Our favorite trader of delicious recipes, magical potions, and elegant fabrics Miriel is back for another adventure in Miriel’s Enchanted Mystery. Again you will find yourself within a story full of magic, schemes, and travels. The second part of the series tries to combine the classic formulas of time management and hidden-object gameplay, but will it really succeed? Or is Miriel’s Enchanted Mystery just another lame attempt to satisfy two different audiences at the same time?
Miriel’s new quest begins when her grandmoter finds a strange egg and seeks her granddaughter’s help and magical knowledge. In the subsequently unfolding storyline the player will accompany Miriel throughout her country, managing her shops at the different villages, trying to distinguish between friend and foe, and searching for various items that should help her to solve this mystery related to the unknown egg.
Like the first game in the series, Miriel the Magical Merchant, you start by serving customers basic items, such as apples, cloth, flour, and mushrooms. Later on, while expanding your shops, you will be able to sell products whose preparation takes more than one step, namely chocolate strawberries, different kinds of soup, or colored potions. The preparation process can be described as a mixture between Go-Go-Gourmet and Mystic Emporium. You click on the basic ingredients which will then appear on a shelf in your shop. From there, Miriel delivers them to the customers or puts them into the oven to create more advanced products.
The developer has reduced the amount of different recipes, and somewhat simplified their preparation. As well, the shops in the different villages differ in which products are available there. The frostberry as well as the associated frostberry muffin are only available in Frostville, for example. Thus, the game does not require you to have as good a memory as the first game. Still, Miriel’s Enchanted Mystery is far from being easy.
While the first part of the series featured short match-3 sections, which allowed you to choose new upgrades for your shop when finished successfully, the new installment has replaced those sections with hidden object scenes. In contrast to similar titles, where it’s obvious that the developers did not put much effort into those additional parts of the game, Miriel’s Enchanted Mystery proves that even bonus stages can be created with as much thought as what could be called the "core of the game."
In these scenes you always have to find a certain number of broken items, such as three parts of a kite, or four parts of a statue. The quicker you find and assemble those items, the more bonus gold you will earn. This bonus gold along with your daily profits from the shop you can use at the traveling merchant, where you can buy new ingredients, recipes, spells, or machines for your shops.
These spells are a very nice feature, and, while also making the game even more intense, they provide really helpful bonus skills and enable various strategies. The haste spell for example makes Miriel and the machines in the shop work at light speed for a short period of time, while other spells freeze the customers, make them as patient as possible, or fulfill every order of all the customers currently in your shop.
One very annoying flaw of the game is that it’s impossibile to replay levels to reach the expert goal, which is not only a serious letdown for ambitious perfectionists, but also highly frustrating considering a hint in the help section of the game. There it is stated that if you reach enough expert goals – a term vague enough on its own – you will get a special surprise at the end of the game. When you have finished the campaign without reaching the expert goal on every level, you cannot be sure if you saw the special surprise, or if you have to replay the whole game with a new profile.
Another point of critique are the controls, which can get very irritating at times. While it is great that you are able to stop nearly every action by Miriel along with the preparation of basic ingredients, to actually do so is more a question of luck than of mastering the game. The symbols of the ingredients at the board and in the preparation bar are rather small, and to click on the wrong ingredient will happen to you on a regular basis. Otherwise, the game is very forgiving when it comes to mistakes. There are no penalty points for throwing away unwanted products, and you can put every product back onto the shelf.
In the end Miriel’s Enchanted Mystery is probably one of the few time management games that are actually worth replaying. Colorful and beautifully drawn graphics, engaging gameplay and a really exciting storyline make the game a magical delight itself, and to be able to keep playing and discover new recipes after the campaign is definitely motivating any player to exceed old sales records.
If you liked the first game, you cannot go wrong with Miriel’s Enchanted Mystery. The developers managed to remove some of the flaws of the first part, though not all yet, and added enough interesting twists and features to avoid an uninspired remake of a once original game.