It doesn't matter who you are, finding bloody threats and arcane symbols scrawled on the wall like Lovecraft had a fingerpainting class is a little unnerving. You're escorting actress Norma Shine home late one night after the police have been unable to track down who's been leaving her these red missives when an apparition makes you crash, and you awaken just in time to see her being hauled off by a mysterious figure into the Blackrow District. Which, by the way, has been quarantined for almost two hundred years after the plague ripped through it. You know, just to complete your round of Bad Omens Bingo with a win. In Elephant Games' Mystery Trackers: Blackrow's Secret, the latest installment of the popular hidden-object horror thriller adventure series, you'll need to discover what grim truth is behind the darkness of Blackrow, a place that hasn't seen the light of day in centuries but is by no means "empty". Together with your faithful yap-yap dog Elf, who can be used to reach things you can't, and an unstable device that can allow you to see the memories of those long dead, you'll find items, solve puzzles, and maybe think of changing careers to something that involves a bit less mortal peril, corpses, and possession.
The thing about inspiration is that it sort of sucks. You could be halfway through your adventure fanfic mashup of Harry Potter and Spongebob and bam! your inspiration leaves you staring helplessly at the screen in the middle of the Krabby-Patty-cook-off-on-broomsticks scene. This is pretty much what happened to Scarlett (minus the fanfic). She is the protagonist of Manor Memoirs, Playrix's new hidden-object/time-management hybrid – a bestselling author who just can't get herself to start working on her next book. So she takes the only surefire cure for writer's block: she buys a sinfully expensive mansion in the country and moves in. Having neglected to visit the place before buying, Scarlett realises the manor is almost in ruins and in dire need of renovating. This is where you come in. You are an expert interior designer and the perfect person to conduct a series of garage sales to raise the money for the makeover.
A mysterious knock on the door, a mysterious package on the stoop, you just know this isn't going to end well for whomever finds the parcel, don't you? Indeed, in Witches' Legacy: The Ties that Bind, EleFun's latest adventure hybrid, that package heralds the beginning of yet another fight between the forces of good and the forces of evil involving witches, witch hunters, and a ton of hidden-object finding and puzzle solving. It is the day before your adopted daughter (who is a good witch) Lynn's wedding to former witch hunter Edward when suddenly, displaying the brains and judgment of a concussed lemming, Edward decides to walk right into what is obviously a trap to find out what happened when he was a child and his family was killed.
You know you're in for a treat when the opening cinematic of a hidden-object adventure features a lady straight-up shanking a massive god straight through the heart, and things only get better from there. In EleFun Games' Mayan Prophecies: Blood Moon, you play US Coastal Guard Alexis, who one night is awoken to discover the city has a little jaguar problem. Turns out some lunatic is going around turning people into the big cats in a bid to resurrect an ancient evil deity, because some people can't have a normal hobby, and you'll need the help of your transformed buddy Gregory and Sofia, the whitest Mayan priestess you've ever seen, to petition the help of the Moon Goddess before it's too late. You'll search for hidden-objects, solve puzzles, save a manatee, find a fascinator for a mermaid, discover the weirdness that is the Good Boy/Bad Boy skull lock (how do you even commission something like that?)... oh, and command your shapeshifted, mind controlled best friend to fetch things for you like a dog through the help of a magic talisman. With customizable difficulty, a handy instant travel map, and the option to play mahjong instead of hidden-object scenes, Mayan Prophecies: Blood Moon has all the bones of a solidly constructed casual adventure, with the meat of an absolutely bonkers story wrapped around them. Just the way I like 'em.
Do you think it's frustrating living in a fantasy world? Every time some big, dark evil appears to threaten the land, which happens every other Thursday, there has to be people who are like, "This is garbage! We can handle this ourselves! We can do this!" But then the rest are all like, "Man, you know how this works. You have to wait for some random chosen one berk to show up and take care of things for us. Stop trying to be in charge of your own destiny." In Eipix Entertainment's hidden-object adventure Amaranthine Voyage: The Shadow of Torment, an archaeological dig goes awry when your students activate a strange artifact that looks like a Fabergé egg and a perfume bottle owned by a 1920s madame had a baby. Soon, you find yourself in a mysterious, fantastical world beset by a danger known only as The Torment. With a student who has about as much restraint as Dee Dee, you must stop the threat if you want to find a way back home by solving hidden-object scenes and puzzles, as any legendary hero would do. Hope you like pink and purple lens flares!
In Gunnar Games' hidden-object adventure Lost Legends: The Weeping Woman, after a woman is abandoned by her unfaithful husband and her children taken away, she drowns herself out of sorrow in the river. Which would be freaky enough to know if you lived in the town alongside that river, but each year on the eve of Flores de los Muertos, a festival intended to appease the spirit, a child has gone missing. Which totally means you, as a plucky, cynical reporter, are definitely going to get the scoop of the century. Tragedy sells, amirite? Take that, Ben Urich, Clark Kent! But though you may not believe in the legend, the locals do, and it's clear something is going on since, you know, vanishing plot moppets and all. And then there's the fact that you see the daughter of the innkeeper get plucked off the swing by the Weeping Woman herself, but hey, I'm sure once you track her down and explain that she doesn't exist, you smug American you, she'll understand what a crazy mistake she's made. Search for clues, solve puzzles and hidden-object scenes, and explore the town while you talk to the locals in order to get to the bottom of things!
In Mad Head Games' hidden-object adventure Nevertales: Shattered Image, you and your husband, Pierre, have your hands full with your daughter Alice. Only instead of normal pre-teen annoyances like pirating music or putting the milk back in the fridge empty, she's been opening portals to other worlds even though you expressly told her not to. See, although you and Pierre share the same ability, Alice can open these portals using mirrors alone, and though you've warned her these places she opens doors to aren't always safe, your worst fears come to pass when you find her in a coma on the floor next to a broken mirror. The night she finally awakes, however, a strange creature hauls her off through yet another mirror, and to bring her safely home, you'll need to discover the root behind the mysterious power your family can wield, and put a stop to an ancient evil, because it isn't a hidden-object adventure if there's no ancient evil threatening something. I think that's the number one sign you might one day become a protagonist in a casual game is if your day-to-day life involves a lot of stories and warnings about ancient evils. Search for clues, solve puzzles and hidden-object scenes, and travel to worlds beyond your own in a way that the nerdiest of us always knew was possible. Butterfly in the skyyyyyyy....
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!