A long time ago, in a land far, far away, lived a lovely princess by the name of Isabella. Isabella was not your typical princess. Rather than spending her days languidly awaiting rescue by a handsome prince, Isabella took matters into her own hands and strode forward to unlock the curse, fight the evil witch, and rescue her intended prince herself. Now, a year later, the same witch is back and wreaking havoc again. The castle is again cursed, Isabella's true love the prince is missing, and worst of all, the evil hag has kidnapped Isabella's new baby for some nefarious purpose. In Princess Isabella: Return of the Curse the titular heroine is back and badder than ever in this fantastical adventure/hidden object hybrid by Gogii games. Oh, it is on, witch!
A bewitching animation at the beginning of Princess Isabella: Return of the Curse lays out the story in broad strokes accompanied by a haunting version of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and is guaranteed to pull you right in. The horrendously cute (and fantastically annoying) fairy guide from the first game immediately shows up and the player is off and rolling. With the help of your fairy companion (and another surprising addition along the way) it is up to the gamer to find their way out of the castle and through the kingdom, searching for the witch's lair and removing the curse upon the land along the way. You must find the missing prince, defeat the witch, and rescue baby Bella, all of the usual tropes of a classic (yet twisted) fairy tale.
Exploration is as simple as the click of a mouse as Princess Isabella: Return of the Curse plays out like a classic point-and-click adventure game. There are objects in each scene that may become useful later; some found immediately, some found within classic hidden object scenes, and some objects which can only be retrieved with the help of your companion(s), who have special powers that allow them to reach items that you are not able to. These objects will go into a handy scrolling inventory to be used at a later point in the game, whether it be to break a curse, rescue a villager, or unlock a helpful character whom the witch has frozen with another curse.
You will also pick up useful bits of magic left over when you break a curse, mini-spells that can transform the world around you in helpful ways. The useful and logically designed control system also includes a changing cursor to indicate areas of interest, a scrolling "task" screen which helps you remember what needs to be done, a useful diary that keeps track of information learned, and your companions themselves who among their abilities count the talent of a recharging hint feature. Rounding out the experience are a plethora of puzzles and mini-games that must be solved as well, although they can be skipped after a certain amount of time.
Be prepared, also, for other fairy tale icons to pop up unexpectedly, their stories intersecting with your own as Isabella fights her way to her ultimate goal. Can she rescue her family and save the kingdom in time? Will there be a happily ever after? Only time will tell.
Analysis: The first game in the series, Princess Isabella: A Witch's Curse hit the scene back in 2009 with a stunning array of fun puzzles and exceptional graphics, setting a standard that has not often been topped. Well, Gogii has definitely topped it with this amazing sequel. Attention has been poured into every detail of Princess Isabella: Return of the Curse, be it the backgrounds, voice acting, characters, storyline, animations, and gameplay.
Some might miss the over-the-top baroqueness of the original castle, but the scenery this time around is still magnificent with each view having two different versions: the cursed and the cleared. Enough cannot be said about the ravishing graphics, from the control designs to the adorable animations and everything in-between. Princess Isabella: Return of the Curse is at once lighter (with much more sarcastic humor than the original) and darker (with the intense storyline of a kidnapped child) than the original. The darkness is especially ramped up with the musical accompaniment which weaves classic childhood songs into its themes. Once you've finished the game you may never listen to "Mary Had a Little Lamb" the same way again.
If there is one complaint that can be leveled against Princess Isabella: Return of the Curse it is that, like so many other adventure/hidden object hybrids on the market today, it is rather short. Playing time will depend upon the experience of the player, the choice of mode (easy or difficult), and whether or not you decide to spring for the Collector's Edition with its extra gameplay. On average the gamer can probably look forward to about three hours of solid gameplay, although the hefty "extra" gameplay in the CE will probably add another hour or so. For those debating whether or not the extras in the CE are worth it, in this case they most definitely are. The "extra" gameplay is extensive and includes some fantastic challenges and puzzles, along with a chance to revisit parts of the original lovely Baroque castle from Princess Isabella: A Witch's Curse.
With its darker and more powerful storyline and haunting music Princess Isabella: Return of the Curse still delivers the goods of involving, entertaining, challenging gameplay. The ability to chose two different modes of play makes Princess Isabella fun for both beginners to the field and seasoned adventurers looking for a challenge. Beautiful beyond belief and exciting to play Princess Isabella: Return of the Curse is a definite hit. Now how long do we have to wait this time around for a sequel?
A Collector's Edition is also available. It includes wallpapers, concept art, the music soundtrack, an amazingly hefty extra adventure that blends into the regular gameplay seamlessly, a wonderful animated teaser for the planned sequel, and a built-in strategy guide. Remember that Big Fish Game Club Members pay only $13.99 for Collector's Editions (or 2 club credits), and collector's editions count 3 card punches of 6 total needed for a free game.