Ever wake up and say "I need some adventure in my life?" or "What I really need is to drive myself insane looking for cunningly hidden object pieces in ridiculously picturesque settings." It's ok, you can admit those kinds of things here, and Magic Encyclopedia: Moon Light will fill that "magical journey sprawling over five continents" adventure/hidden object gap you've been looking to fill.
Developed by Alawar and Vendel Games, Magic Encyclopedia: Moon Light is the sequel to Magic Encyclopedia which put you in the shoes of a young magic student, Katrina, running all over the globe in search of her brother. Moon Light features a slightly older Katrina who is still a student at the Magic Academy. Now, however, she's drowning in homework and plagued by terrible nightmares. Salvation arrives when an origami messenger crane brings news that your professor has disappeared and your brother is hot on his trail. Katrina must make a momentous decision: homework... global adventure... homework... who are you kidding? Get moving!
Essentially a hidden object game with adventure elements, Magic Encyclopedia: Moon Light takes you from a Mayan temple to a Russian cottage, from a German castle to a Pearl Diver's hut in the South Pacific. The messenger crane comes along for the ride, giving a quick tutorial in the game's dynamics and leading the player to each scene as the story unfolds. The premise is simple: in each scene there are certain objects that need to be found. However, like Flux Family Secrets, the objects are broken into pieces, which can make gameplay a little tricky. Once assembled, items can be used in scenes to unlock more items or unlock some surprisingly tough mini-games. And don't forget to collect the jewels to activate the professor's amulet!
Navigation through the scenes is quick and easy, quite an improvement over the original game. Each area can have up to four different locations with scenes that are interconnected. This means you'll need to move back and forth to amass all object pieces to complete a section. Despite this complexity, none of the sections involve more than two separate locations, allowing the player the choice of participating in small doses or devouring the game in one long marathon. Movement between connected areas is accomplished by clicking special coins in the control panel, allowing you to travel back and forth between a Chinese temple and a Mongolian Yurt with ease. Cursor changes indicate areas that need a closer look (eye), mini puzzles (question mark), things to take (hand), things that need manipulation (hammer), and doorways to other rooms (animated legs). When encountering something new the friendly messenger crane appears to give helpful advice.
Analysis: Sequels can be worrisome. Things that are minor annoyances the first time around can become major aggravations if allowed to continue. No such problems here! Gone are the slow load times and slamming doors between scenes that plagued Magic Encyclopedia. Gone also is the clumsy and annoying "search for (blank)" to acquire more hints. Hints are on a refilling timer, and a timer to skip the mini-games is also a welcome addition. The mini-games themselves are less "I've seen that before" and lean more towards pure logic. Animations between the scenes run more quickly while imparting vital story information. One of the bright spots of this game is the method of dividing the adventure into stand-alone bite-sized chunks, making it perfect for casual gameplay.
Finding object pieces can be tricky, as its more difficult to find abstract shapes than specific items. There's very little of the standard "hiding pieces behind other things, having them lurk in dark corners, or burying them in tons of clutter" that characterize so many hidden object games. No, the object pieces lay boldly on top of the scene, blending in so cunningly that it will amaze you even as you move towards permanent eye-strain attempting to find them.
Let's pause for a moment and discuss the backgrounds themselves. Part of the charm of the first Magic Encyclopedia was the storybook-style hand-drawn scenery, making you feel as if you were wandering through a fairy tale. Instead of sticking to the same formula or jettisoning the concept altogether, Magic Encyclopedia: Moon Light kicks up the volume and takes it to dizzying new heights. Still lovingly hand-crafted with bright, bold colors, each scene is a work of art in its own right, tempting the player to simply gaze in wonder. If the first Magic Encyclopedia was like wandering through an enchanted book, Magic Encyclopedia: Moon Light is like floating through a surrealist work of art.
Magic Encyclopedia: Moon Light is a solid, satisfying, stunning addition to the adventure/hidden object genre. A beautiful game to get lost in!