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Haunted Hotel: Death Sentence HD in Review: Playing It Was Anything But

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My latest outing in the world of adventure / hidden object games comes in the form of Haunted Hotel: Death Sentence HD from Big Fish Games.  My usual stomping ground for this style of game on the iOS platform is G5 Games, but it’s nice to see that when I do drift over to the “other side” that the competition seems to keep up rather nicely.  I played the free version with a one time IAP to unlock the complete game as well as some extras (this is a collector’s edition).  It didn’t take long before I was eager to take the plunge and buy the game.  As a matter of fact, this is one of the few games I’ve played recently that I’ve managed to stick with and complete in a relatively short time from when I first started playing it.  I guess you could say I was convicted of curiosity and sentenced to find the outcome.  Or you could just say I really enjoyed the game.

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There’s no doubt the story’s a bit cliché, at least in the beginning.  You’re summed to a mysterious building by a note claiming that your friend has died and the location, in this case a hotel, is to blame.  And, if you’re a fan of any police or lawyer procedurals then a lot more of the plot will seem familiar as well.  Now I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy the story, because it was fun learning how each character played a part in the proceedings.  And, while some might say they were still predictable there were a few twists and turns in the story, but by and large you’ve probably seen it all on TV in one form or another.  Still, it kept my attention for the whole game, and that’s all that matters to me.

Game play is pretty typical for this genre of game.  In fact, one of these days I think I’m just going to write a quick “here’s how you play a hidden object / adventure game” piece and link to it at the beginning of each of these reviews.  In the mean time, in case you don’t know, everything’s pretty much a matter of tapping or dragging.  Tap an object to pick it up and then drag it from your inventory to use it somewhere on the screen.  Sometimes an object will have a plus by it and if you tap on it in your inventory you’ll get a larger view of the item.  You will then be able to manipulate it by taking stuff away from it or adding stuff to it to get what you really need.  This is a technique that really enhances game play in my opinion, and I’m surprised that more games don’t take advantage of it.

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To walk from scene to scene you tap on the area of the screen that looks like it connects you to another area, such as a door or window.  If you have the ability to go back you tap the lower part of the screen directly above the inventory bar… or at least that’s the theory.  There were times this didn’t work so well for me, and at other times – particularly when I was in a hidden object scene – I’d find myself going back when I didn’t want to.  One excellent feature of this game is the map, which allows you to move to any scene you’ve already visited that isn’t somehow blocked simply by tapping on the desired room.  Occasionally it’s a bit hard to tap just the right spot in certain rooms, but if you get used to using this feature you’ll save yourself a lot of time.  Plus, the map has the added benefit of marking where you need to go next to complete your task, or at least that’s the case in casual mode.

Some of the hidden object scenes are your typical “here’s a list, find everything”.  What I appreciated about these scenes is that I’m pretty sure each one had at least one instance where you had to manipulate multiple items in order to get the item you were truly after. There were a couple of times when picking up the intermediate items was a bit problematic, but I love the concept and think every hidden object game should employ it.  This game went further, however, in that some scenes had the objects in groups of three, and each time you found a group it revealed an item that could be used elsewhere in the scene.  Finally, there were some scenes where there were several pairs of like items, and you had to move things out of the way to find these items and match the pairs.  It was basically like a mini memory match game.

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As for the mini-games, there was a decent variety throughout the game, including a couple that I either hadn’t seen before or were presented differently than what I’m used to.  Unfortunately, there were a couple of times where I had problems controlling the mini-games, one of which bothered me because it was actually one I hadn’t seen before.  I ended up skipping that and one other mini-game, which I really do in these adventures, and there was even one instance towards the end where the mini-game was abruptly solved and I was sure I hadn’t hit the skip button.  Overall I would have been just fine without the mini-games in this particular adventure.

Being a collector’s edition, the developers did throw a few extras into the mix.  Once you complete the main game there is a bonus adventure, which while entertaining was rather short and almost felt rushed, kind of like they just tacked in on because they had to since it was a collector’s edition.  There was also a wallpaper section, an area with concept art and a place to listen to some of the songs from the game.  My favorite parts of the Extras were the Character Figures and Esrael’s Antiques sections.  The first contains statues of all the characters in the game, and when you click on them it gives you a brief description of who they are.  The second is filled with special items that you can collect during the game if you happen to spot them.  When you tap on them in the extras area it will explain what they are actually about.  Overall the Extras section is a nice overview of various aspects of the game and worth exploring at least once.

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One thing I’ve come to expect from Big Fish hidden object games is a high level of quality in the visual department, and Death Sentence doesn’t disappoint.  The backgrounds are top notch, with plenty of details and objects that are easily identifiable.  The cut scenes are fairly decent as well, though like many of these games the characters in the cut scenes often movie a bit odd, somewhat reminiscent of animation from the 60’s or early 70’s.  Still, when you see static images of the characters they look great.  The sound effects really help the game come to life, and the developers did a nice job casting the voices for the characters.  I particularly like the guy that does Esrael.  The music is well written, and while there’s nothing overly scary about the game, there are times when the music can be haunting, and that does just as good a job of setting the mood.

Haunted Hotel: Death Sentence HD is another fine addition to the growing stable of hidden object adventures available on the App Store from Big Fish Games.  It occasionally suffers from the same things that plague most other hidden object games, but it also excels in all the things it should.  It might not be the perfect adventure game, but it’s one of the best I’ve played in a while.

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App Summary
Title: Haunted Hotel: Death Sentence HD – A Supernatural Hidden Objects GameDeveloper: Big Fish Games, Inc
Reviewed Ver:1.0.0Min OS Req: iOS 6.0
Price:FreeApp Size:1331.26MB
  • Interesting, if bit cliche, story
  • Solid game play with nice tweaks to standard mechanics
  • Decent collection of extras
  • Great visuals
  • Good voice casting
  • Well written, sometimes haunting music
  • Hard to manipulate objects in some hidden object scenes
  • Certain mini-games needed tweaking
  • Bonus chapter felt “tacked on”

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