Stop me if you've heard this one. Kate is a plucky cop whose ability to be ridiculously overqualified for her job makes her a prime candidate for the heroine of an adventure game. When she gets a phone call from an old friend begging her to keep his briefcase from falling into The Wrong Hands(tm), she winds up getting involved in an ancient mystery that puts the lives of countless people in danger. Millennium Secrets: Emerald Curse is a point-and-click adventure game with puzzle solving and hidden object elements. Despite featuring a slightly cheesy premise, what follows is a surprisingly enjoyable adventure game chock full of classic action movie scenarios, fun puzzles, and more mystical MacGuffins than you can shake your tranquilizer gun at.
The game is played using the mouse to click your way around the areas and interact with things on screen. Use the arrows that appear at the left or right side of the screen to move around. There are two difficulty modes you can choose from, and I strongly recommend Casual, which makes the cursor sparkle whenever you're over an important object, unless you like a lot of pointless clicking. Objects you can pick up will sparkle, and if they can be used immediately will appear in your inventory at the bottom of the screen in a green box. Some items will need several parts and will be displayed in red when you first pick them up, so make sure to explore every area carefully. Drawers can be searched, cupboards can be opened, and, oh, make sure you keep your eyes peeled for suspicious places, since they may be concealing secret compartments. If you get stuck, clicking on "hint" will show you where to find an item.
Despite billing itself as a hidden object game, players who go into the game expecting a standard hidden object hunting experience are going to be disappointed. Like Campfire Legends, the only objects you look for are the ones you actually need. You might find yourself searching for scraps of a torn up letter, or enough wires to re-wire a security camera. You don't enter a typical hidden object scene to look for them, they're just hidden around the environment. There are also "bonus" items to track down, which, while not necessary to progress, grant you additional hints. I might have liked to have seen a bit more variation to this formula, since it makes up a big chunk of the gameplay, but for players who are sick of combing through lists of unrelated items when all they really need is one particular thing, Millennium Secrets earns a lot of points. Just... try not to think too much about why the charming millionaire has so many powerful tranquilizer darts just laying around the place. Next to your dinner. And stuck behind paintings. And under the carpet. And... you know, um, let's just move on...
Analysis: You really get the sense that Millennium Secrets is trying to be Broken Sword, or at least attain the same level, and it doesn't quite make it. It's trying, with its tale of a mystical doo-dad and the plucky cop who plays-by-her-own-rules trying to save it from the hencmen du jour. But while it lacks Broken Sword's easy charm, there's still something very appealing about the popcorn-y good story and Indiana Jones-esque scenarios. Maybe if Kate herself were a bit more charismatic as a lead, or the characters a bit more memorable, the game would have been great instead of just "good". As it stands, the most I recall about Kate's professor friend is a tendency to leave his DVDs all over the living room and an apparent fondness for sweaters.
So it's unfortunate that the game probably won't pose much of a challenge to most people. You're always given very clear direction, which, while eliminating a lot of frustrating hunting, doesn't make for a very high difficulty scale. If you do get stuck, the hints available do a good job of pointing you in the right direction. That key-stuck-in-the-lock "puzzle" makes an appearance here too. You know, the one featured in roughly 70% of point-and-click adventure games to date? Still, the rest of the puzzles are satisfyingly varied and take you across a variety of interesting locales that keeps the plot moving at a brisk pace.
While a lot of players will probably sail right through the game in several hours due to the low level of challenge, I still recommend Millennium Secrets: Emerald Curse for a fun, if occasionally corny, adventure experience. The quality is there, and the story and setting provide a welcome respite from the tide of forgettable, bland adventure games on the market. It isn't perfect, but it's a fun ride while it lasts, and I hope we see more adventures in the future with Kate: Surprisingly Overqualified Lady Cop. (Don't you think knowing how to rewire a camera with scavenged materials should be a perquisite for anyone who wants to go into law enforcement? I do.)