Casual Friday – Week 1, 2016

It’s 2016 and we start the year with a bunch of HOPA! YAY!

It’s a new year and a brave new world! Here’s a roundup of games I played but didn’t have the time to get through before 2016 came around. It’s pretty much only HOPA this time but I promise I’ll grab a few more odd titles here and there from now on.

So without further ado, here we go!

Dark Dimensions WB BannerDark Dimensions – Wax Beauty
(Daily Magic Productions, 2012)

Yet another city thought lost forever has mysteriously appeared again. Racing to find out more about these dimensions and who creates them, you quickly head to Red Lake Falls, once home to a famous wax museum. Once again you find the dark dimension almost void of life but instead the streets and homes are filled with wax sculptures. But there’s something very sinister about these sculptures and it seems everything that has transpired is because of a brother who was jealous of his sister’s popularity. Or… is it?

Dark Dimensions WB - Screen 2

Dark Dimensions – Wax Beauty is the sequel to my most recently reviewed HOPA and follows the same character as he or she searches for her lost family (or so I gather). This time the stakes are upped significantly and the story has received a much needed boost in terms of complexity. Whereas City of Fog was a pretty straight forward murder mystery with supernatural elements tossed into the pot, this time the supernatural shenanigans are far more integrated into the plot. It’s also a lot more unique though I feel it could’ve gone even further with their use of the wax.

They’ve definitely improved on their design since last time though it still features the color blue a whole lot. But surprisingly it didn’t really bother me nearly as much as it did last time. The puzzles are also back and with a vengeance. I actually had to skip two of them and if you’ve read my stuff for a while now, you know how much I go on and on about how puzzles are too easy these days… so, well played, Daily Magic, you bested me and I tasted my own medicine.


Yeah, I hated it at the time, skipping anything makes me feel awful but now, in retrospect… damn straight I skipped them!

There were a few things I strongly disliked, however. The hidden object scenes were again good but the accuracy with which you have to click can be a bit too harsh. There were many times I clicked on things and it didn’t register and I don’t know why, I swear I was right on it. Some leeway is appreciated, it shouldn’t be a pixel hunt. Trying to click a thin-font letter can be a pain, for instance. And there were times when the game just flat out refused to activate the object even though I clicked right on it.

But to end on a high note, what I love about it is that the game is a direct sequel in more ways than numbers and minor details. It’s not just the same character but the story carries over and even deepens. The cult behind the creation of dark dimension gateways were significantly upgraded in the plot department and felt like an actual threat. The fact that we even got a villain motivation was fantastic. Just little thing made me want to play the third game that much more.

European Mystery Scent of DesireEuropean Mystery: Scent of Desire
(Blam! Games, 2013)

A string of mysterious disappearances plague Paris, young girls go missing in broad daylight and to make matters worse, there’s an epidemic spreading in the city. Though retired, the mystery catches your interest and you’re soon on your way to Paris. But once there, the mystery deepens and you’re forced to adopt some unconventional methods for solving this mystery. Can you find the missing girls before it’s too late?

European Mystery SoD Screen 1

European Mystery: Scent of Desire was made by Blam! Games and I can’t really say I’m too familiar with their library. I’ve only played two of their games before, the first two in the Fierce Tales series, but I’d honestly struggle to remember any detail about them other than animals being involved somehow. The first was dog themed, the second was dolphin themed and I hear the third is cat themed so if that’s your thing, go for it.

If I had to make a broad statement based on the games I’ve played, including Scent of Desire, I’d say they’re bland. The only unique aspect about this game is the scent-catching but all that really results in is a pretty bland and uninteresting minigame. Nothing else really registered and even now, not long after playing it, I struggle to come up with anything that really happened in anything but broad strokes. The mystery wasn’t much of an actual mystery as it’s pretty obvious what’s going though I remember thinking the bonus chapter amused me a whole lot more than the game itself. Which isn’t really a compliment…

Graphically it was nice and it included plague masks which… well, that’s always a bonus for me. But I can’t really come up with any reason to play it over any other game. So… I dunno, if you’re really bored,  I suppose?

Christmas Stories Puss in BootsChristmas Stories: Puss in Boots
(Elephant Games, 2015)

One day when coming home from work you find a cat shivering on your doorstep. As the kind hearted person you are, you let it inside, feed it and give it a place to sleep. But that night you’re suddenly awakened by a voice rousing you from your sleep. Before you stands your cat on two legs, asking for your help to save Christmas. Barely believing you’re awake, you’re whisked off to Catstown, a magical place where all the abandoned cats of the world help Santa Clause create Christmas.

Christmas Stories Screen 1

Probably the newest game I’ve ever featured on this blog, Christmas Stories is an annual series of games that come out around Christmas, for obvious reasons. Every game is centered around some kind of Christmas story although this time they decided to go for Puss in Boots for some reason instead. Not that I’m complaining, I love cats so any excuse to have them in a game is good by me.

Other than it’s your average Christmas special, really. Someone gets called out to save Christmas, meets Santa Clause and rights all the wrongs ever committed or something. Everybody involved was misunderstood or is redeemed by the end and it all resolves very happily.

And that’s totally okay because it’s Christmas.

The game was absolutely adorable, the cats were fuzzy and cute and they were all uniquely designed so you get to see a lot of different cats. Don’t really care for the human figures, though, they had all had this super early 3D game look to them and I definitely expect better, even out of the HOPA industry by now.

As for the gameplay, it was alright. There were a few minigames that really pissed me off but there wasn’t really anything unique about the game in terms of gameplay. You had a helper but so do many other games and the adorableness aside, it was pretty limited. Plus it was always conveniently marked where the helper could and should be used so it was even less challenging than figuring out which item went where. There were a few times I got lost, at times because the game was really awful at giving directions and sometimes because I missed something.

But it was okay. I didn’t hate the game as a whole, just certain aspects of it. It was cute, it was Christmasy, the graphics were nice and for the most part the gameplay worked. Not sure what else to say.

Danse Macabre BannerDanse Macabre: The Last Adagio
(Eipix, 2014)

Your sister is a star. She’s going to perform as Donatella di Fiore, a ballet dancer’s biggest dream, and she’s invited you. After the performance you wait outside the theater, like instructed in her letter, eagerly expecting to congratulate your sister. And you wait. And wait… suddenly the theater manager returns and claims your sister right after the performance and that no-one is left in the building. But just when he heads inside, you see someone on the upper floor. Someone else is in there. The manager was lying. You have to get inside and find your sister.

Danse Macabre TLA Screen 2

Ohohoho, so we meet again, Mr. Eipix. Do you expect me to cease my relentless criticism, Mr. Eipix?

James Bond jokes aside, let’s do my favorite hobby: whine about Eipix games. Yes, I’ve done it before and I sure will again. I know they’re just sitting there, in their office, waiting for my next post about a game of theirs. So rejoice! For it is time.

I often wonder if I’m being unnecessarily harsh on Eipix. After all, I used to love these guys with all of my heart so it’s weird that my position has completely reversed. Or rather, I used to love their games, my position on them being an awesome company still hasn’t changed. So going into this game, I really wanted it to be good. I wanted to like it just to prove that I’m not all about bashing Eipix.

But, alas…

I didn’t care all that much for Danse Macabre: The Last Adagio. It wasn’t bad by any means but it won’t really stick with me, either. The story was pretty much “color by number”, a love was betrayed, they turned into ghosts, save the day by making the baddy realize how much the girl really loved him. We’ve seen it before, we’ll probably see it again and it wasn’t nearly as good a romance game as Mad Head Games’ Nevertales: The Beauty Within.

All Eipix games virtually work the same, it’s no doubt the same engine used over and over again with merely new graphics stuck in. And some minor variation on the formula that other games have already proved popular. Obviously it’s a really good looking game, Eipix never really fails when it comes to graphics, they’re masters at that, but it’s also fairly uninspired. That’s a trapping of doing a game set in a realistic environment, there’s only so much you can do with an old Paris building and unless you’re willing to go all out on magic, there’s not much you can do with it.

Even when they do color outside the lines, it’s pretty standard stuff. Even when venturing down in the evil, underground lair of the evil guy, it’s very comfortable and even homely. It never really aspires to frighten you which is a big issue. It means you go through the entire game without any real opposition or challenge. There were one or two puzzles that kicked my ass which is super groovy, more of that please, but I pretty much breezed through this game in no time at all.

I mean, if you like Eipix games then get this game because it’s pretty much exactly like all the rest.

Nevertales TBW BannerNevertales: The Beauty Within
(Mad Head Games, 2013)

A knock on the door is all it takes for fate’s wheels to start spinning. Outside you find a baby and see a mysterious stranger disappearing off in the night. Curious as can be you set off after the stranger and follow him to castle you’re pretty sure wasn’t there before. Suddenly a gruesome beast appears before you, forcing you to step on the breaks and the beast gives you a stern warning: don’t follow him. Undeterred you make your way to the castle only to find it abandoned… or is it? You’ve stumbled upon the biggest mystery of your life and this journey will reveal things about your past you might not be ready to believe just yet.

Nevertales TBW Screen 1

I’m not really going to review this since… well, it’s been so long since I played it it wouldn’t really be fair. I remember it being great, though, the graphics were really quite fetching and the story kept me engaged enough with a curve ball every so often to spruce things up. It was pretty predictable, the twist is pretty much given away in the title so don’t expect too much. But it does enough things with its setting to keep it from getting stale even though it’s a story we’ve heard many times before.

Other than that, I dare not say much more. Most puzzles are long forgotten by now though I do remember a few and they were… mediocre at best. Though they did try and do something different, it didn’t quite work out all the time, I do remember that. It looks stunning, like Eipix I’m pretty sure Mad Head are unable to make a bad looking game and with varying locations to visit it never got bodged down in ye olde times architecture that feels samey pretty quickly. The fantastical twists also help to alleviate many of the problems inherent in setting a story in medieval looking castle.

It’s definitely worth checking out, I remember I wanted to write a full scale review for it which pretty much says it all. But due to computer issues, here it is instead. No-one is more heartbroken about it than I.

Clockwork Tales OGaI BannerClockwork Tales: Of Glass and Ink
(Artifex Mundi, 2013)

When your old mentor, Professor Ink contacts you and asks you to travel to the small town of Hochwald, you don’t hesitate for a moment. But when you arrive, you see the Professor kidnapped before your very eyes… by a gigantic, mechanical creature. Digging through his research material, you discover that Ink believed something nefarious was going on at Castle Barber that could threaten the entire world. And it’s now up to you to stop it.

Clockwork Tales OGaI Screen 1

Brought to us by Artifex Mundi, one of the leading developers of HOPA in the industry today. They set a lot of standards and have worked on some of the most well known franchises such as Enigmatis, 9 Clues, Nightmares from the Deep and, of course, Time Mysteries. Not to mention some of their one-off games that hold some of the top positions in my “Best HOPA Games Ever”-list (don’t get me started on Abyss).

Clockwork Tales, however, won’t be making it onto my top anything list. Outside of its setting and steampunk design, it doesn’t really bring much to the table in terms of gameplay. It’s a pretty straight forward HOPA that will do very little to surprise you though it does a decent job at pulling you in. The graphics are okay, it’s another game set in a cold environment accentuated with orange glow and the characters straddle the line between comical and serious, not really excelling at either one which makes for a muddled design.

But what does work, works really well. The steampunk aspects are well integrated and make for a compelling world. In between airship rides and destroying clockwork robots, you’ll see enough real world parallels to make it seem familiar enough. The bad guys are an obvious take on the Nazis, most of them even speaking with an over the top German accent, but it works and I loved the design of their uniforms. I just wished they did a little more with it.

The puzzles, however, were great and often deceptively difficult. Not always, though, some were quite easy but one or two thoroughly kicked my ass and you know I like it rough. The hidden object scenes were good as well, achieving just the right balance between difficult and rewarding.

So, do I recommend it? Well, it depends on you. I’m not saying don’t play it, I’m just saying there’s definitely worse games out there.

Christmas Eve MC BannerChristmas Eve: Midnight’s Call
(ERS Game Studio, 2014)

When you were young, your sister fell into a lake and drowned on Christmas Eve when you were out skating. So for you, Christmas has always been a sad reminder of your beloved sister. But one Christmas many years later, you’re swept up in an adventure that takes you to another world entirely and discover that your sister is very much alive. But you quickly discover that this is not the kind sister you knew, she’s grown cold and her heart is filled with hate. And she’s trying to break into your world and conquer it for herself. It’s up to you to save not only both worlds but your sister as well.

Christmas Eve MC Screen 2

ERS Game Studio is a studio I haven’t really talked about here on the blog, mostly because they tend to operate below my radar. Though they churn out quite a few games they very rarely catch my interest. However, for Christmas this year I decided to give it a go, since it was called Christmas Eve and everything.

And… I liked it. I was actually going to review it in a big way but I decided to slot it in here because between many of my other projects, I simply didn’t have the time to devote to a full blown review. And I wanted to review it because whenever I review an Eipix game I feel like I go in wanting to hate it and only come out confirming my assumptions. But I totally went into this game expecting pretty damn awful stuff and I came out very pleasantly surprised.

For one, it’s a Christmas story that doesn’t really feel like a Christmas story… which I like. We’re spoon fed the same morals in the same way every year so it was nice with a story that was Christmasy enough but not in the most obvious ways. In some aspects it’s similar in tone to the old Scrooge story, with quite a bit of darkness tinting the edges. I was a bit disappointed that they chose to redeem the sister in the way that they did, never really playing around with feelings of abandonment or loss, instead blaming it on a nameless evil.

Another thing I really disliked was that to progress at times, you really needed to apply some serious moon logic. Moon logic, for those who don’t know the term, go back to the times of old adventure games where the logic was so arbitrary that it made no sense, the solution was often so outside of the box it might as well be on the moon. And this game suffers a whole lot of this. The further into the game you get, the worse it gets and as time went on I found myself more and more often referring to the walkthrough just to figure out where to go. That’s bad writing and bad design.

However, what really won me over were the puzzles because hot diggity damn were they good. They kicked my ass from here to Sunday and they further impressed me by including a difficulty setting. Yes, a HOPA had a difficulty setting for the puzzles. Let me repeat this: DIFFICULTY SETTING FOR THE PUZZLES. And the best thing about it was that it confirmed what I’ve always been saying: that including it doesn’t need to be difficult. And it was changeable on the fly, simply having the button on the puzzle itself so if you found a puzzle too easy, switch too hard. Was it too hard? Then switch back to easy.

Was that so god damn hard? No. No, it was not.

Beyond that, the graphics look nice and for once I didn’t get sick of seeing snow which is remarkable but I might have been so elated by the difficulty setting that carried over into everything else. So do I recommend it? Yes, if only for the difficulty setting… seriously, go buy it right now and prove that we want more of this.

4 thoughts on “Casual Friday – Week 1, 2016

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