Christmas Stories: Puss in Boots
Even the Bah-Humbuggiest amoung us may find it hard to resist Elephant Games' very merry hidden-object adventure Christmas Stories: Puss in Boots, also available for iPad. On Christmas Eve you come home to find a stray kitten curled up on your front porch in the snow, and of course you can't resist taking him in. But later that night, you're awoken by a strange voice, and discover it's none other than the kitten himself, who you've named Simon, standing on his hind legs and talking to you. Seems by taking him in, you've proven yourself kindness personified, and as one of Santa's Helpers, Simon now knows you're who they need to help save Christmas. See, Christmas can't happen without the magical star on the North Pole's tree, and someone's stolen it. Someone... wearing boots. Hmmmmm. But why would anyone want to stop Christmas? Gosh, you don't suppose there's secretly a heart-wrenching motive behind it, do you? It's an adorable, sweet, and fun holiday adventure that makes up for low challenge with stunning production values and a relentless sense of spirit.
Like most current hidden-object adventure games, Christmas Stories: Puss in Boots has fully customiseable difficulty, down to the seconds the hint and skip functions take to recharge, so it can be enjoyed by just about anyone. As you explore, you'll gather objects needed to solve puzzles, rifle through hidden-object scenes of all types to find items, and even get help from Simon when you need a cat's special touch. If something needs his assistance, it'll pop up with his silhouette when you pass over it, so just click Simon, then what you want him to look at, and he'll get to work. The difficulty on the whole is rather light... most of the puzzles are incorporated in clever ways, such as matching a photograph to the scene of a burglary to spot clues, but don't really require much beyond a decently keen eye to solve. There is a lot of backtracking, but the game is good at spacing all its content out, so you run into puzzles and hidden-object scenes at a decent pace in equal measure. While adults may wish the puzzles had more heft to them, it's likely the perfect choice for kids, or simply anyone looking for something casual to kick back with a mug of their favourite holiday beverage.
As much as I might poke at its cuddly cuteness, one of the best compliments I can actually give is it did actually warm the old cockles of my holiday hardened heart a little. The more I played, the more I found myself going from lightly rolling my eyes at its treacly-sweetness to actually smiling at each new character and elaborate fantasy scene. It's the sort of game it's hard to be in a bad mood while playing. Still, it's not without its more serious moments. As you'd expect, Puss has his reasons for not wanting Christmas to come, and, well, it's sort of a tear-jerker, so parents who have very young kids might want to play this themselves first to judge if this is a discussion they want to crack open yet. Despite its heavier moments, or maybe even because of them, Christmas Stories: Puss in Boots is still an easily recommended holiday adventure. Puss in Boots is more focused on the journey, and it really does have a rollicking Christmas special adventure feel to it as you chase the thief throughout the game from place to place, and cutscenes are beautifully animated. It's meant to be a very light adventure, with a very Disney-esque approach to the capering cat antics and sentient furniture, and it might just have the best voice acting in a hidden-object adventure I've heard yet. It is, in other words, the perfect sweet and magical Christmas game for the young and the young at heart... provided you're not some sort of filthy cat hater. Try the demo if you're on the fence... you might just be glad you did.
Please note that currently only the Collector's Edition version of this title is available. The Standard Edition will be made available at a later date.