The Dream Chronicles series comes close to poetry in motion a la video game style with its picturesque design, lyrical story and piquant game play. While the series keeps the rhythm going, it loses a little luster with Dream Chronicles: The Book of Air, the fourth game in the adventure game series. Faye’s daughter, Lyra takes the lead in this one where she finds herself alone with the only communication coming from her grandfather in the form of notes.

Tangle, Lyra’s grandfather, tells her to find the Clockmaster to get herself out of her tangled situation of being in another dimension. She travels in an air ship to complete her tasks based on her grandfather’s notes to bring her a step closer to finding the Clockmaster and getting him to help her.

As usual, you collect dream jewels with one new twist (about time). When you collect enough dream jewels, you earn a spell that will help you in your journey. The game contains five spells. Don’t fret if you miss a dream jewel like I did (I played a puzzle before picking up the jewels and couldn’t return to the scene of the puzzle after finishing it) because it won’t affect your earning the spells. There are plenty of dream jewels leftover. Once you obtain all the spells, finding dream jewels turns into a small side challenge with no bearing on the game play.

One puzzle befuddled me — the one near the end that involves a scale. I calibrated all of them and still nothing happened. I searched for solutions, but all said I did it right. Hmm… I had to skip it to move on. The improved hint system couldn’t save me. Now the game’s hint system points to dream jewels, so you can make sure you’ve picked up every nook and cranny. But you don’t get to choose the hint it gives you.

Dream Chronicles: The Book of Air has two game modes: Casual and Challenge. Casual lets you skip games after so much time has passed while Challenge won’t. The puzzles, of course, are a little harder in Challenge mode.

The story had little going on beyond find Clockmaster and find the keys. I almost didn’t mind that I didn’t catch some of the cut scenes because there was little mystery to reel you in. The puzzles and interactive parts of the game didn’t bring in anything new like the previous Dream Chronicles games had. I understand adventure games like this one with rich details and interactive puzzles take more time to develop, but this one was notably shorter than the others. Despite the disappointment, I still enjoyed some of the point-and-click puzzles and will check out the next one when it comes — this is the first of a new trilogy — I just hope we see a step forward and not a step back.

If you haven’t played the others, check them first: Dream Chronicles, Dream Chronicles 2: The Eternal Maze and Dream Chronicles: The Chosen Child.

Free DownloadDownload and try Dream Chronicles: The Book of Air.

FTC disclosure: Reviewer received copy from affiliate, which had no influence on the review.

  Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2010 Meryl Evans

Share

Anyone looking tMystery Case Files: Dire Groveo finish the year off with a bang and lots of fun should head straight for Mystery Case Files: Dire Grove. This point-and-click game tells the story of four friends who are  graduate students filming their adventures only to run into trouble. The friends have disappeared and you find their movies dispersed throughout the captivating game.

In England, you run into a snowstorm where you come across an abandoned car with a video camera just outside of Dire Grove. Naturally, you can’t help but become curious and investigate the four friends’ claim that the legend of Dire Grove is real. While you won’t see a big leap between this one and Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst, it takes on a whole new story that comes together nicely with a satisfying ending. I wasn’t too happy with the ending Mystery Case Files: Ravenhearst. Return to Ravenhearst is good, but it’s not a stand-alone story like Dire Grove.

Some scenes require you to find items that appear in the list — like in hidden object games, but then you’ll be rewarded with something you need for your travels. One of the strengths of the series is that you can go any place you wish. The only time “order” matters is when you need to find something before you can move forward. You’ll see sparkles appear in scenes, which indicate you need to explore the area.

Mystery Case Files: Dire GroveThe setting goes far and wide, although it won’t look that way in the beginning. Then you discover openings to bigger areas as you explore and check everything possible. For the longest time, I made no progress because I had overlooked a barely noticeable door in one of the rooms. You may get stuck at times when you have everything and yet, can’t progress. Do not give up. Keep looking around and touching everything or ask for a hint. Sometimes you just miss a step. Hints are almost always available, but you’ll need to give the hint meter a few moments to refill.

I’m not a fan of horror films, so I can promise you that those who feel the same won’t have a problem with this one. The films only make up a part of the action and I’m grateful they came with closed-captions. When I first heard about the game and its use of video, I freaked because my experience has been that most things don’t come subtitled.

A couple of short phrases that didn’t have captions, but you can find out what was said with a little research. These little quotes aren’t detrimental to the story. Do pay attention to the videos because they give you clues that can help as does your casebook, which captures your notes of what you’ve seen. The film also has some jerky action, not too agreeable for this gal who gets dizzy easily.

Mystery Case Files: Dire GroveConsidering the Mystery Case Files: Dire Grove takes place in England, the actors also have a British accent adding to its authenticity. The whole production reels you in making you feel a part of the game. A Collector’s Edition is available, which offers bonus game play, challenge and achievement system, tracking down 50+ objects that change shape and a strategy guide.

Mystery Case Files: Dire Grove is a superb game that will entertain you for a full day, a wonderful way to spend a winter day huddled around the computer and staying warm even though the most of the scenes are frozen.

Free Download

Share

Valerie Porter and the Scarlet ScandalIn Valerie Porter and the Scarlet Scandal (I keep typing “Reporter”), you play a new journalist in the 1920s who deals with prejudiced males who think women should not be in certain jobs and a scandal involving politicians and starlets. This hidden object adventure game comes with a few twists and a fascinating story that’s sure to win over experienced and new hidden object adventure gamers.

Valerie starts her job with the local newspaper. Even though a female is a star reporter there, she paid her dues, and she’s no ally of Valerie’s. Valerie ends up in plenty of hot water as she pokes her nose where it doesn’t belong. She digs deep into the case involving a famous starlet, the mayor, the chief of police, a boxer and a director.

In the search for the truth, Valerie schleps around town visiting police station, mayor’s office, the gin joint, her apartment and other spots. She’ll study the scenes for clues that appear in the list of things to find. A lot of them, however, have nothing to do with the story. The game also tries to make the object finding harder by describing items instead of giving you their names, such as “hand warmer” for gloves and “cuts things” for scissors. If an item’s name or description perplexes you, click it to see its silhouette.

Valerie Porter and the Scarlet ScandalAnother twist is finding multiple items of the same type such as newspapers, umbrellas and so on. Press and hold the mouse button and touch each for bonus points. You can do this when Valerie rides the train to travel to another location or in a scene asking you to find X number of items.

You’ll also search for two batteries in every scene to receive additional hints as well as 100 bells. When using up a hint, you still have to wait for the light bulb to fill back up before you can use another. If you don’t find all 100 bells by the end of the game, you’re out of luck unless you have the patience of Job and can replay the entire thing.

Valerie Porter and the Scarlet Scandal lets you feel like a reporter as Valerie types up stories with your help. The typewriter enters a few words, and then you select the word or phrase — from a list — that should come next in the story. Once you finish the story, you set the headline filling in the blank slots with the metal plates like they did in the old days. So pay attention to the story or else you’ll end up guessing the words until you get them right. What a clever way to ensure you follow the story.

When you have interactive conversations with the suspects and city officials, sometimes you’ll need to figure out the next line for Valerie to say. Rather than guessing, you have a puzzle where you trace the “correct” answer to the right statement by following the curvy lines. It’s a nice way to involve the player in the dialogue. You also do word searches based on conversations you’ve had and other mini-games. Most of the mini-games do repeat, but at least it’s not to the point where it becomes tedious or monotonous.

You revisit scenes and see the same objects when you revisit, but you rarely (if ever) have to find the same objects you’ve found before.

Valerie Porter and the Scarlet ScandalYou’ll develop photographs by lining up two overlapping photos. This was difficult to figure out at first as the game didn’t accept the work — it looked clear. But after a few tries, it came together.

The scenes reflect the culture and design of the 1920s with gorgeous graphics with a touch of art deco. Valerie Porter and the Scarlet Scandal is an excellent production that’s a pleasure to play. While not without a few annoyances, Valerie Porter and the Scarlet Scandal keeps you captivated through all aspects of the game — something few games manage to do.

Download and try the game.

Free Download

FTC Discalimer: Copy received from publisher.

Share

PC Game Review: Avenue Flo

Avenue Flo screen shotDiner Dash‘s Flo steps into her first adventure as she helps Wedding Dash‘s Quinn prepare for a wedding or Mr. Big’s daughter to Tony, the pizza maker. Everything goes wrong. Avenue Flo starts with many mishaps. The bride’s white dog runs away looking like a lobster after a run in with red dye. The rings disappear. The cake spoils. The dress falls apart. Quinn calls her friend for help.

Those who have played many games from Playfirst will recognize characters throughout the adventure. No worries if you’ve never played a drop of these. It’s like hearing an inside joke when you come across the characters.

The adventure retains the friendly and eye-catching cartoon styles in the Dash games. Story updates appear in cut scenes that you can speed up. The story splits into four parts based on the locales. Flo will move around each locale to complete the tasks that Quinn has asked her to do as well as the favors she does for folks in order to get something Flo needs.

Avenue Flo Mini-GameAvenue Flo doesn’t occur in the past or take place in Greece or some other popular time. Its theme makes it different from the other adventure games out there. Flo talks to the characters in every store and out ‘n about the neighborhood to find out what’s going on and to receive clues. She also needs to collect butterflies for the wedding and bottles for recycling to get subway tokens as three places require the subway.

At first, the game doesn’t look like a long one. Then as you move along, you discover it’ll keep you busy for a good while. Flo keeps notes so she can stay on top of all the things she needs to do or find to complete her tasks. A map also comes in handy for every location; although every location has a T-shape for easy navigation. One street goes from one end to the other, and in the middle there’s another street that takes you in a different direction.

My six-year-old loves this game and keeps pushing me to play the game when I had other work to do. He helps me with some of the mini-games that blend in with the game’s story. For example, the beads from wedding dress fall off and Flo needs to find them all. (See the second image from the mini-game.)  She also offers to sew them back on with a fancy stitching gadget. The sewing part becomes a mini-game in which you need to put the beads on in a pattern. Obviously, this makes a great game for the family.

In another mini-game, Flo meets a hen chorale. To get eggs from them for the wedding cake, she plays a Simon-style mini-game. This involves watching the hens sing and repeat their song. While I dislike Simon “do what I do” games, it works well in this situation. When you complete the adventure, you can play any of the mini-games, which extends the game’s replay value.

Avenue Flo Screen ShotWhile I may be deaf, I’ve come across annoying sounding voice acting that compelled me to turn off the sound. Not in this one. It sounds like you expect a cartoon to sound: pleasant and friendly. Avenue Flo contains all the ingredients of a good adventure game: cool graphics, good story, humor and plenty of action.

Download and try the game.

Free Download

Share

princess-isabella-a-witchs-curse_featurePrincess Isabella: A Witch’s Curse starts with a happy beginning in which Isabella prepares to marry her prince (marrying a servant just doesn’t have the same thrill, I suppose). She goes out horseback riding when her castle goes all “Beauty and the Beast” falling under a witch’s curse (bet you didn’t see that coming). Instead of turning people into teacups, candlesticks and silverware, the staff and royalty turn into mirrors.

You play Isabella. Tinkerbell — at least her doppelganger — has your back as she flits and flees around helping you break things, burn things, blow things and all that jazz. She doesn’t have the ability to do anything when you first meet her. Instead, she lets you know what you need to do or what’s happening in the room. As you make way around the darkened castle, you’ll find potions to give her abilities.

Your job is to undo the curse in every room of the castle by finding items, using them with other objects and completing puzzles. Some items you’ll use in the same room as you found it, or in another room. At times, you’ll enter a room or object in which you need to do a traditional seek and find. You’ll find and pick up the broken mirror pieces.

Princess Isabella: A Witch's CurseThe rooms also have broken mirror pieces for your collecting. When you have all the pieces for a mirror, you put it back together jigsaw puzzle-style to release the staff member or royalty. After freeing them, they give you clues for your journey.

The castle has many rooms that you can lose track of where all the rooms are located. It’s dizzying when a game has you walking in circles. However, you won’t have that stress getting in your way as you can access a map anytime that lets you jump from place to place.

Many adventure hidden object games lean heavily on the latter. Not this one. You never know what to expect in Princess Isabella: A Witch’s Curse other than fix all of the mirrors. So you won’t zone out while playing.

I had trouble loading the game a few times. Once I realized this, I left it open until I finished the game. This happened prior to buying the full version, so you should know if it’s a problem on your computer or not.

Princess Isabella: A Witch's CurseThe story flows nicely with its bite-sized snippets spread throughout the game to avoid bogging you down with too much text. Although, some of the text and annoying audio had me close to putting a curse on the game. After you chase out the bad spirits from the room, the fairy will say something and then “Yay!” It’s worse than corny to my cochlear implant.

Princess Isabella: A Witch’s Curse may not sound like an original story, but the whole thing together provides a delectable adventure lasting just the right amount of time.

Download the game from Big Fish Games.

    Free Download

    Share

    Drawn: The Painted TowerDrawn: The Painted Tower tells the story of Iris, who has the ability to restore the light in the midst of darkness. She’s imprisoned high up in a tower with darkness making its way there. Iris draws pictures to help you unlock each floor of the tower to make your way to the top where she waits. This point and click adventure game contains breathtaking scenes and mesmerizing music.

    You interact with the game picking up objects, using them together and on the scene and solving many mini-games where no two are alike. Franklin’s portrait provides you your latest tasks to advance in the game. He also gives hints when you need it. When you use one, his picture goes gray and must refill before you can use it again. You can use hints for help, but the hints aren’t always enough.

    Drawn: The Painted TowerSome of the mini-games make no sense even as you try to move things around. After so much time passes, you can skip then mini-game when it drives you up the wall. Before skipping them, be warned! You can’t revisit them later unless you play the whole game again and not everyone has patience to do that. Drawn could’ve used a second mode that allows you to replay any of the mini-games.

    The stunning and captivating scenes and cutscenes tell the not too exciting story with out using too many words, something some games overdo. The simple story doesn’t play a major role in the game other than you’re trying to rescue Iris with help from her drawings that come to life. That’s enough to make sense of the game play and enjoy it without feeling bogged down by too much text or story. However, some may become frustrated with the fact the game won’t let you skip or back up in any of the story — not even during the credits unless you press ESC.

    Drawn: The Painted TowerDrawn: The Painted Tower is a massive download, probably due to its rich and detailed graphics. The larger download file is not a big deal, but it slows the game’s performance. The game lasted longer than expected considering every puzzle and every scene pays a lot of attention to detail. It runs about four to five hours.

    Return to Ravenhearst fans will likely compare the two games. Nonetheless, both entertain and Drawn: The Painted Tower offers fans a new high quality game to play as they await another Ravenhearst release.

    Free Download

    Share

    PopCap GamesPopcap Games brings us another edition of literary and epic battles starring Lex, the adorable bookworm. Following the success of Bookworm Adventures, Volume 2 adds new characters and power ups. The game play remains the same as you work to create as long words as possible. The longer the word, the more power you’ll have in your next move in battling the enemy.

    Those familiar with the original game will find the game hasn’t changed much. You get a grid of letters. Select the letters to make a word. Some letters have a different color to indicate bonus points or power ups that give your hits extra punch.

    You begin each round (based on locale) of battle by battling the little people. At the end of the round, you battle the big boss. They’re the hardest to defeat.

    Bookworm Adventures Volume 2What’s new in Volume 2: characters, power ups, story and companions. You’ll get to pick one companion to go with you on your adventures. Each companion has a strength, so you’ll have to figure out what you need. Every round begins with a heads up on what you’ll face so you can pick two power ups and one companion to travel with you.

    You have the occasional challenge of trying to create words that fall in a category such as metals (“nickel” and “gold”) or words with double letters (“moon” and “tattle”).

    Prepare to laugh even when you’re waiting for a new level to load. You know how web sites show a loading bar or animation (pre-loader)? The game has comments instead that flash on the screen. “Spelling architekt,” “Playing Peggle” and other funny notes. Of course, Lex and the enemies exchange repartees.

    I love the game’s use of Mother Goose and nursery rhymes characters such as the cat and fiddle and Miss Muffet. You’ll also see Alice in Wonderland and other literary characters like Odysseus and Moby Dick. I wish it had more of these types of characters and less of the Chinese, sci-fi and role-playing game (RPG) style characters since we had more of these in the original game. But that is probably a personal preference as I do love literary characters. Plus, there may be copyright laws involved.

    Bookworm Adventures Volume 2The game lasts a long time and has great replay value. You unlock a second mode that’s timed — which freaks me out and puts me on edge. Also, during the adventure, the mini-games return so you can earn bonus power ups and take a break from battling.

    One feature I wish the game had: the ability to use the keyboard to create the letters. I’ve played loads of word games and they allow you to use the mouse or keyboard. Keyboard is faster and more comfortable especially in timed mode.

    Although Bookworm Adventures Volume 2 doesn’t have many enhancements and the story drags, it’s a joy to play especially for literary and word lovers and Lex fans. It brings a new experience so you don’t feel like you’re watching a rerun of the original game.

    Free Download

    Share

    DinerTown Detective AgencyBernie the Bookworm loves to solve a mystery, but he thinks there’s nothing to detect in DinerTown. Flo comes along and proves him wrong. They may not have serious crimes like murder and high-priced robberies, but they have plenty of quirky things happening in this hidden object game (HOG) with a dash of puzzles. Bernie starts DinerTown Detective Agency and Diner Dash‘s Flo tags along to get out of the kitchen for a bit.

    While the hidden object piece doesn’t introduce anything new, the game takes a different approach by treating each level as a single case. Bernie investigates a couple of scenes, collects clues and puts together puzzles. Upon completing a review of the scenes, Bernie completes several puzzles to eliminate suspects and then determine the culprit.

    Bernie has 25 cases to solve spread throughout 20 DinerTown locations from the gym to the — where else? — diner. Fans of other PlayFirst games will recognize many of the characters, which adds to the charm. Not knowing the characters won’t affect the experience.

    DinerTown Detective AgencyA new DinerTown Detective Agency case begins at the scene of the crime and nearby locations. For example, if the crime takes place in an office, Bernie looks around the break room and in an employee’s cubicle. Bernie looks around the store and its storeroom when the crime occurs in a store for items that appear on the list of things to find or a picture of an object where you must find all of its parts to to put together. Some items enter your inventory for use in the scene.

    Every case also has an interactive feature such as dusting for fingerprints, using a magnifying glass to find tiny objects or squeezing an eyedropper to find evidence. There is no rhyme or reason for where you need to click — it’s purely a guessing game. It’s fun at first, but quickly turns old.

    After completing the scene investigation, Bernie eliminates suspects in mini-games such as matching fingerprints or putting cards onto a grid where the columns and rows have a common theme. When down to three suspects, Bernie uses logic to identify the culprit. Each suspect has a Yes / No column and you check them off based on interviewing witnesses. Whichever suspect meets all three criteria identified earlier is the culprit. Case solved! Celebrate. Next case.

    DinerTown Detective AgencyThe familiar graphics live up to what you’ve come to expect from PlayFirst games like Wedding Dash, Diner Dash, Fitness Dash and many more. While a fun and cute game, it soon feels repetitive. The humor, funny cases and overall production will rein in Flo fans who like a good HOG or willing to try it with DinerTown Detective Agency.

    Download of DinerTown Detective Agency free.

      Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2010 Meryl Evans

    Share

    Samantha Swift fresh from her Roses of Athena Adventure readies herself for another that follows Midas’ golden touch. In Samantha Swift and the Golden Touch, a client hires Samantha to find Alexander the Great’s scroll, which lists all of the items that King Midas turned to gold. She can keep whatever else she finds on the quest, and of course, she puts everything in a museum to share with the world. Samantha naturally runs into trouble as someone wants to use Midas’ secret to turn everything to gold.

    In this long lasting hidden object game, players have plenty to do to prevent boredom in searching the hand-drawn scenes for objects. Mini-games and puzzles are plentiful with no repetition. Many of the items that Samantha must find end up in her inventory for use later on. Instead of finding stop signs and other unrelated objects, Samantha picks up things that will go in the museum or further her quest.

    The mini-games add a touch of the game’s theme and style. In its version of mah jongg, it has symbols that fell on top of each other. You match pairs that aren’t blocked and the symbols have a role after you solve the mini-game. A match three mini-game also appears, and again, it matches the story and current mystery. It’s rare for a player to enjoy all of the mini-games, but Samantha Swift and the Golden Touch does a beautiful job of fitting the games with the story without any repetition.

    The puzzles have you interacting with objects from your inventory and the scene. While fun, these turn into a guessing game. Often, you can’t tell what you need to do in the scene. All you need to do is move your cursor around the scene until you see two blue gears turning. Once you do, you can figure out the rest. Sometimes it takes time to pinpoint where you need to go.

    The visuals remain as sharp and charming with a nice complement from the audio. Story updates come in bite-sizes and short cutscenes to avoid overwhelming players with too much info. The story flows and intrigues from beginning to end.

    The very young and those new to hidden object games delight in playing Samantha Swift and the Golden Touch. It provides endless amounts of hints and help. Every scene contains lightning bolts, which gives you hints anytime you need it. It takes little time to pile up on them.

    Furthermore, a scanner shows you the outline of any object you need to find AND turn from white to orange to red to let you know how close you are to the item. Experienced players can challenge themselves not to use any hints or help. However, some items don’t look like what you expect. You could let the scanner show you what the item looks like and then click another item to turn off the scanner so you can find the item on your own. If you click too many times without hitting anything, the scanner punishes you by turning itself off for a few minutes.

    Though hints are plentiful and guessing games needed, Samantha Swift and the Golden Touch is a game worth touching.

    Download the game from Big Fish Games.

    Share

    Dream Chronicles: The Chosen ChildGorgeous art nouveau style adventure game, Dream Chronicles, now has a third game in the series. Dream Chronicles: The Chosen Child picks up where Dream Chronicles 2: The Eternal Maze left off. Only Faye has lost her memory and thinks her name is Brenna. Dreams again take center stage as she keeps dreaming about a man and child. The journey, again, is a pleasurable one that comes to a sudden ending that feels incomplete.

    Faye stumbles her way around trying to put everything together. Lilith, the Fairy Queen of Dreams, returns and this time, she has Faye’s daughter. Poor Faye, she keeps having to search and rescue someone she loves. This world has various fairies and several work to stop Faye from progressing in her search. The fairies shake up scenes, remove steps and add other roadblocks.

    Dream Chronicles: The Chosen ChildIn this one, the dream pieces and dream jewels have a real purpose. Dream pieces have appeared in all three games — they’re crystal-like gems that you pick up in the scenes to add to your dream journal. Dream jewels aren’t complete until you find their missing pieces. The pieces go into the jewels to complete them. They didn’t have a purpose until this one other than challenging you to find all of them. The dream pieces help you unlock the doors in the Nexus room. The room contains doors and gears so you can move the doors left or right until you find the one you wish to enter. These gateways make it fun to travel to wherever you need to go.

    The series continues to impress with its careful attention to detail in its elegant scenes and smooth effects. The music is lovely that you never feel the need to turn it off. The Chosen Child, like its predecessors, holds many puzzles for solving. Only two activities annoy the heck out of me. One is the Simon-style game where you have to play the music exactly like the game plays it. The other is the 3D maze near the end of the game. My eyes and head start feeling lousy as I work my way around the maze — and it requires quite a few visits and long walks to arrive at your destinations.

    When I finally finish the maze, the rest of the game doesn’t do much to make up for that long walk as the very abrupt (and I don’t use “very” often) ending comes shortly after. Nonetheless, the trip is worthwhile although too short. It only takes me an afternoon to play the entire game without getting hints from the man in the crystal ball. Well, I understand the game contains so many details and original puzzles, I think it could stand to entertain us a little longer.

    I replay the game to see how well the crystal ball helps and it doesn’t. The objects you need do move to new places when you replay the game. I have trouble finding a key and Mr. Crystal Ball keeps telling me I need to sew something. So it might frustrate those who need help finding an object.

    After completing the game, my jaw drops as my score doesn’t touch the Global Score list. I thought I did a good job finding the dream pieces and nuggets. Plus, I never used the crystal ball. So competitive players might feel motivated to play again in hopes of scoring better. But me — I have to move on to another game.

    The free download only lasts 30 minutes rather than the typical 60, which is understandable consider The Chosen Child is short.

    Download and play Dream Chronicles: The Chosen Child.

      Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2010 Meryl Evans

    Share