Authorguy's Blog

Hidden objects

Posted on: November 13, 2011


I don’t know if any of you like to play them, but I have become fond of a type of computer game called a Hidden Object Puzzle game. These are supposed to be stories, in which the player is a character who has to solve the puzzles to get clues to resolve the story’s central adventure/mystery. The basic puzzle is a single screen which contains a number of objects that are obscured by lots of other objects. There is a list of objects to be found. Once the player finds the objects one of them will be added to his collection, since it will turn out to be necessary to solve some other puzzle or otherwise enable the story to progress.

I like these games for two reasons. First is the simple visual pleasure of the games themselves, especially when it comes to finding the hidden objects. Some of the games, such as Death at Fairing Point, have scenes that are simply beautiful, such as the English Garden. The puzzles are often quite cunning, and finding the hidden objects a good challenge. My daughter and I often collaborate on these.

The other reason I like them is that they are stories. These games consist of scenes, which contain the puzzles, and which form the supposed story. The player follows the story logic, which enables him to find the puzzles and the clues to solve them.

Or at least they should. The ones that I like most are like that, but there are many that are not and those I don’t like so much. Going by the comments lots of other people don’t either. In many of these games there is no logical connection between one scene and another, no story logic to follow.  The player can neither deduce nor reasonably guess where the clue he needs is, but instead has to check each screen, moving the mouse until something pops up and reveals itself. Very tedious.

It doesn’t help that I started with one of the hardest ones. I’m a big Phantom of the Opera fan, both the story and the ALW stage version (not the movie travesty, thank you). So when I discovered a HOP with a PotO theme I snapped it right up. Unfortunately, the game would only make sense to someone who knew the story, but the story logic was lacking. There were multiple discrete levels, but the player had to continually go back and forth with his clues to find the next clue. Maybe some people remember that an item found on level 4 fits into a picture seen on level 1 but I’m not one of them. Even worse, the game ends on level 4 with no way to get to level 5 and save the girl! I’m going to have to play it again and see if it makes more sense now that I know how these games work. Some of the others are almost as bad, fewer level, but with necessary parts in places where no one would ever expect them to look.

On the other end of the spectrum are the Redemption Cemetery games. These have multiple levels too, but each level has its own story, and the story logic is much tighter. Each story involves a ghost, imploring the player to save a child in danger or perform some other heroic act so that it can find peace. Death at Fairing Point has a different style to it, more visually attractive, but here too the story involves solving a mystery to allow two cursed souls to move on. HEAs all around!

What sort of games do you like to play? With stories or without?

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