With next-gen consoles now boasting enough processing power to fire up a small space craft, many have been quick to predict that hidden object games would soon be confined to phones and tablets as console gamers flock to the shiniest, newest ultra-realistic first person shooter. Luckily the good people at casual adventure games company Artifex Mundi disagreed with this disheartening view of our gaming future. Over the years Artifex Mundi have laboured tirelessly to bring us some of the finest casual games to grace our consoles. And Enigmatis: The Ghosts of Maple Creek is no exception.
Set in the sleepy town of Maple Creek, Enigmatis: The Ghosts of Maple Creek casts you in the role a detective hired to track down a missing girl. Our heroine wakes up in Maple Creek with no knowledge of how she got there. Eventually she finds a room that she’d previously rented and continues her investigation using a wall of the room as her evidence board. The premise itself is simple enough and provides Artifex Mundi with a great platform for delivering some ingenious puzzles ranging from hidden objects, to mind bending riddles and a healthy dose of swap and match and jigsaws to piece together.
Enigmatis: The Ghosts of Maple Creek caters for gamers of varying degrees of ability by wisely including two difficulty settings: a normal and an expert mode. In normal, you get a handy hint system that recharges every 30 seconds, no penalties for clicking anything and everything on the screen and, should you find yourself hitting a brick wall, you can simply chose to skip the mini puzzles. In the expert setting the hint recharge takes twice as long, you get penalized for miss-clicking and there is no option for bypassing the mini games. For the purpose of this review, we played Enigmatis: The Ghosts of Maple Creek on the normal mode but, once we’ve finished writing this review, we’re manning up and diving back for another round on expert mode. That’s because we’re smart. And tough. Man.
We particularly liked the inclusion of the evidence board as that really helped keep track of the puzzles we’d solved and it also gave us a chance to try and piece together the mystery ourselves as we progressed through the game.
Graphically Enigmatis: The Ghosts of Maple Creek uses the familiar art style we’ve come to know and love in games such Clockwork Tales: Of Glass and Ink. Each frame is bright, colourful and highly detailed. In fact, if you take a look at these screen shots, you would be forgiven for thinking you were looking at works of art that you can hand on the wall just over the telly.
In the audio department, Enigmatis: The Ghosts of Maple Creek does what it says on the tin. The in-game sounds, faithfully recreate the noises of a town in slumber. As you progress from one area to another, you can often hear the familiar sound of twigs breaking under foot, distant birds calling to each other and the sigh of the wind in the trees. The voice acting, although limited, does just enough to maintain the illusion that you are an actual detective meeting strange and often mysterious characters. As for the ghosts themselves, you find out very little about them until you complete the game and unlock the bonus round. This round fills in the gaps about the spectral beings that have been dogging you throughout the game.
Control-wise Enigmatis: The Ghosts of Maple Creek uses Artifex Mundi’s well established format of employing the thumbstick to navigate around the screen and A button to click. The B button is reserved for back tracking while the D-Pad brings up the map, the evidence wall and diary. It’s a format we particularly liked in previous games and one that looks likely to become the standard for this genre.
Enigmatis: The Ghosts of Maple Creek offers gamers some 5 hours of play time and, with the addition of the bonus level, can take considerably more than that if you dare play on the expert level. One item we would love to have seen in the game is the inclusion of a leaderboard that compares how fast we solved the puzzles to other gamers.
All in all, Enigmatis: The Ghosts of Maple Creek is a great addition to the hidden objects puzzle solving genre and one that we’ll be playing for a long time. That is at least until the sequel is released. Go buy.
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