If you’re an ancient history or archaeology buff, The Pini Society: The Remarkable Truth will be right up your alley. Based on the exploits of the real-life Pini Society, a secret organization dedicated to the preservation and protection of valuable historical artifacts, the game lets players follow along on some of the society’s most important missions, learning valuable information along the way.
The Remarkable Truth does a great job of evoking an older time – to be precise, the nineteenth century, when the Pini Society was founded and did much of its most important work – with graphics depicting dog-eared maps, hand-drawn journal entries and diagrams, and vintage exploration equipment like old binoculars.
Its presentation is a little drier than the average casual game, with a story that’s just as much about educating the player as it is entertaining them. But if you’ve had your fill of cloying, cartoonish characters (like Will from Hide & Secret), then you’re likely to appreciate The Remarkable Truth’s more academic approach.
The game is broken into sections where you retrace the exploits of various chapters of the Pini Society, whose members were active all over the world from Guatemala to Egypt. As you progress you’ll learn interesting facts about some of the society’s more colorful members, like Maudslay, who pioneered the technique used to make plaster casts of artifacts – but who then turned renegade and made sent fake casts to the society, keeping the real ones for himself. At any time, you can go back and read about the information you’ve gathered so far in a journal.
Each section requires you to solve a series of mosaic puzzles where you’re shown an image composed of geometric shapes and you have to fill it in by placing tiles of the correct size and shape in the right places, which you pluck from a row along the bottom of the screen that replenishes itself every time a tile is taken out. It’s similar to the tangram-style puzzles in Arctic Quest but much more sophisticated.
What you’ll find, however, is that it’s often impossible to complete the level in the required time limit. If you can achieve a certain minimum points total then the rest of the tiles will automatically fill in for you. The goal, therefore, is to rack up as many points as possible by placing special gem tiles, which are worth more, and using other techniques and power-ups.
For example, you can use the workspace to the left of the grid to fit pieces of the mosaic together in advance, then click on the whole thing and drag it onto the mosaic, which greatly increases the number of points you get. There are also power-up meters that, when charged, unleash a special power to help you, like revealing all available spaces to place the tile you’re currently holding, filling in all adjacent tiles to the one you’ve placed, or creating a duplicate tile of your choice.
Filling in certain specific patterns in the mosaic activate special "power symbols," which also grant bonuses like extra time, or filling in a large portion of the board for big points. As you discover new symbols they’ll be marked in your journal so that you can memorize them and learn to recognize their patterns when they appear in the mosaic. As it stands, unless you’re inclined towards memorization, it’s hard to remember what all the various symbols look like and what powers they grant. Some kind of visual reference on the main puzzle page itself would have been helpful.
The mosaic puzzles are a unique game mechanic, but even veteran puzzle fans will probably find the time limits overly severe. The clicking mechanics for picking up and dropping tiles in the workplace proved awkward; supposedly one click picks up one tile, and a double-click picks up the entire shape to place it onto the mosaic, but the double-click often doesn’t seem to catch. The frustrating situation is exacerbated by the fact that symbols in the workplace disappear over time, so you might find yourself frantically clicking trying to pick up the shape as its individual pieces slowly pop out one by one.
Another issue worth bringing up is that the game often gives you tiles you don’t need. For example, in a mosaic whose only colors are blue, red, white and black, I would frequently get yellow tiles showing up – which were absolutely useless to me. In order to free up new tiles I’d have to painstakingly pick up each yellow tile and drop it into the recycling bucket, which eats precious seconds off the clock.
The Pini Society: The Remarkable Truth will appeal to a certain kind of studious history buff who has the patience to memorize all of the power symbols, the interest to sink their teeth into the journal entries and detailed information presented, and persevere with the game’s more challenging puzzles. The fact that the game is based on real people and events is definitely a unique and interesting touch. Other players, though, might want to download the demo first to see if the puzzle-based gameplay is to their taste.