Enigmatis: The Ghosts of Maple Creek
The best way to deal with haunted towns harbouring unspeakable dark secrets is to simple avoid them altogether, but should you ever come out of a fugue to find yourself running down a dark and deserted street with someone else's blood all over your hands, you might as well use Enigmatis: The Ghosts of Maple Creek as a guide. In this hidden-object mystery horror adventure from Artifex Mundi, you find yourself stranded in the grim little town of Maple Creek with no recollection of why you're there or why you've got red on you. In short order, however, you recover your notebook and are at least able to remember that you arrived in town looking for a missing girl... though it seems the town's troubles go back a lot further than last week. Uncover the truth and your own troubled memories in this gorgeous and eerie game. Remember, kids; if someone asks you if you want to dabble in ancient, unspeakable lurking evils, just say no!
Enigmatis has two difficulty settings that primarily affect how quickly your various timers recharge and how much hand-holding you get. Whatever your choice, gameplay is your standard pointy-clicky, solve-hidden-object-scenesy affair (the choice of detectives everywhere) with one difference. As you scour the town and the surrounding areas, you'll discover clues and pieces of evidence relevant to your investigation that you'll tack on the wall in your hotel room. Periodically you'll need to arrange these items in certain groups to make deductions in order to proceed with the case. You might, for example, have to group a suspect and a location together to get the scene of the crime. Don't worry; if you get stuck, the hint button is more than willing to take you by the hand and show you exactly what you should be doing, cooing gentle reassurances all the while.
Analysis: Enigmatis: Ghosts of Maple Creek might just be the all-around best looking hidden-object adventure title to come down the pipe in a long time. Lots of titles have pretty art, but few of them manage to marry them so flawlessly with animated, atmospheric environments, and as a result Enigmatis is a real treat to behold. The animated cutscenes, by contrast are... uh... there, and the voice acting can be hit-and-huge-miss, but on the whole the production levels are through the roof across the board. It also contains at least one jump scare of the many there are that made me nearly leap out of my skin even though I saw it coming, so caveat emptor all scaredy-cats and ghost chasers.
The gameplay itself has a fair amount of backtracking, but is mostly satisfyingly logical. The whole evidence wall concept is an interesting one, though not to the degree that it actually adds (or detracts) anything from the game itself. For the most part, Enigmatis' gameplay is just solid all around, with an appealing variety and number of puzzles so you feel like you're using your brain for more than just "use the thing on the other thing". The difficulty is actually a reliable constant throughout, despite a hint button that can lead you around by the nose if you make use of it (rendering the Collector's Edition strategy guide worthless), and with your average playthrough lasting over five hours, not counting the bonus adventure, Enigmatis is one hefty, satisfying adventure.
Despite ending with a big fat "to be continued" that means you'll have to wait for the next installment for any real closure and answers, Enigmatis: The Ghosts of Maple Creek is a remarkably well made example of the genre with everything you need to settle into a night of adventure. With gorgeous visuals, challenging gameplay, and a recruitment program that would make Lord Saddler proud, it comes highly recommended for fans of campy horror action. Give the demo a try and visit scenic Maple Creek today for all your hiking, bed-and-breakfasting, amnesiac-murder-mystery-ing needs.
A Collector's Edition is also available. It contains a bonus chapter to play, wallpapers, 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.