If there’s one thing a casual gamer can say about the summer of 2009, it’s that there is no shortage of hidden object games ("HOGs"). Over the past couple of weeks I’ve reviewed Diner Town Detective Agency, iCarly: iDream in Toons, Magic Encyclopedia: Moon Light and Department 42 – The Mystery of the Nine.
But as television infomercial guru Ron Popeil says: "But wait, there’s more!"
And that would be Jewel Quest Mysteries 2: Trail of the Midnight, a follow-up to last fall’s Jewel Quest Mysteries: Curse of the Emerald. While not deviating much from its original formula, iWin does a decent job with this accessible and attractive HOG sequel.
After successfully recovering jewels from Egypt in the first game, adventurer Eva Witheby heeds her uncle’s call to visit Southeast Asia to solve a new mystery. If we’re being vague, that’s because you should read Eva’s handwritten notes in her journal to soak up the story and atmosphere rather than having us spoil the fun for you!
Suffice it to say, there will be a lot of object hunting going on, spread out between roughly 20 locations including India, China, Thailand and Australia. The core game-play will be familiar to fans of this genre: you’re presented with an indoor or outdoor scene, and will see a list of well-hidden items you need to find in the environment. When you click on the item, such as a pitchfork, the word "pitchfork" is then crossed off the list. Only after you find all the items do you move onto the next scene.
One of my pet peeves in HOG games is when the items have nothing to do with the location, and Jewel Quest Mysteries 2 is no exception: you’ll click on a basketball net in a dark tomb, a coat rack in a garden, a mailbox in a tree and my personal favorite, an omelette outside of the Taj Mahal. Sigh. Perhaps I ought to let this go, but I feel it hurts the suspension of disbelief in a story-driven game.
Also hidden in each world are gems you can collect (which can be used as currency to buy power-ups, such as an extra hint), gold coins (which go towards your overall score) and ways to uncover shards that let you play a Match 3 mini-game (we’ll get to that in a moment). You can uncover shards by finding a hummingbird in the environment, who will be carrying a piece of these game boards, and you can also use the correct item in your inventory to find these items, too (such as a shovel on sand to dig up the treasure, or a crowbar against a locked chest).
You’ll have a limited amount of time to complete each puzzle, too, and if you click incorrectly three times you’ll be penalized with 30 seconds off the clock. One of the power-ups you can purchase, though, is to freeze the clock for a minute — but it’ll cost you eight jewels.
Every few levels, gamers will be treated to a "scrolling" HOG exercise: while in a plane, on a boat or in a train, you’ll have a limited amount of time to find and click 20 items as you glide from left to right. For example, you might have to locate 20 bird feathers while looking outside of your airplane window, which might be cleverly attached to a cloud or mountain. This proves to be a unique and fun HOG twist.
As with last year’s game, the shards you collect make up a game board in which you can play a Match-3 game (not unlike Bejeweled). Use your mouse to swap adjacent jewels and other items to create a row or column of at least three of the same. Doing so will cause them to disappear and new pieces will cascade down the board, and you’ll continue your task until all the stones on the board (which are behind the jewel) have turned to gold. Each time you play the mini-game the board will be a different shape.
There isn’t much to complain about with this game, but I found you visit the same locations too often and the items are in the same place each time. Therefore, you might not need to click the pretzel right now but when you return there in a few minutes, and if the pretzel is on your list, you’ll likely remember where it is immediately. Another issue if there’s only one game mode. Too bad you just couldn’t play the Match 3 minigame, for example.
Jewel Quest Mysteries 2: Trail of the Midnight is one of those games that’ll likely please more players than disappoint them, but at the same time it’s not one of the best HOGs available this summer. Download the demo to see what you think before dropping cash on the full game.