Surface: The Noise She Couldn't Make
Victim, or killer? That's what you have to discover in Elephant Games' hidden-object adventure adventure Surface: The Noise She Couldn't Make. When a young girl is found lying unresponsive by the roadside in the middle of nowhere, a bloody knife beside her despite a lack of wounds, and not carrying any identification, the hospital turns to you in desperation. As a psychic detective (snicker, snort!) you'll have to use your unique abilities to enter the helpless girl's mind and see why she's a prisoner of her own thoughts. If you don't succeed, not only will TLC not make a terrible reality show about you, which could be seen as a sort of reward actually, but it's unlikely your Jane Doe will survive. Can you navigate the minefield of symbolism and mystery in her head to save her? And does she really deserve saving?
Jane Doe's brain is a confusion jumble of surreal imagery, but the dangers are very real to her, and so it might seem to you, since it quickly becomes apparent that someone or something doesn't want you helping the girl. You'll have to stay on your toes as you hunt for clues and solve puzzles, dealing with Jane's physical symptoms as they pop up in the real world by fixing the psychological manifestations of them in her dreamscape. Since this is a dream, few things function the way they should and you'll encounter mazes, obstacles, and locked doors of an unusual type. Fortunately, if you get stuck, you can use the hint function to get pointed specifically towards your next step, or skip troublesome puzzles altogether. Even more helpful, the map will show you any locations you can actually do something in and let you travel there instantly with a click. Plus, if you gather the glowing blue flowers hidden throughout the game, you'll be able to spend them on decorations for your superfluous magical detective's office because... well... just because, okay?!
Analysis: Despite the goofy "psychic detective" premise, Surface: The Noise She Couldn't Make stands out as one of Elephant Games' most intriguing and beautiful titles to date. The design of Jane's dreamworld is gorgeous, full of secrets and lush visuals that makes it especially fun to explore, and the concept of a person's mind manifesting as a town unique to their psyche for you to traverse and solve mysteries in is very clever. The story is a little slow moving, broken up by long chunks of backtracking and item hunting that kind of drags, especially when the clues you'll encounter about Jane's troubled past are a lot more interesting. Because the game takes place in a dreamland of imagery and symbolism, some of the obstacles and item uses are sort of deliberately goofy and illogical, which won't appeal to every player. On the plus side, this does mean that a lot of the puzzles you'll encounter are quite creative, if on the weird side.
The tone of the whole game, from setting to story, sort of wavers between 14 year old dramatic teenage girl wishful fanfiction and... grim. But if you're willing to take that with a grain of salt and can handle some illogical item uses and pacing issues, Surface: The Noise She Couldn't Make is actually an extremely engrossing game. It isn't perfect, and the subject matter won't be to everyone's tastes, but players looking for a more unusual and creative game will want to try the demo. It's on the lengthy side, and the heavy emphasis on its unusual story makes it stand out from the pack. Imaginative, dark, and more than a little weird, Surface: The Noise She Couldn't Make is an unusual game that will take a certain sort of player to appreciate it, and is well worth checking out.
A Collector's Edition is also available. It contains a bonus chapter, art gallery, strategy guide, and more. 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.