Developer: Ilving (correct spelling) Studios (& Alawar)Loved It At First Sight!
BASED ON DEMO
It’s a rare treat to get the chance to rave about a standalone standard edition game, but this one is wonderful! It looks good, sounds good, and has a pleasant easy flow of gameplay.
Yes, in widescreen, the images are stretched (I prefer the black bars myself). Yes, there are plenty of HOPs, and the puzzles must have been very easy, because I can’t remember a single one! Yes, there is plenty of handholding (at least in the easiest of 2 game modes). And finally, yes, the story is simplistic. But it is all done so wonderfully well despite a tight budget, and it is just plain delightful relaxing fun.
Now, for me, one of the all-time best HOPA game ideas is the “world in the painting”, which I guess gives this game a big head start with me. And the story, original only in the sense that it adds a different quirk to a familiar theme, is the “Bluebeard” story. "Don’t go wandering the castle while I’m gone, dear, or you might find the tormented souls for my previous 7 wives!" But it is such fun when combined with the “1000 door” concept of many worlds within the castle.
And all that beautiful colour! The graphics are good quality and beautifully drawn, and show beautiful locations and characters. The cut scenes are wonderful! They put ‘creepy’ into a game that might otherwise have been too pretty to chill the bones.
There are no voiceovers, and to begin with, there is too much info given too quickly to catch it all, but that settles down after the intro. The music is varied and relaxing for the most part, and there are lovely vignette sounds in each world.
The gameplay is simple. You wander the empty castle finding strange locks and hidden doors, and stumble into HOPs where you can usually find what you need. There is a fair amount of travelling before you start to find the items needed to open all the rooms you uncover, so it is good that your map is a jump map.
It doesn’t, however, tell you anything else other than your place within the castle. If you are in one of the other worlds, you will need to choose the portrait that takes you there. Hint is directional but limited. It takes a while to recharge.
The HOPs are a standard non-interactive word list. Not at all difficult, the items are clearly shown, the graphics are bright and sharp, and it is not overly junked. You visit some of them twice, but with very long gaps between. There are some mistakes in translation, but not enough to cause a lot of frustration.
There don’t seem to be many puzzles, but now I think about it I can remember one. An easy "follow the music" type. The notebook is helpful for interpreting the purely drawn instructions you sometimes get.
I love this game. BECAUSE it is easy – on the brain and on the eye. I am having a hard time restraining myself to wait till next year to buy it.
AFTERTHOUGHT: No cute pets. And this game, too, is set around Xmas.I Recommend This Game!