Yes… it’s a hidden object game. And no, I don’t know who in their right mind would make a game based on “Pride and Prejudice”. I mean… it’s “Pride and Prejudice”.
(Warning: There’s censored swearing in this post.)
Hi! And welcome back to my regular edition blog where I talk about games you’re likely to never play. Yes, it’s HOG time but I actually planned on not talking about any more games unless something amazing came by. And it did! In the form of “Lost Lands: The Four Horsemen“. Yes, my review of that is already up so go read that (wink, wink).
But what also appeared was “Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Anthologies” and holy sh*t, I’m just gonna let that sink in. Someone, somewhere, had the most brilliant idea ever of adapting classic literature into HOPAs. I was all on board with that sh*t when I realized they started with “Pride and Prejudice”.
“Pride and Prejudice”, people! I mean, there’s pandering to a demographic and then there’s PANDERING to a demographic. I’m gonna have to go cut down trees with my teeth to gain back some masculinity after this.
Alright, joking aside, today I’m gonna talk about something very… unique.
Yes, you are in fact looking at the title screen of a game adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s rather classic novel from 1813. I haven’t read the book so my first exposure to it was around 1995 when the quite successful BBC series arrived. I can’t really swear it was the year 1995 that I actually saw it but it’s bound to be around that time.
Like any other young boy suffering the curse known as older sisters at the time, once a week the TV was free of violence and manliness and in its stead was something about romance. Needless to say, I wasn’t the biggest fan and it wasn’t necessarily the romance that threw me off but rather the costume drama. Never did enjoy that and I, to this day, still don’t really care for it.
But years have opened my eyes ever so slightly that I can today admit to actually thinking the series is… pretty darn good. Much like “A Sound of Music” and a select other girl-labeled works of fiction, it somehow bypasses my normal macho filters and manages to appeal to me. And it actually remains my only exposure to “Pride and Prejudice”, I know there’s been other adaptations of it before and since but even I must admit that there’s something special about how Firth portrays Mr. Darcy. I just don’t think it will ever be beaten.
That’s not what we’re here to talk about, however. I’m just using that to try and explain how little I really know about the original work. So the only thing I have to compare it to are other HOGs and the 1995 BBC series and as such my opinion may be a bit skewed.
“Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Anthologies” follows the Bennet family and lets us partake in the events that followed Mr. Bingley’s arrival at Netherfield. Although we do switch characters at times, our main character is Elizabeth Bennet and through her eyes we experience all the turmoil surrounding Mr. Darcy, a rather disagreeable man. Who will marry who?
Well, alright, you already knows who marries who, I’m betting. It’s not exactly a secret, if it ever was. But in the interest of fairness, I’m not gonna spoil much more of the plot. But, for that one of you that cares, it’s pretty much exactly like the book… well, series.
And that’s kind of the problem. Sure, it’s an adaptation and I get that, it’s supposed to stay true to the source material and new generation and all, but this story has been done to death already. Hell, it’s not even the only game based on it. Even though it’s been a very, very long time since I last saw the series, I still remember it part for part. Not the dialog per say but the characters are pretty much exactly as I remember them and nothing ever really took me by surprise.
The thing about adaptations is that you need to know what to adapt, what to change and when to make sh*t up. It doesn’t help that the source material isn’t really the stuff legendary HOPAs are made of but then you need to use butter and a crowbar to make it fit, not simply tack things on and hope it’s enough.
For you see, the game is as basic as it gets and the gameplay doesn’t really work well with the story.
The hidden object scenes are incredibly superfluous, often simply being a matter of packing a bag or finding the right clothes, things that aren’t all that important to the story. Never once does it feel like you’re playing anything remotely important to the plot but instead just like you’re tidying a room before or after plot has happened.
And the scenes are weird, too. It uses the standard formula of a list of objects you need to find along the bottom of the screen but instead of displaying all of the items right away it just shows four of them. When you find an item then the list removes that one and adds another until you’ve found all marked objects. I… don’t know why they did that, it’s interesting in a way but the only thing it really does is slow you down. Worse yet is when there’s several objects of the same kind that you need to find because instead of just taking up one slot, if you need to find three of something then it’s those three and one more object that’s displayed on the list.
I don’t know why they did this.
Outside of that you have a hint system to help you find stuff that you can’t find yourself and in a very retrotastic fashion it relies not on time but you only have a limited number of hints. You gain more by finding wax seals scattered about but still, it’s old school. Sure, there are way more wax seals lying around than you’d ever need but still, it’s nostalgic.
It is, however, the only instance of a hint system that talks to you. Instead of just highlighting a random object on the list, it repeats the same line every time you press it. Could’ve done without that. It’s cute the first time but it doesn’t really need multiple repeats.
There are also a collectible hidden in most hidden object scenes. I say most because that’s what the game actually tells you. I don’t know if it’s true or not, I stopped caring after a while but that’s cruel. Saying there are collectible in most means there are times when there won’t be and all your searching is for naught! Not okay!
Other than that, the scenes ranged from pathetically easy to hair-pullingly hard. There were a few instances of “Are you f****ng kidding me? How was I supposed to even see that!?” but in general they were pretty well designed.
What I don’t particularly like is the adventure-part of the game, where you’re given a pretty simple task to complete and must roam around collecting all the items you need. Whether it’s to make a cup of team, start a fire or cook a chicken, no task is too small for the rich and powerful, especially when asked by their servants. Hell, at one point you have to make a scented pillow. Wow, that’s riveting material for a game, right there.
It too follows the standard structure of most HOPA.
Find items. Use items in proper place. Profit.
But the further you progress in the game, the worse they become. Even the simplest of tasks become finicky and the game isn’t very good at telling you what to do.
Find kindling for the fireplace. This paper will do, right? No? Maybe I just clicked wrong. No? Okay, maybe I need more paper then. Oh, okay, I found more paper. Maybe I needed to put this paper in first. No? Are you… certain? Okay, guess I gotta explore some mo- oh, look, a key taped to the back of a mirror… who put it there? Okay, it no doubt goes to the cupboard in the kitchen. Ah! A scissor. I bet if I use this on the paper something will happen. SUCCESS! Can I put it in the fireplace NOW!?
That “puzzle” had me so angry that it was just ridiculous. It kept insisting I put “paper” in the fireplace but never once suggested it should be cut into ribbons before that. And I cut up a cookbook to make kindling. I’m pretty sure you’d get hung out to dry for that back in the nineteenth century. And to make matters worse, again, it was just so the plot could continue because someone refused to talk before the fire was lit. It’s like they keep hitting the pause button every five minutes.
It’s further made unbearable by the rooms you search becoming more and more cluttered (seriously, these people need a maid) but the game has one of the least useful interfaces ever. Normally in HOPAs the cursor is your best friends as it helps to highlight areas of interest. Even here the cursor does change but it’s such a minute change it’s easy to miss. Add to that that the game tells you next to nothing even if you find an area of interest but is currently not usable. It makes it difficult to tell if you don’t have all the objects you need or you’re not using the correct item. FURTHER add to that that the game is FILLED with false positives and it’s a nightmare to figure out what to do.
Even the hints can completely break down in certain situations. There was another situation where you’re supposed to look for torn pieces of a letter. I find all but one and I just can’t find it. Mind you, this was in the adventure section of the game and not a hidden object scene but I figured the hint would work in a similar fashion. But nope, pressing hint gave me a clue I’d already figured out about another step in the process (that I needed a light to read the letter once pieced together) and pressing it again suggested I “look very carefully all over”. NO SH*T! So I figured, okay, but surely spending a THIRD wax seal will just HIGHLIGHT what I need. Mind you, again, this was in a single room with no option to move anywhere. So highlighting something should not be a problem.
Instead the game just tells me it has nothing more useful to tell me. To clarify, the hint system in a HOPA stopped working like intended. This is maybe the third time in my entire history of playing HOG/HOPA games that that has ever happened. It is, quite frankly, inexcusable.
Much to my joy, the puzzles fare a lot better. There’s a surprising variety included here though a few tend to return more than others. And in fairness, some of the puzzles completely kicked my ass and I shamefully admit I had to skip one of them because I just couldn’t figure it out. I partially blame the puzzle, though, but credit where credit is due, that was some Layton-sh*t right there.
The primary form of puzzle, though, was the jigsaw ones. Whether it was piecing together broken statues, letters or journal entries, if you like jigsaw puzzles of sorts then you’ll have your fill. And hell, there was even a “Dance Dance Revolution“-inspired puzzle in there which took me by all kinds of surprise. A reaction-based puzzle? In my HOPA? Well, hot diggety, I haven’t seen that since the very first Dark Parables.
The sound is probably the aspect of the game that manages the best. The music, however generic and probably store bought if not classical, works in the context. I enjoyed playing the piano as well, they picked some good tunes to play.
Much of the plot is told through narration by Elizabeth and I must confess I was pretty impressed by the voice actress, she did a commendable job. The fact that they forgot to edit out her breathing in between sentences should not be blamed on her. I didn’t even hear it until I used my headphones anyway so not that big of a deal. Of course, it doesn’t really help that we mostly just get her reading her journal pages. I get that that’s a big part of the book and all but it’s a very unsatisfying way of telling me a story. At least have some pretty graphics too look at. Hell, even the picture of Elizabeth writing her journal you show before switching to the journal page would be more interesting. Like this I simply read ahead and skip her narration.
That’s nothing good and nothing you want to aspire to.
Art-wise, I’m split. On one hand the game looks pretty darn good. I’m no historian but everything looks like it fits the time and the graphics are pretty clear. The lack of color makes sense given the time but they still manage to infuse the world with some much needed color here and there.
Say what you want about their tidiness but the Bennets sure had a good eye for lighting.
What I didn’t like so much, however, were the dialog scenes and the character portraits. Not only did I find them aesthetically unpleasing, I dare call them ugly. Sure, they might be aspiring to a specific style that supposedly fits but if that’s the case then it’s lost on me. I just don’t see it.
For one, shame on you, everyone looks fantastically ugly. I know times were simpler then but holy shit, did everyone fall out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down? Their faces are flat as hell, like someone smashed every single person in the face with a shovel repeatedly. I swear some of them have inwards facing faces. Worse yet, Mr. Darcy looks utterly rubbish. How dare you do this to my Colin Firth!?
But even worse is that they mix art styles. When it’s against a hand drawn background, like above, the art style works better but then they perform a deadly sin by mixing art styles. The characters don’t really mix with the more realistic scenes. And the developers knew this because there are times when they render the characters like how they’d appear in the more realistic style. Why didn’t you just use that all the time. There’s wanting a particular style and then there’s just screwing your audience over.
Did you not have an art director keeping track of this sh*t? Did no-one ever think to say: “Hey, maybe we shouldn’t mix such clashing styles?” No? It’s really annoying because of the realistic looking sections are gorgeous but the rest? Ehhhhhhhh, no.
I don’t know who actually developed this game because it has two credited developers. That’s never a good sign, especially for a HOPA. What possible need could there ever be for two developers? Hell, Eipix produces over twenty games a year now and they don’t need to collaborate. Sure, they’ve been in the business longer but f*ck you, that’s no excuse.
So instead of blaming either I’m just gonna blame Europress who published this game.
This is the laziest I’ve ever seen a HOG get for a multitude of reasons. For one, this is taking your target demographic a bit too obvious, don’t you think? I know 40+ women are your intended victims here but trust me when I say any woman at that age has already take part of this story in one form or another. Hell, most people in the western society has, woman or man. But while it has flashes of good design, it’s just too simple, it’s like they took the most generic formula and just entered the graphics to fit the story.
There’s no real production value here, there’s nothing on display to ooh and ahh at. I get that it’s not fair to compare it to Lost Lands, that’s just way above its weight class but still, even the other generic stuff on BigFishGames punch harder than this.
Perhaps I just don’t get it, though, and it is a treat to real Pride and Prejudice fans out there. But even then I doubt it, there are superior ways of enjoying this novel. All it really accomplished was making me want to see the 1995 series again.
“Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Anthologies” was published by Europress.
To buy the game, go to BigFishGames.