Step into the Victorian era and go on a quest to help a magician find his brother, Gustav, in Mystic Diary: Lost Brother, a game that exemplifies a traditional hidden object game with some original puzzles ready for the solving.

The magician explores his brother’s home for clues where he eventually makes his way onto a balloon that crashed crashing in an unknown place.  He tells the story from a first-person point of view,sharing his observations. Along the way, he reveals little things about himself. The diary captures the magician’s thoughts, which can be reviewed at any time.

At first, the pace feels slow, but it picks up as you complete a few puzzles and delve into the mystery. The sepia-toned photographs give the game a lovely Victorian air about it especially the diary’s scenes. They look like a page out of an old silent film as faint lines flicker for a cool effect. 

The hidden object scenes either display the items for you to find or provide a list. Every scene holds one item that enters your inventory for later use. Inventory items involve point-and-click actions where some items work together to complete a task, such as conducting a lab experiment. Several scenes have themes where you find all of the fruit or all of the gold. While themed scenes relate to the story, many objects have nothing to do with the story. (Like you’re going to take a break to play with the xylophone or stare at a wooden duck!) Up to this point, nothing is original until the comparison game.

Finding the difference game appears in many hidden object games where players compare two scenes for differences. Mystic Diary puts a unique twist on this. Unfortunately, it’s a one-time only puzzle. Instead of showing two scenes, it shows one with some sort of gadget that sees items disappearing or appearing. The goal is to find the differences between the picture and what the gadget sees or doesn’t see.

You can have all the hints you want for the hidden object part of the game, but with every use you must wait for the hint meter to refill before it’s available again. However, you can’t get any kind of hint for puzzles. You can either play the puzzle or skip it when it lets you (meter has to fill up). Clicking correct items sometimes don’t take even three good tries. It isn’t necessary to make it harder to click items because many objects blend nicely with the sharp-looking scenes to give players a challenge.

With 12 rounds of the game and at least two hidden object scenes in each, the game has around 30 scenes of finding objects plus the occasional puzzle. While Mystic Diary has common puzzles such as Simon Says (copying the same sounds the game makes) and connecting wires (pipes), it has a few tricks of its own. In one puzzle, you guide the magnet to lead the ball through a labyrinth until it reaches middle. Another requires tweaking the dials on a microscope until the visual becomes clear.

The magician will sense magic and ask you to use the magnifying glass to see the magic. As you weave the magnifying glass, a fiery symbol appears. Every time you come upon this almost fruitless activity, he says the same thing and it feels like a waste of effort. Although there is more to this, this part needs more playing up.

If you want to play window mode, you’ll have to close and reload the game after changing the option – a small nuisance. The audio only plays when you’re in between scenes and puzzles.

As for the game’s length, it tells you at the end exactly how long it took you to finish it. Two to three hours puts this on the short side for a hidden object game. The developer could have easily made it last longer by adding more scenes using the comparison game.

A couple of twists await and the mystery arouses enough curiosity that you want to know what happens. Mystic Diary exhibits what hidden object fans expect in a solid game: variety of scenes, good story and crisp graphics. While not as magical as some games out there, Mystic Diary: Lost Brother puts on a good show where an hour is enough to decide if you want to stay until the end.

For similar games, try Azada Ancient Magic, Treasure Seekers: The Enchanted Canvases Game, Magic Encyclopedia: First Story, and Dream Chronicles.