Empress of the Deep 3: Legacy of the Phoenix
After a century of slumber deep beneath the ocean waves, you awoke to discover your destructive and evil twin, Pandora. With the help of the guardians, you pursued and imprisoned her. But now Pandora has escaped and is harnessing the Colossus' power; your people are in peril. They need you, Anna, their empress. Rescue your people by collecting the sacred relics along with other artifacts, resurrecting the Phoenix and reviving the Grandmother Tree in Empress of the Deep 3: Legacy of the Phoenix, a surreal and beautifully Myst-like hidden object adventure from Silverback Productions.
You begin your quest inside the Scroll Temple and, with the help of an old keymaster, set out to find and utilize objects to unlock the spirit codex and open new pathways. Regardless of which level of difficulty you choose, you'll be given instructions along the way as Jacob, your guide, explains the new areas and elements that you discover: a spirit amethyst charged by collecting fairies to remove barriers, coins left behind by cats to activate a teleporter, keys to unlock the ancient scroll, and more. Since you're allowed hints and skips even at the "hardcore" level, select that to lessen the interactive guidance while still maintaining a relaxed mode. Navigate a large and gorgeous environment, following your cursor that changes to indicate where you can move, where an area can be examined more closely, or an item that can be picked up. As you explore, your journal keeps track of your progress while a map helps you see where you've been and where you need to go.
Hidden object search scenes are varied between three types: an interactive list style search, find multiples of an object type, or locate and replace hidden details. These hidden object scenes are well composed with saturated colors and remarkable aesthetics; they also contain the only true challenge or difficulty in the game. Even so, if you do get stuck, the "Hint" feature will quickly unstick you. I'm not usually fond of hidden object searches in other games, but I found these to be extremely enjoyable and fresh even if some objects weren't easy to distinguish. In addition to the search scenes, there's the kind of task-centered puzzles you'd find in a classic adventure game. Because they're not as involved or hard as the minigames used in other hidden object hybrids, you might be disappointed if you're looking for more challenge. Yet, if you're enjoying the serene and relaxed exploration, these puzzles are a welcome part of that experience as they don't take away from immersion.
Perhaps the biggest complaint to be made is that the slow pace coupled with the inescapable interactive help makes the game very easy. Comparing it to the first Empress of the Deep installment will probably also bring disappointment. On its own merits, though, Legacy of the Phoenix is extremely enjoyable as a game you can relax with, let yourself be immersed in the stunningly gorgeous scenery and lured into serenity by the hypnotic music. It works very well as an exploration based story, where you can meander through a world that's still very reminiscent of Myst and enjoy discovering new tokens and enchanted pieces. Because of that experience, I can recommend this game—we all need those moments of escape, to relax in beautiful surroundings and feel like an empress.
Currently, only the Collector's Edition is available. It contains bonus content not found in the standard edition: a bonus match 3 game: ZEM 2, an extra chapter, 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.