the story department, I think this is an excellent game: beautiful graphics, interesting HOP scenes, inventory neither dead obvious or obscure in terms of figuring out where it can be used, good soundtrack, a journal/diary, and a generous length. The bonus game is easily another one to two hours and is very good. There are collectibles, but you will not find banners popping up all that often; it's kept to a relative minimum. This game was released in 2013 and I find it just as entertaining now as it was then.

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations [Re: Marian] #1156156
07/06/18 07:07 PM
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I just finished two days of playing Mystery Murders: The Sleeping Palace. 8Dognight already has given a review on this one, so you know the story and the graphics. I will only add comments that she did not.

This is one of the more “Adventure” type HO games I've played, but there still are a lot of HO scenes. There are no Collectibles, but there is a lot of Inventory to collect. (I had so much stuff tucked into my bodice that Mae West would be outclassed.) The thing is, I often was in the position that “What I have I don't need, and what I need I don't have.” I carried around a miner's pick for most of the game and finally used it in almost the last scene.

Particulars: This is an SE version, so no Bonus Game and no Game Manual comes with it. There is a good Map for navigation/transporting, and all rooms are labeled. The musical sound track is monotonous in the extreme. I turned it off completely. There is a Music Puzzle but you are guided through it; not really a “puzzle.” There is a Magic Square sort of puzzle, but one of the easiest I've encountered. Start with the four corners, because there is only one solution for each, then move to the middles of each side. After that, simply rotate the center until it gives you the "All Done!" There are Pipe Puzzles and they are dead easy; in fact, all of the puzzles are. Mostly, what you do is locate the items you need to activate the next puzzle or the next zone.

Caveats: Fist, you'd better take good notes of what is available in each scene, and what remains to be done. The Map does not indicate where something needs to be done. Clicking on "Hint" in a given scene will not always be rewarding. That is one thing that made it Adventure-like. I got so stuck at one point that I looked up a WT to see what I had missed. A second caveat is related to this: Some hot spots are very small. Third, when you complete a puzzle, the game may bounce you out and you think that is it, you're done. Don't believe it for a minute. Go back in and look. Reward Goodies are often waiting.

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations [Re: Marian] #1156583
07/11/18 07:32 PM
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Rite of Passage: Hackamore Bluff. Rite of Passage is a checkered series, of which I have played eight and would recommend only a few. I'm underwhelmed by this one. The graphics are decent and varied, the sound quality is good, and the acting fine as far as it goes. It is an OK game but not great, always just about there but not going the extra mile.

Also, it is odd that the game hangs onto the title intro, "Rite of Passage." We all know what a Rite of Passage is: It is a time in young people's lives when they must succeed in a mental or physical challenge posed by their culture that is a ritualistic demarcation of the boundary between childhood and adulthood. Succeeding in this challenge literally is a "Passage" to adulthood. The first game in this series utilized that plot line. Succeeding stories in the series only nodded at it or ignored it totally, and this game was one that had no essence of any "passage" ritual in it. It starts from nowhere and ends there again.

The game is VERY easy. Even the sliders are easy. There are rotation puzzles; again, easy. There is a repeating “Simon” type puzzle and even that is not difficult. Still, the puzzles are not all a snap because, once in a while, you can't figure out WTH you are supposed to do, and if you can, it isn't clear how to do it. Maybe this would make it more “puzzling” to some gamers. There isn't any real combat and nothing arcade-like or timed. With the CE, there were Morphing Objects and Collectibles; I don't know if the SE version would have those.

As usual, I played the CE version, but the Bonus Game was not very long and basically invalidated your success in banishing the troublesome entity at the end of the Main Game by having you do it all over again in the Bonus round. So, I would not say it was worth the extra CE cost.

I guess I'm giving Hackamore Bluff a lukewarm recommendation. I would recommend other games in this series, instead. The older Child of the Forest was better, with an original story, beautiful artwork and some challenging mini-games. Even Sword and Fury was much better, with great art, good mini-games, long playing time and a decent Bonus Game. I recommend it, as well.

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations [Re: Marian] #1158100
07/27/18 03:02 PM
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Cursed

JetDogs Studios: 2017

Cursed, which I have played twice, is a standard edition without collectibles. The heroine is a young woman determined to find her fiance, the devoted and hapless Albert, who failed to return from what she discovers was a difficult job, building a gate to hell for a demon with a penchant for multiple and complicated NDAs, er, soul buying contracts. The setting is a decaying stately house and grounds. The interiors are sparsely furnished yet carefully detailed, a stylistic choice I vastly prefer to fuzzily rendered.

The voice acting for other than the two main characters isn't great by any stretch. The writer or translator went to some trouble to create amusingly plausible 19th century prose in Albert's undelivered letters as he becomes earnestly and increasingly dismayed that the love of his life has not written back. The voiceover of these letters, which some players may think a bit lengthy although I did not, adds sufficient characterization to give me the faintest glimmer of two people who care about each other, an achievement rare in the genre.

The puzzles are on the easy side. I don't remember any that were timed or required manual dexterity. Most of the HOs are reasonably attractive if a bit blah. All are handled in a manner that avoids making list items teeny-tiny, not that I care. I'll take eye candy over easy to spot display any day.

Small caveat: Two places require you to kill Lovecraft inspired creatures. The first is close to bloodless where early in the game you dispatch Cthulhu's ugly cousin; the second, much later in the action, could be problematic for some people because it is part of an arcane--aren't they all?--ritual with a pentagram that must be filled with monster blood in order to save dear Albert, so fair warning here.

JetDogs also developed Alchemy Legends: Prague Mysteries, Dracula's Legacy (as a casual), and the flawed but enjoyable Frankenstein: Master of Death. All of these are worth looking into. Skip the insoluble slider in Frankenstein: Master of Death, chuckle at the hilariously bad monster, and wonder how a derelict VW Beetle came to share a path with the reanimated tiger.

1 Moment of Time: Silentville

From: 2 Monkeys, 2012

Last edited by 8dognight; 07/31/18 09:02 AM.
Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations [Re: Reenie] #1158126
07/28/18 01:20 AM
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I am currently replaying Mystery Case Files (MCF): Black Veil and I totally agree with Reenie's comment re: Of this game series, one of the Top 3. Superb, creepy, more Adventure than HO.

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations [Re: Marian] #1158323
07/30/18 08:52 AM
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9: The Dark Side

and

9: The Dark Side of Notre Dame

From Play Favorite Games, 2012 and 2013

Of these two games the first, 9 Dark Side, is the superior. It is one of the few games employing runes and an amulet to find them with not runed by the mechanic. The overarching concept is deceptively simple. You play as the last descendant of an ancient order. Your goal is to find the 9 amulets belonging to ghostly council members who bestow their power upon you so that you can defeat the dark side. Dark Side is complex; the graphics are beautiful with carefully laid out screens; some of the puzzles are tough to crack. I've played three times and never solved the bell tower puzzle, which is a move the blocks with another block devil. I am terrible at those although I always spend hours trying.

Notre Dame is also for the most part beautiful and deliciously tricky in terms of game play; however, I think someone messed with the structure and threw in elements to make the setting more relatable, annoyingly so, like the mime in a park who wants his picture taken, that while not necessarily intrinsically dull are made so by mediocre graphics. The out of gas chainsaw behind the mime is inherently boring padding. The screens inside the cathedral are stunning. You get a bullied gargoyle as a helper. I almost quit playing the first time over that then decided to give the developers plus points for originality in presenting an additional character with a unique personality. I don't remember having to find any runes with an amulet as in the first game, so I'm speculating designers wisely realized that glasses for magical myopia were only going to work once. Too bad other game companies did not reach the same conclusion.

ETA: I take it back about the amulet. It's there. Wishful thinking on my part. I did replay it fairly recently and only went back to check for the device today. It's not oppressively employed.


Haunted Manor: Queen of Death

Top Evidence Studio, 2011

Queen of Death is a tale of sibling rivalry set apparently in mid Victorian Great Britain, judging by the railroad car, but I'm not certain. There’s a mine, so maybe the family were coal barons in Wales. Away at school, Christie gets a letter from her invalid sister. Their parents are dead; Christie should return home at once.

The artwork is good, and the numerous HO screens are visually pleasing. The items are small which doesn't bother me when the art is this attractive. The audio sections with a classical music score are a welcome contrast to the music in most games. The game covers the whole screen on my most recent laptop which is not Windows 10. No map but you don't need one. Some sparkles.

Elena and Alexey Tugaenko were the main creative forces; Peter Lysenko was the artist.

Witch Hunters: Stolen Beauty

Top Evidence Studio, 2012

Alexey Tugaienko (presumably the same person as in Haunted Manor: Queen of Death, just a different spelling) and Peter Lysenko again teamed up and provided a compelling game that doesn't rely on a kidnapping as such.

HOs have some repetition of objects.



Last edited by 8dognight; 08/19/18 09:46 AM.
Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations [Re: Marian] #1159202
08/06/18 03:37 PM
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I finished Hidden Expedition: Altar of Lies today, and with it, Eipix finally put out a great game in this series that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend. Seriously, the three I tried previously were so simplistic and so short that I left myself a note: "The games in this series are too short and too easy/simple. Targeted at children? No more of these!"

I played the CE version and felt the Bonus game was worth it; it finishes the story. I played with all the aids turned off (Sparkles, Hints, etc.) except for the right to Skip a puzzle; I learned the hard way on that option in previous games.

The game predominately takes place in a South American jungle, (with a diversion into an urban area headquarters) and the landscape is lushly presented. The graphics within the game are clean, sharp, well balanced and contribute to the story and atmosphere. It is Indiana Jones-ish, including falling off cliffs and dealing with collapsing pillars, plus a competing bunch of archaeological-pillagers-cum-Rule-the-World types who wouldn't mind causing you to have an unfortunate and permanent accident.

There are pop-ups every time you find any of the three "Collectibles" scattered throughout almost every scene and most of the HO scenes, but there is no need to pursue them. They gain you nothing. The HO scenes themselves tend to be creative, not just Find-the-Hockey-Stick. They are relevant, for the most part, but there is the odd piece of inventory that has nothing to do with where you are. There are a few HO scenes of the type that don't give a List of items to search for but show the name of only ONE object at a time. Until you find it, you don't get another object to search for in the scene. That can be a pain and I chafed at the restriction. Why design it like that?

The puzzles vary from childishly easy to real head-scratchers that you'd be best advised to pull out the paper and pencil in order to keep the parameters straight. One puzzle at the very end was bad enough (a horror of a rotation puzzle) that I was glad to Skip it. Nasty thing! ha ha Once or twice, I could not decipher the constraining mechanics of a puzzle in order to begin solving it. If you are supposed to sort things in a 1-2-3-4 way, is that symbol of a snake curling around and biting its own tail in a roughly 4-sided shape meant to be a 4 or a zero? Does an "X" with a vertical line through it mean the total should be the Quantity 3 or is it an "X" crossing out the Number 1? ~ and so on. Still, the game included some of my favorite kinds of puzzles and I was happy with it.

There isn't any arduous shooting or timed stuff. There are a couple of "pursuit" scenes but they aren't serious threats and there is only one simple arcade-ish sequence that is so easy to do that even I had no trouble with it.

Overall, I enjoyed the game and marked it to Replay. There is something in it for everyone.

Re: Your Favorite Casual Games - Reviews and Recommendations [Re: Marian] #1159549
08/09/18 02:21 PM
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I finished Witch Hunters: Stolen Beauty today, a game I would not have purchased without 8dognight's recommendation, I am that tired of the witch trope. It was excellent, for a number of reasons. It also had its less-than-perfect moments. I played the game on the hardest setting, so my experience would differ from someone's who played on the easiest setting. (For one thing, you'd have all the glimmers telling you where to find stuff.)

The game is large enough to keep you probing and interested. It is not one of those games where you enter a scene, do everything in it, and move on, for good. There are always things you will have to come back to finish, sometimes more than once. There is no Map (for instant Transport), which means you have to do a lot of running around, but the scene changes are short and it isn't a pain. At times, I could not figure out what to do next, usually because a hidden HO scene had generated spontaneously, so I had to keep clicking on the Hint button until it guided me back to that scene where there was something new to do there.

While you are doing all that back-and-forth, you'd better be taking notes (to remember where it was you saw that gate that needed some counterweights to open it, etc.). I had to chuckle when I reached the last few scenes of the game and found two missing inserts for a plaque I encountered at nearly the very first scene in the game. One aspect of the game that was fun was acquiring magic skills as you solved problems. Each of the five people who need your help bequeaths you a magic ability after you have freed them. These range from seeing through things to taming wild creatures.


There are no voices in this game. You “speak” to people by reading the text of what they have to say. This felt retro, but didn't bother me. There is a repetitive level to the background music that made me turn it down nearly to zero. There are no “Collectibles,” hence no Pop-Ups. There is one set of objects you need to complete as you progress through the game, you can't miss them, and the game keeps a tally of them for you; they are used in the last scene/puzzle.

There is a music puzzle, but you can do it easily, without knowing music. Just watch the order the keys are struck. None of the rest of the puzzles is difficult except for one stinker that was a combination of a rotation puzzle and one of those 9-square numbers puzzles (as if one or the other were not pesky enough, they had to combine them?). It occurred near the end and is the only thing I skipped in the entire game.

A Couple of Quibbles:
1) There is a slight offset of correspondence between the Inventory item you are using and your game cursor. It was awkward. Even late in the game, I was still having some difficulty clicking an Inventory item on the right pixel. The hot spots are much smaller than in most other games, and you have to get pretty close to get that “Click” to register.

2) When I finished and wanted to start the Bonus Game, I couldn't find it. Usually, the Bonus Game is located in “Extras.” Not in this case. You find it by opening “Change Player” option (?). Then you look down on the bottom right of the screen to find the Bonus Game button. I almost deleted my progress by clicking on the wrong thing.

Two thumbs up on this game. Thanks, 8dognight.

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