I’ve become quite fond of hidden object games recently. I’m not sure why exactly, but I quite like the eye-straining search of the screen, trying to find a needle in, quite literally, a stack full of needles. It’s a break from the usual gun-toting, first-person-shooting-everything-that-moves type of game, I suppose. Which is why I was quite pleased to get my grubby mitts on Tales from the Dragon Mountain: The Strix.
Coming from the stables of the increasingly popular Cateia Games, TDM:TS is a hidden object game with a slight difference. The core point and click is still there, but TDM:TS uses a more traditional adventure template, as opposed to the usual hum-drum find x amount of y on the screen. In fact, the hidden object part of the game is so easily accomplished, with the so called hidden objects glaring at you from the screen, that you end up going over several scenes again thinking you may have missed something.
No, TDM:TS isn’t a true to life hidden object game, it’s a collect-items-and-combine-them-in-your-inventory-then-interact-with-the-still-scenery-to-accomplish-the-puzzle type of game. Oh, and find a few items of x and y whilst you’re at it.
The story is one from the pages of faery and folklore magazine (if there is such a thing). You play the part of Mina Lockheart, who travels back to her ancestral pad after some pretty nasty nightmares following the death of her dear old grandmother. Upon returning to the sprawling manse, she discovers that her dearly departed grandmother hid the truth about her past. No ordinary grandmother was this, instead of the acceptable Bingo on a Sunday evening, or knitting by the fireside, Mina’s grandmother instead spurned these in favour of guarding the real world from evil spirits and cohorting with small green imps and tree people. The old girl didn’t belong to a hippy commune or experiment with various forms of mind altering drugs, she actually had a unique power that would allow her to interact with the different worlds and control the forces of nature, which definitely beats a blue-rinse and gossip in the Post Office queue any day.
Pointing and clicking around will reveal all sorts of clues, items and suchlike, and as there is no penalty for aimless clickage, you can grind your mouse button down to a pulp should you so wish. The puzzles are fairly easy to work out and are mixed between the items in the world and your inventory, and the odd scrambled picture puzzle affair that will unlock a chest, for example. Depending on the level of difficulty you chose at the beginning, the game alters the gameplay and what secrets are revealed and what aren’t. It also replenishes your hint bar, used for those times when you can’t quite figure out how to manipulate the pipework under the kitchen sink.
The scenes are splendidly drawn with rich, bright colours. Carefully placed animations make the hunting of items and the working out of puzzles a pleasure to experience. The scenes, or areas, take you from inside the family haunt, to a faery institute, then onto an airship, which is literally a ship-in-the-air.
The sound and music score are acceptable, however, the voice acting leaves a lot to be desired and comes across as wooden as the tree spirit you’ve freed from his prison. That said, once you get into the game you begin to take less notice of the voiceovers and concentrate on the puzzles and playing the game.
Which brings me onto the gameplay. All in all, not bad; there were times about half way through when I got a bit bored, but a quick break and a return later soon solved that. The game seemed a little too long, but oddly, when completed, seemed a little too short. I enjoyed playing TDM:TS, I probably wouldn’t pick it up again after completion, but for the few hours I spent with it, I quite enjoyed it.
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