Twisted Lands: Shadow Town (Adventure/IHOG)
I hesitate to actually add "IHOG" to the description of this game. The game is scattered with hidden object scenes, but I think it would be more accurate to call this an adventure game, as the further you progress, the fewer hidden object scenes you will see.
Before I start, let me just say that I think this is a fantastic game, a must-buy.
Options include separate music and sound, full-screen, custom cursor and easy mode (uncheck for no sparkles).
The opening sequence is skippable, and you can speed it up by clicking through it, always a nice option to have.
I did not like the game when it first started. If I hadn't known that there was more to the game (evident by the spooky menu screen and the beautiful task bar), I'd have stopped playing within the first five minutes. I had an instant dislike for both of the main characters. I don't generally care for the style they used for the characters, but that's not the problem - it has something to do with their attitudes, which rubbed me the wrong way.
The beginning of the game is all background information which is in tutorial mode. You CAN, however, skip the tutorial if you wish. The hidden object scene hints at the quality of the game, but it's not immediately evident that this is going to be something special.
You're going through the steps, then abruptly everything changes... and I DO mean abruptly! It's quite confusing, actually, one minute you're doing something, and the next you're thinking, "What the hell? I must've missed something!"
I think this abruptness was intentional, to give you an idea of how the main character is feeling. I understand, but I'd have liked the transition to be a bit smoother.
Now the game starts getting interesting. A couple more HOG scenes, a bit of moving around, and then the whole feeling of the game changes. It is no longer a game, it is an immersive adventure, from the wonderfully dramatic music to the spooky graphics, it is evident that this is not your average game.
Little touches throughout the game add up to make this a game of high production values. During hidden object scenes, there are animated items, some of which you may have to collect (unusual in my experience). You will repeat hidden object scenes multiple times, but you have a different list of items to collect each time. There is movement throughout the game, sometimes tiny details which you may not notice if you're not paying attention, sometimes unmistakable, such as rolling fog. Like The Great Gatsby, the attention to detail and the understated animation impresses me more than I can fully relate. Suffice to say, I am extremely impressed.
I mentioned the toolbar earlier - it is fantastic. Who'd have thought that one could ever describe a toolbar as fantastic?? What makes it so different, you ask? It is retractable, like many toolbars, it has a HINT button (refillable) and a journal like many others, so what sets it apart? It's beautifully done with animated statues on each side (when you pull it up and when it retracts). They added even more detail when you use the journal, having a tentacle that settles back upon it when you've finished reading it.
Speaking of the journal, a lot of information goes in there - things you experience, extra story... but also some hints of what you're supposed to do, which is both good (if you need help) and bad (if you don't want the help). You will find that there is a LOT of story to this game, should you decide to immerse yourself in the newspaper clippings, diaries, etc that you find throughout the game. You do not HAVE to read all of this information to proceed in the game, although you may have to click on said items to progress.
The story is gripping enough that I am now on my second time through the game... today. It has its confusing moments, but overall, a solid storyline.
Navigation is done via crystalline directional arrows. When you move the cursor to make a movement, ALL possible exits to the scene will light up, a MUCH-appreciated touch, as it cuts down on confusion.
The HINT button is available throughout the game and has a moderate refill speed. During a HOG scene, it will circle a hidden item, during the adventure portion of the game, it will show you which direction you need to go, or highlight an item you may have missed.
That brings me to "Easy mode". Having the game on easy mode does not make it "easy", it simply gives you a bit more help. Hidden object scenes that need to be played will still have sparklies, no matter which mode you are in, but having it in easy mode will help you find items you might not notice, otherwise. The "sparkles" on items you should interact with are not "in your face" - they are understated, and if you're not paying attention (Hrmmm... Who, me? ), you may miss them. I love that you can have the easy mode on and still not feel like you're being hit over the head with unsolicited hints. If you are new to adventure gaming, I highly suggest leaving the game on easy mode.
I had "a-ha" moments several times throughout the game, as Shadow Town has elements of many games that I have enjoyed in the past: Vampire Saga: Pandora's Box, Mystery of the Mary Celeste, The Great Gatsby, PuppetShow, Dire Grove. It reminded me of each of these at different points, but this game is all its own.
Definitely a recommended game. If you don't like it at first, give it some time - I'm sure glad I did! :thumb: