Elixir of Immortality
Now here's something you don't see every day: an adventure/hidden object game that tries to tell a story. A real story. And succeeds. Not only does Elixir of Immortality know how to weave an intriguing plot, it knows how to do it with pictures, setting, and presentation instead of loads of words. You won't find blocks of text or terrible voice acting in this game. All that's to be had is a delicious tale of intrigue, a lot of fantastic mini-games, and scenery so packed with so much mystery you'll want to wade in and start messing around with things yourself.
It all starts with a cloaked figure, a "hired hand", and a cliff. Forced to drink the elixir of immortality, the poor lad downs it and is immediately shot, proving his potion to be a failure. Now, you, the detective, are the new hired hand, and as the game begins, you're thrown in a dripping cellar with no light as the doors are sealed shut. Will you be the next to meet your fate on the cliff?
So, let's get out of here, shall we? You think you saw a lantern in the boat, so move the cursor to the sparkling location and click it to enter a hidden object scene. Elixir of Immortality makes great use of sub-zones within scenes, allowing you to peer deeper into portions of the environment, filling out the world and providing lots of additional puzzles to complete. The game comes with what could possibly the best feature of any hidden object game: a magnifying glass that will show you all the clickable hotspots on the screen. Calling that "useful" is like calling pizza "kinda tasty".
You'll spend most of your time moving back and forth between areas looking for puzzles to solve and hidden object scenes to search through. These sections are more adventure-centric and encourage you to experiment with inventory items (found during the hidden object portions) to open doors, crank gears, move blocks of stone, and more. Elixir of Immortality is very creative with inventory item usage, and this part comes forward as the central mechanic in the game, leaving the object finding and mini-games as secondary bonuses.
Analysis: Elixir of Immortality is a story-driven adventure at heart, not a hidden object game. The meat of the experience comes from soaking in the thick layers of intrigue, rolling around in mystery like it's your job. And it kinda is, seeing as how you're a detective and all. Not only are you curious as to what's going on in this strange castle, you're pretty darn motivated to uncover the truth, because if you don't, you'll find out how un-immortal you are.
As far as the gameplay goes, I was immensely pleased to see the focus shifted away from object finding to inventory and mini-game puzzles. Sure, finding a pair of pliers in a messy scene is fun, but doing something purposeful with said pliers is even cooler. And when you do put them to use and an awesome mini-game about shifting bits of a key to match the tumblers in a lock appears, it's a little slice of sunshine and lollipops in the dim world that is Elixir of Immortality.
What is possibly the game's only downside is length. Four hours is an average completion time, give or take a bit. While the game doesn't seem short by any means (the length feels about right), I'd rather have a four hour game of well-integrated awesome than a seven hour game of "meh". Vogat Interactive, the same folks who created Reincarnations: Awakening, knows how to avoid the latter.
Elixir of Immortality puts on a fantastic show. From the wonderful scenery art to the suspenseful tale of mad science and cloaked figures, it's one of those rare games that takes hold of your curiosity and pulls you along until you're staring at the end credits.