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Game Review: Hidden Mysteries Vampire Secrets
I was iffy about calling this a “retro” game review, since this game came out in 2010, only 5 years ago, and eventually decided against it. I think I can't, in good conscience, call something “retro” unless it's at least a decade old, even if it was released on a system that would not be considered older than the current generation. I'll be reviewing the DS game, but it's produced by Big Fish, which leads me to believe that it's probably available for tablets, mobile devices, and PC.
I went into this game blind, and bought it purely because it had the word “vampire” in the title. It turned out to be one of those time killer “hidden objects” games, which isn't something I normally play, but I flew through it in a few hours, and it's actually pretty good for what it is. It was odd to have it on the DS, as it played like a browser game. It's a weird game to have spent money on, is what I mean. It really plays like a Facebook game. But by the standards of Facebook games, it's actually quite good. And I'm going to try to judge it on it's own standards. Because it is so short, this review is going to have spoilers for the story, because I'll be critiquing the story, the ending in particular.
DS Box Art
The difficulty was ridiculously easy, but that didn't shock me, because there's nothing really that difficult about “here's a list of stuff: find it” but I did hit a few snags. Some of the objects went by names that I'm assuming are from a dialect other than the one I speak, English perhaps. So sometimes I found myself wondering, “What's a ________?” But I actually consider that to be a positive aspect, not a negative one, as it works as a vocabulary builder. It doesn't actually force you to find the objects you might not know; all you have to do is click the 'hint' button, and it goes to the item in question, giving you a picture to put with the word like a child's flashcard. So that was interesting.
Something that I found refreshing and honestly didn't expect was the way that the hidden object games were broken up with a series of little puzzles. These excerpts play like a much simpler version of Myst, where you can use the things you found in the puzzles to progress. This is especially prevalent in the final level, which will have you running back and forth to various rooms trying to get all these little puzzles in place so that you can escape from the vampires. The only downside to these puzzles is that they were ridiculously easy, so you don't get the satisfaction you normally feel from beating a video game level. There were a few puzzles that I actually “solved” without getting all the pieces, or solved out of order accidentally because I forgot to do certain parts. But this isn't a game that you go into expecting a cognitive challenge; it's a fun little time-killer, like a minigame collection. I think it might actually be more aggravating if the challenge was higher and you found yourself getting stuck, because it's meant to be played in bits and pieces.
The story in this game is... strange. It has so many plot holes and loose ends that are just never addressed. The protagonist, Claire seems to have a hereditary psychic gift, shared by her aunt, Rose. She keeps getting flashes of different locations and is compelled to explore them to keep her psychic powers from driving her mad and causing physical pain with intense headaches. She decides to head to her aunt's house to ask her about it and recuperate for a bit. Unfortunately, when she arrives, Rose is nowhere to be seen. We never find out where she is or what's happened to her. Ever. I thought that we would eventually run into her or save her from vampires, but nope. It's never outright stated that she was in danger, so she might have just gone to lay on a vampire free beach for all we know. But it annoyed me.
Likewise, you follow these vampires across several locations, from your aunts house to a hospital, where they've been stealing blood, to a motel they've taken over, to a swamp-land mansion- eventually you're captured by the vampires and forced to escape. You're awakened by a man who claims to be on the run from some vampire council, who you never see. He admit to stealing the blood, but says that he only did that because he didn't want to dine on living victims, and Clair just believes him without question. Again, we NEVER see this evil council that he claims has imprisoned both of you, and he knows the mansion you're imprisoned in more or less by heart. He's also the only vampire you ever actually see. Clair even says that she wants to go out with him during the final cutscene. I don't understand her reasoning for any of that.
Where to Buy
There's no real ending, no wrap up of the drama that the entire rest of the game has been leading up to. You don't encounter any vampires other than the one she likes, and there's never any antagonistic attitude toward anyone. You never find or talk to Rose. You don't kill any vampires. You just leave this mansion and BOOM it's over. It's so sudden that for a second I wondered if the game had glitched and sent me to the menu rather than to the next level. But a quick Google search reviles that... nope. That's the end.
So this game, which is much more comfortable on a browser or phone than as a full fledged DS title, is good for what it is. If you're going to the doctor and need something to occupy yourself in the waiting room, this is the title for you. If you want to play a game, one with a story that makes sense or puzzles that will challenge you- you might want to just skip over this one.
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