Hallowed Legends: Templar
Ah, France... Hubert Keller, little animated rats, Les Misérables... oh, and the big angry Templar that just stormed in and sucker-punched you in your hotel room, of course. In Elephant Games' new hidden-object adventure Hallowed Legends: Templar, you fly in to France upon hearing your brother has gone missing, only to be ambushed before your investigation can really begin. You soon discover, however, it's not just one lunatic in a suit of stolen armor, and there might be something a lot bigger, and older, than you ever expected going on in town.
Hallowed Legends: Templar has three difficulty settings for those of you who prefer to tackle things easily or in a Bear Grylls-y fashion, and you can swap between them any time you wish by opening the options menu. You'll explore the town and the area around it searching for clues, gathering items and solving puzzles while trying not to cross paths with the knights you'll see prowling the area. The area has more than a few secrets, and there are quite a few people doing what they can to keep you from unraveling them.
Naturally, in addition to dodging attempts on your life, this also involves solving hidden-object scenes. Occasionally you may run into one of these where you have to use an item from your inventory to be able to get the item onscreen, so if you can't seem to collect something from the list and you're not carrying anything appropriate, you may have missed something you needed to pick up elsewhere in the town. Fortunately, once it's charged you can rely on the hint button to tell you explicitly what you need to do to proceed.
Analysis: For hidden-object adventures with real creativity and intrigue, Elephant Games is rapidly becoming the developer to beat. Hallowed Legends: Templar is a big, strange, engrossing game packed with strange characters, excitement, and even a bit of supernatural mysticism that sets it apart from other titles. Mixing recorded cutscenes featuring real people with beautifully drawn visuals and environments, it helps give the impression that you're in a movie. A slightly crazy movie best enjoyed with a big bucket of popcorn on the couch at three in the morning, but a movie nonetheless. The game is great at doling out tidbits of information that fill you in on what's happening, while events keep popping up to move the action along at a quick pace and keep you interested with new developments. The story itself is admittedly a little convoluted, but if you don't demand big, serious narratives and just want to enjoy yourself with something imaginative and different, this might be right up your alley.
Click detection is, unfortunately, rather temperamental; too quick and the game might not register it, and the place to click to pick up or use an item can sometimes be annoyingly small and precise. This can also factor into problems with hidden-object scenes, where the art style occasionally makes it difficult to tell what you're looking at. Are you clicking on the wrong item, or just in the wrong spot? Is that a candle, or a teacup? Then you also have a few instances of what might be called "muddy descriptions", such as "white chess piece" actually referring to something the stunted artist in me would call "orange-y beige-ish". None of this is game breaking, and it is something you become more adept at noticing the more you play, but it does feel like it interrupts the flow somewhat. It's also worth mentioning that some players (though not yours truly) have reported performance issues on different machines, so as always, make sure you try the demo before you buy.
Despite that, however, and a somewhat stiff written translation, Hallowed Legends: Templar is still easily recommended. It's over four hours on average, with another hour or more to play the bonus content, and throughout the game rarely feels like it's dragging its feet by trying to artificially extend the gameplay. It's silly, it's exciting, it's weird and imaginative, and it's just the thing to relax with when you're looking for something fun. Try the demo to dip your toe into it, and keep an eye out for runaway cars, crossbow bolts... and pungent cheese, which is just as dangerous. This is France, after all.
A Collector's Edition is also available. It contains a bonus chapter, art gallery, strategy guide, and more. Remember that Big Fish Game Club Members pay only $13.99 for Collector's Editions (or 2 club credits), and collector's editions count 3 card punches of 6 total needed for a free game.