Cursery: The Crooked Man and the Crooked Cat
Because she has never heard of foreshadowing, your sister Renée is right in the middle of telling you how a bunch of young women her own age have vanished along this very road. Before you can tell her to shut up before the plot hears her, your caravan is attacked and overturned, and Renée is gone, kidnapped by a stranger in a top hat and an eerie cat. Now, in Blue Tea Games's hidden-object adventure Cursery: The Crooked Man and the Crooked Cat, to save your sister and countless other young women, you'll have to stop a magical madman whose grief has twisted him into a monster who holds sway over the word of warped nursery rhymes you live in. Though the game plays more or less identically to every other title in the genre out there, revolving around solving puzzles, rummaging through hidden-object scenes, and rubbing various items on scenery to progress, where it stands out is its sheer scope and quality.
It isn't simply that the game is gorgeous, although it definitely is with its incredible art and imaginative character and environmental design, it's that it's engaging and challenging too. The lavishly themed puzzles drip with as much detail as the scenery, offering more thought than simply "use this item here", and it's packed with characters, cutscenes, and story to keep you entertained as you play. If you're weird like myself, it's also unintentionally hilarious at times, such as when it informs you that you need "something that causes a burning sensation" to drive a monster away, or creates a puzzle around Chainsaw Suit's Lunesta butterfly. The game is, unfortunately, not without its missteps, and some are more of an annoyance than others. Back-tracking happens a lot, though thankfully your magical map can take you to any location in a snap, and the game has an annoying habit of getting rid of an item after you use it, only to force you to hunt down something else to perform a frustratingly similar function shortly thereafter.
Happily for people who don't like to be crushed under piles of junk, hidden-object scenes are relatively infrequent, and the gameplay focus is squarely on the adventuring/puzzle-solving aspect. While Cursery: The Crooked Man and the Crooked Cat doesn't ever really innovate, it does constantly feel like it's striving to keep the bar high the entire time, which is rare in a genre where games can often feel cookie-cutter and lackluster. The "bonus chapter" in the Collector's Edition is actually a separate story rather than a missing piece of the main storyline, which is a welcome surprise. Most players will probably find it a solid four hour experience or so for the main game, and be entertained the entire time. The storyline and setting might be a little weird and convoluted, but that's part of the charm, and if you're looking for a hidden-object adventure with that rare combination of chills, fairy-tale magic, and adventure, this is one game whose demo you should definitely check out.
Note: Currently, only the Collector's Edition is 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.