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The Enchanted Books in Review – Wins Most, Loses Some

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I love adventure games, and while I have nothing against the “hidden object movement” it’s nice to play a more traditional adventure every once in a while.  The Enchanted Books certainly fits that bill for the most part, though due to its Myst-like nature there are no NPCs to interact with.  Otherwise it’s just what you’d expect from a solid adventure game – plenty of rooms to explore, lots of inventory based puzzles to solve and the occasional mini-game just to make sure that you don’t always need to find a key to unlock everything in the game.  Unfortunately there were a couple of issues with the general flow of the game, but thankfully they didn’t stop me from seeing it through to the end.  Overall this was another solid adventure from a developer with a decent catalog to their name.

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I won’t dwell on plot details, mainly because it’s honestly not all that interesting or well developed.  Suffice it to say there’s a letter from a relative, a trip to a deserted house, and the adventure goes on from there.  In the vein of Myst you’ll discover three books that you use to travel to different realms.  You’ll need to explore each realm carefully, collecting objects and clues in order to solve an abundance of puzzles.  Whatever gripes you might have about the game, you certainly can’t argue that there isn’t enough to do.  Most of the object puzzles are pretty straightforward, though once in a while it’s not entirely obvious what you need to do.  On the plus side, you do have a built in hint guide which is kind enough to just tell you what room you need to go to, rather than what you need to actually do.  There are also quite a few mini-games, and while some of them could get a bit frustrating none of them were overly difficult.  It’s a good thing, because I’m not sure there was any way to skip them.

In addition to the hints you are provided with a map that shows any location you’ve already explored, along with paths leading into nothingness to indicate rooms you haven’t found yet.  The rooms are even numbered to go along with the hint guide, which might tell you something like “you have an item that can be used in room 23”.  And when you find certain visual clues your character will automatically take a snapshot to reference later.  With all of this aid you’d think you would be all set, right?

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The thing is, given the map and hint guide, the game was surprisingly annoying to navigate.  Not only were the puzzles spread out across all three realms, but towards the end it was anyone’s guess which realm you’d have to visit to find the solution to a particular puzzle.  Of course this shouldn’t be an issue, because worst case scenario you just consult the hint guide to figure out which room to go to next.  Unfortunately I felt like I had to consult the guide way too often, because often by the time you’d find the solution to a puzzle it was easy to forget where the puzzle was in the first place.  Add to that the fact that you couldn’t actually tap on the map to get to a location, the map was cumbersome to scroll through, and the room numbering didn’t always make sense, and all of these “helps” could end up being irritating at times.

As for the whole snapshot gimmick, it’s still more convenient than having to remember all the details on your own or worse yet having to pull out a pencil and paper and make some sketches.  However, in order to use the camera you have to pull up your inventory, select the camera, find the photo you need if there is more than one, and then close the camera to actually interact with the scene.  It would be nice if there were some way to keep the photo you need as an overlay to the scene where you need it.

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Even the ending felt a bit weak, with just enough to set the game up for a sequel rather than to make you feel accomplished for what you had done.  This is why I’ve always felt like adventure games that feature NPCs to talk to have stronger story elements to them.  Still, The Enchanted Books offered enough in pure content to make up for most of that.  Sure it could have been easier to navigate and provided me with a bit more substance in terms of story, but what it did offer was a plethora of puzzles and mini-games that didn’t get in the way of the rest of the game.  If that’s the comprise I need to make in order to not have a game littered with hidden object scenes, I’ll take it for now.  Not every adventure game can be a Syberia or a King’s Quest.  And please don’t think I abhor hidden object games, because that’s not the case at all.  It’s just that growing up in the 80’s I have a real soft spot for the likes of Sierra Online, LucasArts and various other developers that made the adventure game genre worth exploring in the first place.

Visually the game is pretty appealing.  The backdrops are well drawn and nicely detailed, and while occasionally an item blends into the surroundings too well it’s usually pretty easy to tell what’s going on everywhere.  A few scenes could have used some animation to make things a bit more lively, but that’s just a minor quibble.  The sound effects are effective and vary enough as to not get boring, and the music is enjoyable and easy to listen to.  Overall I’d say that The Enchanted Books holds its own with some of the more established adventure game factories when it comes to game aesthetics.

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The Enchanted Books has a lot to offer.  It’s clear the developer is a fan of traditional adventure games and also understands the need to adapt them to modern game play styles.  Even this small segment of the world that’s been exposed has plenty to explore and enough to challenge your mind.  The interface provides a lot of nifty features, though some refinement in implementation is definitely needed.  The world looks and sounds good, and hopefully in future installments will include some actual inhabitants to talk to.  The Enchanted Books is not perfect, but it’s a welcome start to a hopefully grand tale.

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App Summary
Title: The Enchanted BooksDeveloper: Lone Wolf Games, LLC
Reviewed Ver:1.3Min OS Req: iOS 6.0
Price:$2.99App Size:186.13MB
  • Plenty to do without resorting to hidden object scenes
  • Some nice UI elements
  • Well drawn visuals
  • Good sound and music
  • Underdeveloped story
  • Map and camera are cumbersome to use
  • Puzzles and solutions often too spread out

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