Rite of Passage:
The Perfect Show
Kids, when mom tells you to come home before dark, do it. If your piano instructor is inexplicably late, don't wait for hours after sunset in the woods-shrouded playground. That nice man there with the puppets and the candy? Yeah, he's a creepo. Run away. Little Amber didn't heed the warnings and now she's one of four children who have already disappeared. Parents are at a loss, covering the small town of Everlake with "have you seen me?" posters to no result. So what to do? Police are always so helpless in hidden object adventure games, but you are rather sleuthy for a music teacher, and who better to decode artful locks and overcome thorny barriers to save the day? Equipped with both bravado and keen shrewdness, pass into Mad Head Games' dream world of magic, mystery and surrealism in Rite of Passage: The Perfect Show.
The game employs the standard conventions of hybrid gameplay—follow your cursor to explore breathtaking settings, search through bright yet busy hidden object scenes, and match your wits against a diverse assortment of mini-games. When you begin, you're offered a choice in gaming assistance: casual, for sparkling search areas and quickly filling hint/skip timers, or expert, which abandons the sparklies and is slow to offer help.
The surreal environment of Everlake, with its whimsical cut-out artwork and warehouses topped with giant doll heads, might remind you of the Drawn series. While there is an even balance between completing tasks, sleuthing, searching and solving, there are so many places to go and things to see that emphasis lies in the adventure of it all. Hidden object scenes are well-rendered yet cluttered and, along with the usual list of odd items, include a smattering of fragmented items and interactivity. As you go, pieces of the story will be revealed to you in a number of ways. One, a very enjoyable puppet-show mini-game, depicts the antagonist's background story and his descent into evil sorcererdom. These shows also serve to divide the game into five acts, providing both structure and the necessary rising action toward the climatic final showdown.
As all those details you uncover begin to add up, glance at your journal to review what you've learned and also to get your bearings on what to do next. Helpfully, the journal is divided up—one section stores clues and plot details while another section keeps tabs on your objectives, both completed and still undone. As you pick items up along the way, bottom-loading inventory bar safely keeps your increasing collection of trinkets and tools.
Analysis: New development team, Mad Head Games, have as their initial offering an impressive production that will leave you looking forward to more of their games. Every scene in Rite of Passage: The Perfect Show is rich in interest-grabbing details, secrets to uncover, and puzzles to solve so that a game that is, by the clock, slightly on the shorter side, ends up feeling like an epic journey. The dimensional effects of the multi-layered graphics make real an environment that blends fantasy with ordinary. You rarely encounter other characters but, when you do, it's a treat because of superior voice acting and a skillful blend of live action with computer generated imagery. It's hard to find any fault in such amazing graphics though, if pressed, I'll admit that sometimes proportions are off; poor Amber's arms are chimp-like as she rocks her doll, for example, and your neighbor lady looks as if she had a bad series lip injections as she talks. These are tiny things, though, in a production that is exceedingly high quality.
Perhaps another shortcoming is the game's failure to answer all your questions about why and how this place exists. There's no explanation for why the theater district is locked by a life-sized wooden soldier brandishing a giant key; instead, such oddities better explain how all has gone so awry. That this game is able to make you so interested these answers is a mark of its magic and ability to keep you enthralled. Despite your unrequited curiosity, there's really an abundance of information here and no true magician will give away all his secrets. Just sink into the surreal experience and let go of lifelike pragmatism.
Don't be mislead by the title, Rite of Passage: The Perfect Show, thinking it's overly spooky or horrific. Stylistically, it's hard-to-define in any other way except "quirkily preternatural." David Lynch's Twin Peaks can't top the strangeness of Everlake, and that's either immensely delightful or incredibly maddening, take your pick. Does this make you frustrated as your search for answers only unearths more questions? Or are you in awe of the wonders you behold and the deep satisfaction of playing town hero? You may never fully understand the obsession to perform the perfect show, but you'll be too busy to care.
A Collector's Edition is also available. It contains bonus content not found in the standard edition. 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.