Step aside, Hercule Poirot, there's a new kid in town. And this one solves crimes without a fancy waxed moustache, so take that, you pompous Belgian snoop! (Disclaimer: the author of this article actually thinks Poirot is awesome) Now get your trench coat and your fedora, detective, we have a case to crack! In Eipix's newest hidden-object adventure, Dead Reckoning: Silvermoon Isle, our victim du jour is Veronica West, your stereotypically perfect red-dress-blonde-hair Hollywood star. She was having herself a little birthday party on a secluded island when things took a sinister turn and the dame took a tumble from the top of the lighthouse. I guess birthdays just bring some people down. I'm terrible at puns. All the suspects are still on the island, and there is a huge mansion to be combed through. You've got your work cut out for you, detective. And put that swimsuit back, there ain't no time for sunbathing.
For most of us, an annoying relative is usually the uncle who always double-dips in the salsa at parties, the sister-in-law who assumes you can always babysit, or the cousin who thinks a t-shirt with a tuxedo screen-printed on it qualifies as "formal wear". Those of us who play hidden-object adventures, however, know that it could be a lot worse. In ERS Game Studios' Beyond the Unknown: A Matter of Time, your family needs help with something a little more complex than uninstalling a bunch of toolbars from their PC. You're on your way to an island where time has become "unstuck", and there you discover your grandfather's, ehhh, liberation of an ancient sarcophagus might have made some powerful deities just an eensy bit angry. I guess not every Time Lord is all about fish fingers and custard, since this one has cursed everything on the island until you can find and return the four golden eagles to the temple the sarcophagus was stolen from. Thanks a lot, Granddad. Couldn't you just need my help "downloading the Wi-Fi" on your phone or something? Together with your little yip-yip dog companion, who can sniff out clues if you show him certain items, you'll have to solve puzzles, search for useful items, and try not to get flung off a cliff by harpies. Look, I'm not saying you shouldn't help your family out, just that you might not want to set a precedent of being able to, y'know, save the world while they sit around.
The adventure begins with the discovery of a fabled lost tomb and priceless artifact that has been lost for centuries. This means, of course, that soon will follow betrayal, theft, murder, and hidden object finding. Yes, the agents of the Hidden Expedition League of Preservation (H.E.L.P.) are back in another rollicking adventure, Hidden Expedition: The Crown of Solomon. Produced by Big Fish Games and Eipix, this adventure hybrid really gets going with sudden defenestration (well, being thrown out of a plane, not a window) high over Turkey, and rockets through several exotic locales as you fight to solve the mystery of the Crown of Solomon while trying to discover the mole in your own agency. The life of a Hidden Expedition operative is never easy, is it?
A creepy little girl. A creepier cornfield with something chasing you. Watchful, monstrous scarecrows that really look like something Sam and Dean and Buffy should be handling. A cheerful cartoon mascot warping into something nightmarish outside a rundown hotel before your eyes. Yessiree, looks like what we got us here is nightmare fuel... literally, since in Lesta's hidden-object adventure horror game Fright, the game begins as you wake up from a menacing dream... just in time for the bus you were riding to crash after being attacked by a literal murder of crows. Because you have never seen a horror movie before, you decide to seek help for yourself and the bus driver at the hotel on the hill. The hotel on the hill with the weird girl on the roof. The hotel on the hill with mail that hasn't been collected in ten years and wire binding the gates shut. The hotel on the hill with the locked basement in the gas station, and the magnetic letters on the fridge that rearrange themselves before your eyes. Look, I'm not sure where you were going when that bus crashed, but clearly it wasn't to accept your Good Decisions Award is all I'm saying. Turns out you're not alone, however, and in short order other unlucky souls begin winding up at the hotel as well, to the consternation of the miserly owner who doesn't want anything to do with any of you. Gosh, I sure none of you are drawn into a dark secret based on something unspeakable in the past that picks you off one by one! Beware He Who Walks Behind The Rows...
Look, if you're a citizen in the fairy tale kingdom, we all know there's a lot to be afraid of out there: wolves who don your granny's bonnet and try to devour you, vain snow queens who trap children and turn their hearts to ice, ten ton giants atop beanstalks who hurl planetary chunks at your village. But the worst of all? Flowers. You heard me right. Because what do flowers have that is more heinously torturous than all evils combined? Pollen, buddy. Pollen. Your nose is spasming at the mere thought of it. Now, as the Fairy Tale Detective, your mission investigating the hows and whys of deadly pollen attacks leads you to something darker, tangled even, a little more "feed me, Seymour" in the tale of a girl with really really long hair—Dark Parables: Ballad of Rapunzel. Conveniently, despite a whole cast of characters all trying to save their own hides and those of their loved ones, it's up to you to explore this deceptively gorgeous world, collecting and piecing together artifacts to open chests and doors, until you get to the bottom of the mystery in this hidden object adventure from the artistic creativity of Blue Tea Games.
Look, I'll tell you right now, whenever I die, in whatever fashion (hummus overdose?) I want whichever one of you who finds my body to leave evidence in such a way as to suggest I might have been struck down by a malevolent supernatural entity. It's just more fun that way. In Eipix's hidden-object adventure Sea of Lies: Nemesis, you've been called in to examine a death that the authorities have ruled "natural causes", but the victim's friend believes that the paranoia the deceased exhibited before he died might point to a more sinister truth. The adventure that unfolds is what we in the professional business affectionately call cray-cray, as you deal with poisoned parakeets, murder suspects who are missing fingers, dirty double-and-triple crosses, and hysterical ladies who are oddly keen to tell their life histories and hand over valuable artifacts to strangers who show up on their property without introducing themselves. A sort of supernatural whodunnit that fans of classic murder mystery camp like Murder She Wrote will enjoy, Sea of Lies: Nemesis combines solid point-and-click gameplay with flamboyant and vibrant production for an unexpectedly enjoyable game that's a welcome respite from the darker and more serious titles.
If there's one thing you should know to be true, it's that letters from dead people are rarely a good sign. Shortly after your mother's death, you discover a letter from your father in her mailbox, even though she told you he died long ago along with your brother. I'm not saying you shouldn't care about your family, just that maybe having a magical glowing scar you don't remember getting and some stringy-haired Samara wannabe show up in your backseat might be evidence that you're in over your head beyond a deadbeat dad. In Mad Head Games' hidden-object adventure Rite of Passage: Hide and Seek, no ominous omens or freaky foreshadowing will stop you from returning to Greystone, the town you barely remember growing up in, where your brother and many other children were "taken by the fog" over twenty years ago. As you search the town for clues to the disappearances, you'll discover powers you never knew you had, and even change the outcome of the story based on how you interact with people... ish. A gorgeous game with an intriguing story and a few twists that liven up familiar mechanics, Rite of Passage: Hide and Seek mixes chills with fairytale fantasy for a compelling and entertaining game that will make the time fly like few others.
ERS Game Studios' hidden-object adventure game Shadow Wolf Mysteries: Under the Crimson Moon tries to strike a balance between the modern werewolf (smouldering, tragic) and the classic (MY FACE MY FACE IT'S EATING MY FACE!). You've been called to a remote village that's been suffering from a slew of wolf attacks by a woman who believes she was bitten by a werewolf, though her brother insists it's just hysteria brought on by the death of her husband. You'd think he'd be a bit more open to the concept what with the slavering monstrosity you see capering on the rooftops the moment you arrive, and the fact that everyone suspects another young woman, who survived a wolf attack as a young girl, of being behind a slew of grisly murders. Everyone is paranoid and pointing the finger at everyone else, but it's clear something is going on here. You've begun having strange, menacing visions ever since you arrived, and that bloody moon in the sky is seriously creepy. To find the truth you'll have to go on a beautifully presented and surprisingly intriguing adventure filled with plot twists galore, and the ability to stare at people and find their every flaw as a gameplay mechanic. Yeah! Take that crippling social anxiety, it's my turn now!
You know, while I'm all for helping people out, there are times when I can't help but think they bring trouble on themselves... like buying a hotel rumoured to be haunted by evil spirits, and then being surprised when it is totally haunted with evil spirits up the wazoo. There has to be some sort of personal culpability there. In Elephant Games' hidden-object adventure Haunted Hotel: Ancient Bane, you've been called to help out the owner of one such hotel whose guests have been going missing. I'm not sure what you expect when your hotel has demon faces on the gates, enough sinister angel statuary to make Matt Smith hesitate, and twice as many elaborate puzzle locks as bathrooms, but whatever floats your boat. When you arrive with your detective friend James, however, you discover the hotel owner, a Mr Shadowy to complete your run of Bad Omen Bingo, is acting very strangely indeed, and you'll need to solve puzzles, rummage through hidden-object scenes, and thwart an ancient curse if this place ever has a hope of getting a better rating on Yelp. Comfortable beds and complimentary breakfast, unspeakable evil used my body to construct the end of the world, three out of five stars.
Who are you if you like to order people around, have purple hair, and want to rule the world? That's right, the snooty king in Playrix Entertainment's Royal Envoy games! He's is back in Royal Envoy 3, the next installment in the popular and oh-so-fun time management strategy series, and he needs you to help the inhabitants of newly discovered islands so they'll agree to be his subjects. Rumors of gold, pearls and other treasures of the isles interest the king, so once again he puts you in charge of surveying the land. In this popular time management sim, expand your empire by sailing to new islands, helping the natives build houses, and collecting treasure. Because if there's one thing we know that gets the king's attention, it's treasure. Who knew imperialism could be such fun?
Wait, hold on. You don't look serious enough to play this hidden-object adventure. Gimme a scowl. Now, like... hunch your shoulders a bit and loom. No, think more serious... grimmer. Once you're doing your best Mad-Eye Moody impression, you're ready to play Elephant Games' Grim Tales: The Vengeance, whose opening sequence is so mysterious and dramatic and strange it's like what you'd get if you put the opening cinematic from Final Fantasy 8 and a bunch of Dean Koontz novels in a blender. At the start of the game, you've just received a frantic phone call from your nephew James, who's been arrested under suspicion of murder when his sister Elizabeth goes missing. While James is headed to trial, you're in a unique position to help find the true killer, since you are not only a detective, but also have the ability to "move into the past", which the newspapers are surprisingly blase about. In the courtroom, you'll have to use your unique powers to sort through the evidence you're given in hidden-object scenes, and then travel into the static past connected to each object you uncover, where you can explore and search for clues and solve puzzles. Good thing time stands still in the courtroom for your while you're on your wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey time travels... Phoenix Wright never had it so good!
I think we can all agree that turning your future husband into a frog won't particularly endear you to him. On the other hand, when we're talking about a witch determined to marry an unwilling prince, this seems like a natural course of action. All she has to do is put a spell on him and be the one to kiss him, and he will fall in love with her. In Witch's Pranks: Frog's Fortune, a hidden-object adventure by Shaman Games, the wicked witch has not one, but two frog prince candidates lined up. The problem is that neither one wants to be kissed, so they are imprisoned until their change their little amphibian minds. This is where you come in: wandering through the forest, you see a strange house and witness the witch's most ignoble behaviour towards the royals. Since you have a soft spot for all things green and slimy, you decide to save them... and end up in a cage.
At the start of Elephant Games' hidden-object adventure Royal Detective: Queen of Shadows, there's a bird with a letter at your window, and even though it's not an owl so you know Hogwarts hasn't finally accepted you, you still begrudgingly open it. Princess, whose mother was so imaginative and full of love that she named her daughter after her station ("Eh, good enough. Pass the hossenfeffer."), needs your help again after her mother is kidnapped by a bunch of tentacles in the middle of a dark forest, which sounds like the setup to a really immature internet meme. Turns out a bargain the queen struck to save her one and only daughter from a curse is now coming back to haunt her, as fairytale deals are wont to do, and now it's up to you to save them both. You'll solve puzzles, dig through hidden-object scenes, wield magic, and get the help of a talking skull who has better manners than Morte, luckily for the content rating.
I think I'd make a pretty good mobster. I look great in a flattering pinstripe suit. I talk with my hands (and out of the corner of my mouth). And while I don't know that my inherent Canadian politeness would let me call anyone a dirty rat, I could say that I am very disappointed in them, which is, like, way worse. So I think we're pretty primed to play the hidden-object adventure from 5 BN Games New York Mysteries: Secrets of the Mafia, and let me tell you guys this game is amazesauce. Set in the '50s, New York has suddenly had a lot of its prominent mob bosses go missing, leaving behind only a mysterious green liquid and an equally mysterious butterfly. Less mobsters means less crime, right? But the problem is, children are going missing too... and each of them has drawn the same butterfly before vanishing. As the story begins, you, a reporter, have arrived at the scene of the latest disappearance, the Museum of Natural History. You're following a phone call from a man named Bishop who claims to want to hire you to write an article on the disappearances, but he clearly knows more than he's letting on. Will you survive uncovering the truth? With clever puzzles, a rock-solid and creative storyline, and stunning visuals, New York Mysteries: Secrets of the Mafia is a fantastic game any casual game fan needs to make a date with.
There is a house in New Orleans, they call it... The Jazz Pepper Club! Home to one of the best jazz bands to come out of The Big Easy, owned by your dad. It's Mardi Gras time and you're coming down for a visit. Only, the club is eerily quiet on what is supposed to be a busy night. As you make your way inside, you realise that everybody there is petrified in a sort of trance, their white eyes turned towards the stage. All signs quickly point to Frankie, a local sax-playing legend, who also happens to be dead. He used to play with the Jazz Peppers until he died and was replaced by your dad. Is he a zombie coming back for revenge? Find out in Cadenza: Music, Betrayal and Death, quite probably the finest hidden-object adventure by Mad Head Games to date.