Guardians of Magic:
New from Hitpoint Studios comes Guardians of Magic: Amanda's Awakening, a casual adventure game that focuses on inventory puzzles, exploration, and a lush fantasy setting. You take on the role of Amanda, a young girl who discovers some secrets about her late grandfather's life, including his feud with her mentor, Dr. Magus. It's technology versus magic in this well-spun game, and you'll get to explore a heap of scenes as you search for items to help you solve puzzles.
Guardians of Magic is set up like many modern casual hidden object adventure games, though this one's focus is squarely on the adventure aspects. No hidden object scenes to contend with, just exploration, inventory puzzles, and a few mini-games. Move from area to area interacting with the environment with your mouse. The cursor changes depending on which action you can take with an object, turning into gears when you'll need something from your inventory, a hand when you can pick up an item, and an arrow when you can move to a new scene. Very intuitive design that casual players will greatly appreciate.
Two machines help Amanda in her quest, but first, she's got to find and assemble them! Almost two dozen small boxes are hidden throughout Guardians of Magic, each containing a section of machinery. To get the pieces, you'll have to solve a quick mini-puzzle, usually something along the lines of a tangram, a jigsaw, or a memory matching game. If you aren't in the mood for the diversion, wait a few seconds and click the skip button at the top of the screen. No penalty, just a delightfully solved puzzle before your eyes!
Guardians of Magic has a fun open-ended sort of design that gives you the freedom to explore most of the game as you please. After playing a bit, you gain access to a room filled with locked portraits. Once you open the doors, you can enter and explore the small worlds as you please, using new items and abilities you find in other portraits to uncover new puzzles and secrets to explore. The addition of Amanda's magic wand and set of spells also keeps things relatively open, allowing you to cast spells like fire or shock to interact with a few objects in the game.
Analysis: Guardians of Magic: Amanda's Awakening sets itself up against a stock of clones and lookalikes that crowd the casual adventure genre, but it manages to set itself apart with superb gameplay, a decent storyline, and an interesting mix of magic and mechanical elements, sort of like Harry Potter meets Myst. The gameplay moves along at a nice clip, keeping you active and interested in the puzzles and plot at every point. It's a relatively short experience, clocking in at less than three hours, but it's satisfying from beginning to end.
Near the end of the game, Guardians of Magic: Amanda's Awakening drops the ball with a pointless maze sort of level that's nothing but confusing and monotonous. To top it off, the hint system is surprisingly useless, telling you to just "wander around some more" when you're honestly stuck. It's frustrating to work your way through so much of a good game only to find it lets you down when you need it most. Despite this, the overall experience is good, and you won't regret diving in to the game.
It's a bit on the short side and the hint system is largely useless, but Guardians of Magic: Amanda's Awakening still manages to pull off an exciting casual adventure experience. It stands above most others in the genre with a better story, more interesting characters, and puzzles that walk the line between obtuse and difficult. Give it a try and see if you're drawn in as deeply as we were!