Oh no! Strange green creatures have descended upon the campus of Abra Academy and are scaring the children. While Harry and friends might have been beckoned if this were Hogwarts School of Witchcraft, in Abra Academy: Returning Cast – a brand new sequel from Big Fish Games – it’s up to Wanda and her gang to investigate these attacks for the troubled faculty.
And so this is the premise behind this "seek-and-find", a.k.a. "hidden object" game. Every few levels a bit more of the story is told via cartoon cut-scene sequences and dialogue, but the tale really doesn’t go anywhere. At least the game-play is fun.
As many casual gamers are aware, this genre has you clicking away on a busy scene to find a number of well-hidden items, within a predetermined amount of time. With a list along the right-hand side of the screen (usually displayed as words, but sometimes as silhouettes), you’ll be tasked with finding a monkey, kettle, key, wooden spoon, spider and dozens of other assorted items. When you click the correct object, the word or silhouette disappears; the level is complete when you find all the well-hidden goodies, which fills up the bubbling cauldron.
If you need some extra help you can click the glowing crystal ball for a hint (actually it just shows you where the item is). Click too many times on incorrect items and a little gargoyle comes out and shortens your time by dousing the fire under your cauldron. But don’t worry, with about 30 minutes to complete the scene, you have more than enough time — even with multiple mistakes. Speaking of creatures, those little green flying creatures will pop out throughout most locations, and you’ll see your growing collection at the end of the level.
In Abra Academy: Returning Cast, all the locations take place in and around the school, such as a Dragon’s Lair, Elixir Fountain, Incubation Room, Physics Lab, North Tower, Oracle, Map Room, Language Class, and so on. In total, the game features 25 levels to master. Mini-games appear every once in a while, such as one that displays two nearly identical scenes side-by-side and you must "spot the differences."
Some locations repeat over time, which is fine, but I found it a bit annoying that many of the same objects repeat on virtually every level. I can’t tell you how many times I saw the same hotdog, spider, baby pacifier and corn on the cob. Matchsticks are everywhere, too, but they serve a purpose as you can click to collect these, in order to add some time to your clock (by adding fire under a cauldron).
Even with some sneaky tricks by the game makers – like placing a green vegetable against a green leaf – the game is quite easy to play, therefore it might be best for younger or novice players. Other gripes: the story is, er, well, not as promising as it starts out; there’s only one game mode; and it’s really no different than the original game. The graphics and music, however, are a delight.
Abra Academy: Returning Cast is an average hidden object game that doesn’t do much to push the genre forward. Therefore fans of this genre might not find the "magic" in the game that a less experienced casual player might.