Curse of the Pharoah: The Quest for Nefertiti introduced us to Anna, who was searching for her step-brother William, who’d gone missing during his search for the Egyptian queen’s tomb. Anna returns in the sequel, Curse of the Pharoah: Napolean’s Secret, hoping to unravel the mystery of Nefertiti’s curse and understand the strange fate that befell William.
Desperate for answers, Anna heads to Cairo to consult with Professor Cullen, who seems eager enough to help her. Anna quickly discovers that the Professor is just one of many people who’ll do anything to prevent Anna from discovering the truth. Anna’s quest takes her around the world and eventually leads her to Napolean’s journal. The trip doesn’t necessarily make the most sense, but it does provide a nice variety of locales for the various chapters of the game.
Like Quest for Nefertiti, Napolean’s Secret takes a fresh approach to the stale hidden object genre by placing the emphasis on spot-the-difference levels, rather than item searches. The differences between images can be as sore-thumb-obvious as a bucket that’s bright red on one side and green on the other, or as subtle as a missing crenellation at the top of a shadowy pillar. Once you’ve gotten comfortable with the way such levels work, the game ups the challenge by messing around with the pictures.
Some levels have mirror images instead of copies, while others are slowly obscured by a spreading fire or a rising water level. You’re not entirely at the game’s mercy, however. Every level contains three hidden coins that can be used to buy helpful items from the shop. A fire extinguisher will put out the flames, for example, while a mirror flips an image over, making it easier to compare to its mate.
Coins aren’t the only things you’ll be hunting for, though. Each level has at least one missing item that must be returned to its proper place. A silhouette at the bottom of the screen tips you off to what you need to collect, though in most cases the item in question is hidden in another level. Most levels also contain a piece of a pharaoh’s mask, which you’ll need to assemble in order to proceed to the next chapter.
In addition to the coins, missing items, and mask pieces, you’ll also collect items that you’ll use to solve a puzzle at the end of the chapter. You might have to align concentric rings to create a maze, or find just the right way to move books from one side of the shelf to the other. The puzzles offer the healthiest challenge of the entire game, and solving them will test your concentration, logic, and reflexes.
Napolean’s Secret can be extremely subtle – even in the hidden object sections, items are often very well-concealed – but unfortunately it shies away from being truly challenging by making it too easy for the player to get help. Not only can you buy hints in the store for just a few coins, but if you’re quick enough to click on the jackyl-headed Wipi as he pokes his head into the screen, you get another one for free. But even if you’re broke or slow, all you have to do is wait, and a twinkle will show you what you’re looking for.
Even though Napolean’s Secret goes a bit easier on the player than it really needs to, it’s still a very well-done game that’s far more challenging and polished than the vast majority of hidden object games currently available. The voice acting can be a bit tedious (the accents are straight out of Bad Acting 101), and the music can be overpowering, but as long as you turn down the volume you’ll enjoy yourself.