Things are not going well for your rag-tag troupe in Nightfall Mysteries: Curse of the Opera. The location of your latest performance could be on the cover of Creepy Town Weekly, the phones aren’t working, and people are not only turning up dead, but their bodies are going missing. Unsettling, to say the least.
As the lowly stagehand, it falls to you to solve the troupe’s many problems, not the least of which is the fact that someone is killing them. You’ll do this by searching various locations in town for necessary items, like pliers to fix the phone or a crowbar to pry boards off a window. Sometimes you’ll have to solve a hidden object scene before you can net your prize, and these are well assembled and beautifully hand-drawn. You’ll either have to find an assortment of items on a list, or help out one of the characters by finding specific groups of objects, such as six flowers, lightning bolts, and rats.
If you need a nudge in the right direction (which you might – in at least one instance, the item on the list didn’t seem to match the item it was referencing at all), you can rely on the game’s rechargeable hints. Fair warning, though: Too much random clicking uses up a hint.
Curse of the Opera‘s rather morbid tale is amusingly told via cutscenes and by talking to the other performers, who are colorful, to say the least. Don’t worry if you’re squeamish; despite being chock full of dead bodies, the only gruesome thing in Curse of the Opera is the attitude of the people in your theater company. The diva is, well, a diva, but the other members are just as unpleasant, self-absorbed, and obnoxious. To be honest, it’s kind of surprising that no-one’s killed them before now. Still, if you hope to have any chance of getting out of town, you’re going to need their help, if only to point you in the right direction. Of course, their obnoxious nature makes it just that more amusing when they turn up dead. Or maybe that’s just my twisted sense of humor at work.
You’ll do a lot of backtracking through the town, revisiting locations several times, which can get a bit tiresome. Not helping the feeling of deja vu is the fact that in one instance, I had to look for the exact same list of items that I had to find the first time I’d been through that part of time. Backtracking is boring enough, but literally replaying sections? Not particularly inspiring.
Curse of the Opera sprinkles a few adventure game elements in among the item searches. You’ll frequently need to find specific items in order to make forward progress, and your journal is always quite clear about what you need and where you should go to look for it. Less frequent, but far trickier, are the puzzles the game throws in your way. I’ll be honest: I have never had to skip so many puzzles in my life. These are not the typical easy-peasy time killers that tend to show up in most hidden object games lately, these are hardcore adventure game puzzles that will require patience, thought, and creativity. If they prove too challenging, or if you’d rather just get on with solving the mystery, you can skip them, but solving them makes you feel particularly brilliant, so I’d recommend giving them a go.
Nightfall Mysteries: Curse of the Opera has a dark sense of humor, wonderful hand-drawn art, mind-bending puzzles, and good solid object hunts. It’s not the longest or most difficult HOG you’re ever going to encounter, but its polished presentation and amusing characters more than make up for its shortcomings.