Reincarnation: one of the great mysteries of our time. Are such things as past lives reality, or are they the stuff of legend? When Jane, a professional copywriter, gets the chance to make a break from her usual pallet of fashion reviews and make-up tips, she jumps at it. The article, a serious look at reincarnation, has almost everything that a good article needs: facts, testimonials, theories. It's only missing one thing: a personal perspective from the writer. Reincarnations: Awakening follows Jane as she attempts to gain that perspective.
A mysterious CD soon makes its way to Jane, advertising the services of a Dr. Herzle. At the urging of a friend, Jane sets up an appointment with the doctor. In his office under hypnosis, she navigates her subconscious and begins to experience past lives. In each of these lives, Jane experiences a former self at a critical point in their own life, where a decision either one way or another will have a profound impact. It is up to Jane to help her past selves through the tasks that are required by the decisions to be made. If she can complete the tasks and solve the puzzles, she will be able to move on to the next past life and eventually gain a greater understanding of not only her past lives, but reincarnation itself.
Reincarnations: Awakening is an absolutely gorgeous hidden-object game from Vogat Interactive, the same developers that brought us the match-3 game Cindy's Travels: Flooded Kingdom. As you help Jane through her past lives, you will encounter a variety of hidden-object scenes. They are, for the most part, very straight forward. Objects listed in yellow cannot be located without first performing some sort of action, such as opening a drawer, or swinging a hanging lamp out of the way. A sparkling area of the scene shows something that must be looked at or activated in order to progress. If you can't remember what you're supposed to be doing, a list of tasks is always available. Of course, if you get well and truly stuck, you can always click on the "hint" button, and a circle will appear over the area where one of the objects is located.
In and around the various hidden-object scenes, you will also encounter a number of puzzles. Some of them are very simple, such as a memory game to open a locked door, or a jigsaw puzzle to reconstruct a map. Others are more difficult, such as a string puzzle to open flowering buds, or using differing lengths of fuse to properly time an explosion. To help in solving these puzzles, look in Jane's diary. The solutions will be laid out for you. If you are absolutely stuck and just cannot solve the puzzle, after a certain length of time you will be able to click the "solve" button, and be able to go on to the next part of the game.
Analysis: Reincarnations: Awakening has the look and feel of a top-notch hidden-object title. The graphic design is beautiful, the gameplay is excellent, and the story, while a bit hokey, is at least well thought out.
The painted style of the scenes in Reincarnations: Awakening is at once realistic and mystical, as brush strokes meet details in scenes that are a wonder to behold. The design of the hidden-object scenes are detailed enough to never make it a pixel-hunt when looking for objects from the laundry list. And objects, for the most part, look like you would expect them too, although it's jarring to encounter out-of-place items (a lizard in a ladies changing room, a dollar bill in a Parisian street market) shoved in scenes where they do not belong.
The puzzles that you run into throughout the game are also well implemented. Most of the time, the operation of the puzzle is obvious. And, if not, a quick glance at the help button will give you a quick run-down on how things are supposed to work. You can either try to solve it yourself, look at Jane's diary and try to reach the solution that way, or wait until the "solve" button becomes active to skip the puzzle. Either way, if you are stumped, you won't have to wait too long.
The soundtrack for Reincarnations: Awakening is also quite beautiful, and a joy to listen to. There are different styles based on where you are and what you are doing at the time, but for the most part, it is a lovely understated flow of melody below the activity on screen. Never too loud or raucous to detract from what you are doing. Just enough to underscore the feeling at the time, and help to draw you further into the story of the game.
While we could leave it at this, there are a few flaws that keep the game from being a truly awesome experience. Firstly, the puzzles, while numerous and varied, are not exactly difficult. Most can be solved by simple trial-and-error, and a couple seem to have no logical solution at all, requiring you to use random choices in an attempt to solve them. You never get a sense of urgency to solve them, either, knowing that if you simply wait a few minutes, you will be able to skip the puzzle with no penalty. It makes the puzzles seem less of a requirement for finishing the game, and more of a momentary nuisance.
While the story is well done and does a good job of drawing you into the game, the voice acting is truly horrid. If I had to listen to Dr. Herzle's voice in order to be hypnotized, I'd remain wide awake. There is absolutely nothing soothing about that voice. The other voices of the game come off as wooden, quite often seemingly unaware of the emotion they are supposed to be portraying at that moment. I think this game would have done better to leave them out and have the player stick with subtitles and conversation balloons.
When it comes right down to it, Reincarnations: Awakening is a fun, if not completely fulfilling experience. While it will probably be no spiritual awakening for anyone, there is enough to like about the game to make it worth checking out. Who knows, maybe you'll have your own past-life experience while helping Jane through her's?