Over the last few years I have become a big fan of hidden object games, even finding myself a frequent shopper at the Big Fish Games web site. For all the games that fall in this category that I’ve played, however, I don’t think I’ve played one quite as diverse, frustrating and satisfying as Mystery Manor: Hidden Adventure. If you’re defiant against in-app purchases (IAPs) or have no patience you’ll certainly want to avoid this game, otherwise prepare for the most interesting hidden object game experience you’ve had in a long time. If you’re really a fan of such games you’ll get hooked.
Mister X, the master of Mystery Manor, has gone missing (say that fast ten times). It’s up to you to figure out where he’s gone, and you’ll have to do that by helping the manor’s patrons find their lost goods, defeating gremlin-like creatures called “snatchins”, and dealing with wayward ghosts. From the sounds of it the game is ever evolving, though, so you probably won’t really actually find Mister X. That’s okay with me, because in this case the hunt is worth more than the “ultimate reward”.
Along the left side of the screen you’ll have a constantly changing selection of quests that you can click on at any time to see what you’re supposed to be doing. In the middle of the screen is the main playing board, which looks like a highly augmented version of the Clue mansion. Select a room and read about it, then start looking for hidden objects in it. The lists for each room will either be text or shadow images, and sometimes the text will be scrambled. You might also have to use a flashlight because the room has gone dark, or if an evil spirit is in the room your search time will be greatly accelerated. Once you complete the room you’ll earn some experience and money, and you might even get some objects that you are looking for.
After you’ve advanced a couple of levels you’ll start seeing creatures called snatchins wandering around the board. Each type of snatchin requires a different object to banish it, and if you don’t have the required object you can pay money or use diamonds to get rid of them. Often you must dispose of one or more of a particular type of snatchin in order to solve a quest. Once you get far enough you’ll also see other strange characters roaming around the board, but I’ve only seen these on other players’ maps so far.
Speaking of which, as I mentioned in the opener this is the most social hidden object game I’ve ever seen. Through a completely self contained interface you can make friends with other players and visit their mansions to see the progress they’ve made. You can send them gifts, give them objects they need to complete quests, and even leave them tips in various rooms. You can also use them to help you earn bonus money, experience and other things on your own map. My biggest complaint about the whole friends interface is that you can only help out each friend so much within a given time frame, but you actually have to go to their map to know whether or not you can still help them. The initial interface that lets you select a friend to travel to should tell you right away whether it’s worth going there or not.
My other main gripe with the game is the way the IAP works. Just about everything worth doing in the game requires energy. When you run out of energy you have two choices – wait for it to recycle at the rate of 1 energy unit per 3 minutes, or buy items to supplement your energy using diamonds. You can earn diamonds (haven’t figured out how yet), but the reality is that if you want to make heavy use of the diamonds you’ll have to buy some with real money. The lowest package costs $3.99 whether you want to buy extra diamonds or money, and I can easily see inadvertently spending a lot of money if you’re not careful. I’ve enjoyed the game enough that I’d seriously consider spending $5 or maybe even $10 to unlock unlimited energy, but the system they’ve got now is quite unreasonable, especially since they claim this will be a never-ending game. It’s bordering on the equivalent of monthly MMO fees!
The visuals are top notch. I love the board game look to the playing field, complete with the pieces moving around (the snatchins even leave footprints). The character portraits you see when a quest pops up are also well done. Oddly enough the weakest part is the rooms themselves, mainly because the “hidden” objects often seem out of place once you finally find them in the scene. It certainly doesn’t look bad, though. The sound effects are actually pretty decent. The only thing that gets on my nerves is the countdown clock when you’re running out of time in a room. I wish the characters had voices, but that’s pretty much my wish for any game like this. From the little glimpses I catch of the music it sounds good, but sadly it’s very quiet and while you can turn it off there’s no way to adjust the volume.
When I started playing Mystery Manor again before I finished up the last couple paragraphs of this review, I was greeted with a pleasant surprise – all users had been given a 29,000 coin bonus. Then I was quickly slapped back to reality as my experience rolled me over to level 12 so I could finally unlock the next room I needed, only to find out that I then had to collect 10 bullets to proceed (or buy the diamonds to unlock them, of course). I’ll keep trudging on in my quest to prove this game can be played without paying a cent, but be prepared to make very slow progress if you take that stance. Otherwise, if you’re willing to shell out the cash, I think you’ll find this to be one of the most rewarding hidden object experiences you’ll have on your iPad. Everything I’ve touched on is just a fraction of what the game has to offer, and it’s theoretically all free.
|Title:||Mystery Manor: Hidden Adventure||Developer:||Game Insight, LLC|
|Reviewed Ver:||Min OS Req:||4.2|