Hope Springs Eternal is the second game in the Carol Reed Mystery series developed by MDNA Games. This first person point-and-click adventure game features Carol Reed as a freelance investigator currently on holiday in Sweden when she becomes involved in a mysterious disappearance.

Quickly becoming bored in the flat she shares with her friend, Lovisa, Carol is thrilled to receive a phone call from Katerina, asking her to come over and talk about something important. Upon visiting Katerina, Carols learns of the disappearance of Anna Bergion, a teacher at the school where Katerina works.

Anna has not been seen or heard from in several days. She hasn’t shown up to work or to her apartment and Katerina is suspicious that something has gone terribly wrong. She beseeches Carol for her aide in discovering the whereabouts of her friend.

To play the game, you must visit a variety of locations, search for clues and solve puzzles that may eventually lead to the missing person. A simple mouse-drive game mechanic is easy to learn. Moving the mouse around the screen will create several different cursors based on the possible actions available in each scene. An arrow cursor indicates that you may move or look in a new direction (up, down, left or right). A magnifying glass-shaped cursor will appear over objects and items that can be examined more closely. Also, a hand-shaped icon will show whenever there is an action available, such as opening a door or picking an object up to place into your inventory.

Moving the mouse to the very top of the screen will bring up your inventory and show you all of the items you have available to use or examine on hand. Some items within your inventory can be combined to make new, useful objects. To access these items, simply click on the one you’d like to select and move to another item in the inventory bar or into the scene.

The game opens with Carol inside Lovisa’s apartment. Explore all of the rooms to see what items you can find and what, if any, clues may be present. Make sure you take your time and explore every nook and cranny of the apartment. In order for the game to progress, you must solve a simple puzzle within the flat. Without revealing everything, I will say that the first puzzle involves the dangling wooden doll on the front door and a much needed item from inside one of the cabinets.

Once you’ve solved that puzzle, the phone will ring and your adventure will begin. Leaving the apartment brings you to the main map area from which you can select any of the areas that have become available according to how far you’ve progressed. At first, you are limited to a small store and Katerina’s apartment. You can visit both and exhaust all of the possible conversation lines to figure out what your next step will be.

Although there are no hints or help files within the game, if you pay very close attention to what the other characters in the game tell you and really explore every location, you should be able to stay on track rather easily. If you get stuck and really don’t know what to do, you’ll have to backtrack, revisiting every open location and searching again. Perhaps you missed a vital clue or puzzle. Talk to all of the characters again, did anyone give you a hint? There is also a "skip this puzzle" option available in the game for those times when you just can’t figure it out.

Overall, the Carol Reed mystery games are well-written stories with unique and challenging puzzles that can become quite frustrating for those that like to rush through their games. Hope Springs Eternal plays very similarly to the other games in the series, but has its own well-developed story. You’ll even meet up with some of the same characters from the first game, though they have a very different tale to tell.

The graphics are smooth and pleasing to look at. Artistically altered photographs make up the scenic images in all of the locations. The detail in the artwork makes it easy to examine the locations in depth, which is definitely a necessity. A quiet and soothing soundtrack compliments the artwork and may help to soothe the player’s frazzled nerves as the puzzles become more and more difficult.

If you are a fan of murder mystery games, definitely check this one out. It’s a large download, but the storyline is very good and in keeping with the high quality of the other Carol Reed games. Hope Springs Eternal is not quite as polished as other mystery games, such as the Nancy Drew series, but the campy feel and quirky characters makes up for that nicely!