Otherworld: Spring of Shadows
It all started when you moved into an old house in the English countryside, hoping for a chance to be alone and take new stock in your life. But are we ever really alone? As it turns out, there is more to this world than what's apparent on the surface. The fairytales you heard when you were young, the ones you thought stuffed with nonsense and meant only as cautionary allegories to frighten children into behaving properly, are not so far from the truth. So, as curious as Alice in Wonderland, you peek behind the veneer, following clues left by Fiona, a little girl trapped in another dimension, and become caught up in Otherworld: Spring of Shadows, a sumptuously-detailed fantasy adventure-hybrid from Boomzap.
Armed with little more than an enchanted knife and a water pitcher, you seem to the be only one who can prevent the Shade's eternal winter, a blight of ice and death the foul creature hatefully threatens to cast upon the earth. Do this by searching high and low, across all terrains, for the magical charms that will activate Fiona's magical locket. The Shade will not make this easy on you and—as evidenced by the victims which lay dead in his path—he's quite capable of doing you harm, a thought that weighs heavy on your mind as you face the Shade in a mortal battle.
All that's for the end, though. First you'll explore six chapters, encountering not only mini-games, puzzles and hidden object scenes, you will also earn new achievements and uncover an optional side-quest. None of which are mightily difficult, so you won't be pulled away from the enjoyment of adventuring and simply taking in the beautifully elaborate scenery. There is never a sparkle in sight to deter from this, but "casual" mode still provides plenty of hints, skipping and guided help at your request. "Expert" is a little less affable but, if you have the guts, choose "Hard Core" to truly go it alone (you'll also earn a badge of honor for that achievement.)
Analysis: This is not your typical hidden object game—far from it! No piles of randomly-strewn anachronisms; hidden object scenes fit the setting perfectly, are well-composed and pleasing to behold. Even better, they make sense! Collect only what's needed, never returning to the same scene because you have foresight to grab important bits the first time around. In fact, handy items do not disappear after first use and they often have multiple purposes. Finally, some logic.
Along with the traditional type of hidden object scenes, searches vary from multiples of a single object, or broken pieces needing reconstruction, or matching pairs or even riddle clues. It's absolutely refreshing to escape the boredom of cluttered compositions and jarringly out-of-place collections. As for minigames? They're rather easy yet they do make you think without requiring elaborate note taking or pulling of hairs to complete. Jigsaws, tile swaps and matching games are strongly emphasized here but there are many adventure-centered quest tasks as well. Making good of the repetition, is the unique style and interesting artwork in the games.
Otherworld: Spring of Shadows weaves a fantastic story and absorbs you into surreal environments, exactly as you'd expect from Boomzap, the gamemaker who brought us Awakening 2: Moonfell Wood and Death Under Tuscan Skies: a Dana Knighstone Novel. An appreciation of ambiance and entertaining tale-telling is well met here; every detail is intricately-designed to add mood and atmosphere. The music seems to come from a strange, 1960s British supernatural horror flick: enticing, haunted notes echoed by soft, etheral vocals. Outside of the occasional cut-scene, there is no voice-over to jar you out of the moment, so the focus remains almost entirely on adventuring.
This dedication to drawing the player into the story is Otherworld's strongest asset and, because of that, it also has its weaknesses: a mild lag between changing scenes that is made noticeable because of all the moving back and forth between scenes. Even so, there's a great pleasure that comes from traveling across the richly-appointed settings. After all, sometimes it's nice to believe in fairy tales, even if they're not actually real (or are they?)
A Collector's Edition is also available. It contains bonus content not found in the standard edition: an additional chapter, 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.