It is generally agreed upon that puppets, much like clowns or doing your taxes, are creepy and scary no matter how many times you come across them. Luckily for ERS Game Studios, some of us hidden-object adventure lovers like to be spooked from time to time. This is why the PuppetShow series is so popular that it's celebrating its seventh birthday this year with a new installment, The Price of Immortality. You find yourself in the delightfully steampunky town of Immortale (the "e" is silent), looking for your friend, Enrique, who went there to investigate the disappearances of a number of journalists, all somehow connected to the Theater of Emotions. Now, the Theater of Emotions sounds like it puts on audience-participation productions where everyone ends up holding hands, weeping and going out for cupcakes afterwards. That alone would be a good reason to save Enrique, but the theater turns out to be a place where snoopy reporters come to die. Turns out the theater holds a sort of murder lottery, where townspeople lucky enough to have their number drawn get to throw knives at the unfortunate reporters. On top of that, Immortale used to be famous for its beautifully crafted puppets, but lately they have been as abused and tortured as the visiting reporters. Just what is going on in this twisted town?
There probably aren't a lot of video game characters who deserve a vacation more than Emily, the non-stop restaurant managing dynamo of Gamehouse's beloved Delicious series of time management games. She and her new husband were expecting a low key honeymoon before her brother-in-law turned up with his newly acquired cruise ship and offered them the trip of a lifetime. But with Emily's entire family and circle of friends on board and her best friend forever Francois in charge of serving the ship's customers, will Emily really get a chance to relax? Delicious: Emily's Honeymoon Cruise is yet another gorgeous, funny, smart and lovingly polished gem that will delight fans and woo newcomers.
The meddling, passive-aggressive mother-in-law who constantly finds fault with the bride is such a ubiquitous trope in pop culture that I thank Celestia for my own sweet, not-as-crazy-as-I-am mother-in-law. In Delicious: Emily's Wonder Wedding, part of the beloved Delicious series of time management games from GameHouse, cafe owner Emily is finally about to tie the knot with boyfriend Patrick, but the road to wedded bliss isn't a smooth one. Not only does Emily have to contend with dress problems, mailing invitations, and, of course, managing her popular eatery, she's also got to win over Patrick's mother who's just flown in from Ireland and seems to pick on everything Emily does and says. With a run of bad luck a mile wide, Emily begins to convince herself that maybe Patrick's mother is right and the wedding is cursed, but that's nonsense... right? GameHouse proves once again they know the time-management trade almost better than anything else, and delivers a fun, funny, and gorgeously polished game that stands head and shoulders above the rest.
When a witch hunter marries a witch, even if she's a good witch, it's a stretch to imagine their life together will be happily ever after, don't you think? Lynn and Edward have been married just a year when the nasty witch queen Morgana, set on bringing back her powerful mentor so witches can rule the world, lures the happy couple to a totally creepy fair (just what every girl dreams of doing on her first wedding anniversary, especially with her mother tagging along) where she and her lackey whisk Lynn away for use in an evil ritual. In Witches' Legacy: Slumbering Darkness, a hidden-object puzzle adventure game from Elefun, you play as Lynn's mother Carrie, along with her somewhat terrifying yet helpful imp sidekick, who are racing the clock to get Lynn back before it's too late.
In the grand scheme of things, match-3 puzzle games might be some of the simplest to make in their most basic incarnation, but taking that simple formula and making it feel fresh and fun takes a bit more ingenuity. Good thing Playcademy seems to have that in spades, with Runefall being one of the most relaxing and enjoyable additions to the genre to come along in a long time. In it, you find yourself in the tiny town of Riverfell, which has had difficulty making ends meet and finding enough to make their tribute to the kingdom ever since the war brought the trade routes to a screeching halt. But when you discover magical, valuable runes while out searching for the resources needed to pay tribute? Well, that's another matter entirely, and suddenly sleepy Riverfell isn't so sleepy at all. Despite some issues with repetition and variation, a genuinely likable cast and engaging story alongside addictive match-3 gameplay makes Runefall a rocksolid addition to the genre that's well worth checking out and losing a few hours to, as comforting and enjoyable as loading up your favourite light fantasy film while wearing your comfiest socks and sipping your favourite beverage.
In addition to being a mouthful, Dark Tales™: Edgar Allan Poe's The Mystery of Marie Roget is the name of ERS Game Studios' creepy new hidden-object adventure. You and your companion, the insufferably smug Dupin (why couldn't it be Dale Cooper... just once?), are called in to investigate some strange happenings plaguing a newly married couple. Glass has been shattering all on its own, young Marie has fallen into a depressed fugue and won't tell her husband why... oh, and there's the sinister skull-laden magic mirror, too, making it rather loosely based on the original tale to say the least. You and Dupin (ugh) quickly discover there might be more going on than simple superstition, and it seems like this sleepy little burg is hiding more than its share of dark secrets. And crazy puzzle mechanisms. And elaborate gate locks. And evil one-eyed crows and cats. How does anyone get anything done around here when you need two puzzle pieces, face cream, and an old candle just to get into the local bakery? Though perhaps the scariest thing about this game is... comic sans is the default font. AAAAEEEEEEIIII!
2-13-2015: Regency Solitaire is now available from Big Fish Games!
Grey Alien Games' Regency Solitaire is as lovely and elegant as you'd expect an indie card game to be, which is quite lovely and elegant indeed. The game follows Bella, desperate to escape an arranged marriage to her less than desirable neighbour after her layabout brother gambles the family fortune away. Bella has dreams of marrying one very particular handsome suitor, but with the restrictions of regency society, that can't happen unless she restores her family wealth and reputation. Which you accomplish, naturally, by playing lots and lots of solitaire. Nothing weird about that. That's how we paid off our house. With 180 levels spread across 20 chapters, a beautiful, hand-drawn art style, and a few twists on the familiar solitaire formula, Regency Solitaire is an absolute pleasure for slow, relaxing card game strategy from start to finish.
In Artogon's creepy hidden-object adventure Shiver: The Lily's Requiem, you play Dr. Thompson, returning to the sleepy town of Blackwill after 17 years. Things get weird in a hurry when, on your way to your first night on the job, you stumble across a girl passed out in the street. She begs you for your help, claiming to be the daughter of a former patient of yours who has been comatose for years, but there's something hunting her that doesn't want you interfering. Lured off into the night by a strange siren song, she needs your help before it's too late! So go collect a bunch of pearls to decorate your office. And find some items for your fish tank. And crack open this random tin to solve a puzzle to enter your own office. And play Battleship with this mechanic. But other than that, saving her is your priority. Despite suffering from an abundance of backtracking and having shed most of the horror elements fans of the previous games in the series might be hoping for, Shiver: The Lily's Requiem still blends urban legends and classic mythology in new and intriguing ways for a gorgeous adventure with a diverse and meaty amount of puzzles and hidden-object scene variants.
In Five-BN Games' hidden-object adventure Lost Lands: The Four Horsemen, after a boring shopping trip on your way home to make boring dinner for your boring kid, you suddenly find yourself whisked away from the parking garage to a strange world where you're told by a sexist hermit mage that, though he was praying for the "Chosen One" to come defeat the evil plaguing the land, you, despite being a "fragile female", are responsible for saving the world. Which seems like a lot to ask for someone wearing red pleather and shoulder pads, regardless of gender, but hey. What's this "great evil" you ask? Well, it might have something to do with the fiery destruction you glimpse being rained down on the very cottage you find yourself standing in front of, though that's a future that will only come to pass if you can't find a way to stop the flaming swordsman who caused it. With mermaids, halflings, portals through space and time, and much more, Lost Lands: The Four Horsemen is a satisfyingly epic and lavish fantasy adventure that's perfect for casual fans looking for a lot of magic.
Phantasmat has bounced from developer to developer over the years, with Phantasmat: Crucible Peak after the original, and now it's Eipix is up to bat with the next installment of the horror-themed hidden-object adventure, Phantasmat: The Endless Night. Let's get one thing straight right away... if you're a school organizer and the prom falls on the 50th anniversary of the tragic accident that shook your town half a century ago, wouldn't you, I don't know, reschedule just to be safe? Especially when said tragic accident was actually the deaths of everyone who attended prom fifty years ago? I'm not saying the townsfolk headed to the prom are guaranteed to be run off the road by mysterious apparitions appearing in front of their cars, waking up only to find themselves back in the sixties and their child is missing and the town has suddenly turned dark and hostile, beset by forces beyond our understanding, just... y'know... why risk it? But because nobody ever listens to me, that's the predicament you find yourself in here, forced to hunt for your daughter in a town that seems to have gone back in time, with a whole lot of spirits who don't seem to know (or care) that they're dead, and one mysterious figure who seems to want to help you join them. Despite a somewhat low level of challenge and a struggle with its own pacing, Phantasmat: The Endless Night delivers a genuinely intriguing story, fantastically creepy atmosphere, and just the right amount of jumpscares to craft a stellar casual horror adventure.
What the dickens is this? (Just wait, that was clever, you'll see.) Charles Dickens (told you!) is in danger in Game Forest's hidden-object adventure Midnight Mysteries: Ghostwriting, and someone doesn't want you interfering. Seems he vanished after receiving a desperate call for help from his friend Washington Irving, and though his daughter Mary wants your help finding him, the super-fast and supernatural mysterious masked character lurking in the shadows really thinks you should mind your own business. This ain't your ordinary baddy either, since he can use books to travel to the locations described in them. Too bad for him, this ain't your first rodeo, and it's going to take more than magical book whirlwinds, forcefield green stink, a bunch of flaming jack-o-lanterns presumably filched from Norman Osborn, and an overload of vicious booby traps to throw you off the case. I got my own mansion, son! You'll use your foe's own bookery powers to hop from location to location, solving puzzles and hidden-object sequences, and getting a little help from your fine feathered friend along the way.
Hidden Expedition: Smithsonian Castle, the newest hidden-object adventure from Eipix Interactive and Big Fish Games, opens with a lady scientist in the 1800s having a science-like breakthrough. Hooray! But then of course her children ruin everything, with her Darwin Award-winning daughter gleefully wandering up to the dangerous electrical device to get sucked in, and the scientist destroys the device in a fit of despair, so it was nice while it lasted, I guess. Back in present day, you and your fellow H.E.L.P. agent are called to the Smithsonian Castle, the Smithsonian Institute's administration building, when a strange power outage reveals an intruder making a strange theft. It quickly becomes apparent this ain't your average burglary, however, and your thief ain't your average thief either. It's a wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey adventure as you uncover a love and a caper that spans centuries. You'll hunt for items through a variety of hidden-object scenes that change how they play, solve so many puzzles and minigames it's a wonder anyone at the Smithsonian can get anything done, and learn that the Smithsonian's insect cabinet was built in the 17th century and assembled from walnut, oak, and fruitwood, and... wait... I feel... weird. What's happening to me? Am I... learning? Is this an... educational game? NooooOOooOOoo! Someone fetch me some episodes of The Real Housewives of Wherever, STAT!
What it is with hotels? If it's not demons, it's curses or a war between evil, and some other evil. Or, well, maybe it's you, since you and your friend James (who you keep rather endearingly labeled in your scrapbook as "professional detective") seem to constantly find yourselves wrapped up in bed-and-breakfast themed trouble. In Elephant Games' hidden-object adventure Haunted Hotel: Death Sentence, James has kicked the bucket, taken a dirt nap, bought the farm, ridden the pale horse... he's totes dead, yo, and a note slipped under your door from him that was presumably written before that happen tells you the Holy Mountain Hotel is the cause of it all. You quickly discover there's nothing sacred about this place, and though it looks as if it's been abandoned for years, it's clear that the people who have visited it have all had one thing in common... guilt. If you want to survive the spectre meting out justice from beyond the grave, you'll need to hunt for clues and items to solve puzzles, and of course crack a few hidden-object scenes along the way. And you know what? Maybe the next time I need somewhere to stay while I'm traveling I'll just... I'll just couch surf a little.
Look, I'm all about the sisterhood and female empowerment, but there are some chicks I just can't stand behind in solidarity. I mean, right around the time you earn the moniker of "most prolific female serial killer in history" is probably when I stop throwing up the horns to support you. O2D takes on what might be Hugary's most notorious historical figure with Vampire Legends: The Untold Story of Elizabeth Bathory, a hidden-object adventure where you, a gypsy woman, have been hired to find a young girl named Agnes. She was invited to stay with the Countess Bathory, along with a bunch of other young women, which totally isn't suspicious at all, and even though they've all been missing for months, the king is too busy with the war to concern himself with their disappearances. You know what they say. All that is required for evil to triumph is for nobody to think it's that weird to send their daughters off to stay with the sinister bourgeois. Using your ability to mix helpful potions that can give you an edge and psychic impressions, you must discover the truth behind the Countess and the disappearances, but it's pretty clear that despite a mysterious benefactor, something sinister it happening. As you play and solve puzzles, you'll gather herbs and ingredients for various potions, and the hidden-object scenes will have you track items down in various ways. Hopefully you haven't bitten off more than you can chew... ha! I slay me. HA! Get it? Slay? Vampire? I'm here all week, folks.
Ah, the holidays. It's just not Christmas if there isn't a jealous, grunting old man creeping outside your window, brandishing a disturbing knobby... branch... while you and your beloved share a tender moment. That beloved holiday tradition is the start of Elephant Games's entry into the Christmas Stories hidden-object adventure series,
Christmas Stories: Hans Christian Andersen's Tin Soldier. Charles and Nina have been turned into toys thanks to a curse and malfunctioning magic from their jealous voyeur, the Baron, and your friend Albert, who's also been transformed, has called you in to help. You'd think a fully grown human would be able to handle a bunch of toys, but the Baron has the surly box trolls on his side, and you have... uh... well, in his current form, Albert can crack you all the nuts you want, so bonus for snackies, I guess. Together with Albert, and Charles once you find him, you'll need to stop the Baron, who has an entire army of trolls on his side, and find Nina. To do so, you'll need to solve puzzles, enlist the aid of Albert and Charles to get past certain obstacles, hunt through hidden-object sequences, and of course, deal with the magical forces and other sneaky tricks of the Baron, who always seems to be one step ahead of you, despite not actually having feet anymore. With vibrant visuals, genuinely funny animation, and some unexpected heart, this Christmas casual should be on anyone's short list if you're looking for holiday cheer.