Everybody knows to stay out of the forest. It's dark and dangerous and, ever since the last Forest Rite, the forest has taken on a life of its own, trapping the citizens inside Willow Ridge. But what happens if the forest doesn't stay out of town? One night, your lighthouse keeper husband disappears into the darkness, taking with him important secrets about Rite of Passage: Child of the Forest. That leaves you to play the heroine and save the town from the encroaching trees in this thoroughly engaging and beautiful hidden object adventure from Mad Head Games.
When you begin, you're in the dark about why the forest is attacking the town as much as everyone else. You know only enough to arm yourself with a special amulet that can ward off the nefarious darkness. When it is broken, though, shattered into pieces, your first task is to search for the pieces in a fragmented hidden object search scene. Just as in Rite of Passage: The Perfect Show, you'll find animated story scenes to fix which provide chapter structure to the game and help draw you deeper into the town's story. There are several refreshing varieties of search scenes and puzzles you'll encounter in Child of the Forest yet the game is as much about the story, exploration and adventure. That means traipsing back and forth through a wide variety of locations but a well-designed smart map lets you go anywhere you want with just a click, meaning your time is always spent engaged in the moment.
Analysis: Many times you'll need to search for or piece together tokens and keys to open new areas, other times you'll have to solve a puzzle or riddle. Whether these tasks are easy or challenging is completely left to player's choice. There's eight options that can be separately modified in the difficulty customization menu at any time during the game. Want no distracting sparkles yet don't want to wait more than 15 seconds for a new hint? Prefer almost no lifelines as you struggle to find answers and solve the town's dilemma? You can have it your way. You seem to be the only capable person in an entire town, which does do fabulous things for the ego. Even so, there's a great deal of logic and sense holding the story and gameplay together. For example, there's a reason you have to click on a list of seemingly random items in a search scene: to move them aside to find the pieces to the object you truly need.
Your suspension of disbelief does need to work on overdrive much the time and those who are impatient to understand why things are awry will have to grit it out until the end, when everything is explained. As for why only you can save the town, that's explained later, too. This surreal fantasy adventure doesn't take well to being described in mere words, though. Nothing I can say about Child of the Forest quite lives up to what it is. The best way to tell if this game is for you is by trying the demo and see if you, too, are entranced by Mad Head Games' astute talent for stunning visuals and engaging storytelling.
Currently only the Collector's Edition of this game is also available. It contains bonus content not found in the standard edition: a bonus chapter, replayable minigames, strategy guide, wallpapers, soundtrack 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.