Helen Jones has a knack for helping people find that "special someone." After retiring to a small seaside community she keeps on doing what she does best: helping the townspeople find true love in Matchmaker: Joining Hearts. Unfortunately there’s not much to love about this by-the-numbers hidden object game.
Helen’s uncanny knack for match-making is based on her philosophy that you can learn a lot about a person (and what kind of romantic partner they might be compatible with) from what kinds of items they surround themselves with. So, when a person comes to Helen for romantic advice she starts by searching their house for a list of items. The items she finds defines the person’s interests: a basket of apples, sandwich and chef’s hat, for example, means the person is a bit of a gourmet.
Next, Helen explores rooms belonging to several potential suitors and draws up similar lists of interests. Those interests are then compared (via an insultingly easy mini-game) and the best match is selected.
In the next phase of the courtship, Helen helps her client select an appropriate gift, which involves another hidden object search to find all of the pieces of the object. Then it’s on to the first date, which involves putting objects back into the scene.
This formula is repeated through 10 levels, offering perhaps 2-3 hours of gameplay in total. The game offers both an untimed mode and a timed mode (in the latter, you get about 20 minutes per scene, which is ample). Hints are unlimited.
The good? Well, at least it’s a theme that hasn’t been done to death. (Yet.) Helen comes off as a sweet and helpful character, and her clients include both men and women in their 30s, 40s and 50s. But the farther into the game you go, the more you’re likely to become bored by its formula. Even the voice-overs that were pleasant enough seem to peter out, and we get only a barebones introduction to each new character – to the point that it’s really hard to care about whether they find true love or not.
You can search for objects from a list or by silhouette. Objects repeat frequently and are always in the same place when you have to revisit a scene. The art style is of the "let’s cram a bunch of clip art randomly onto the page" variety – certainly nothing to write home about. The part of the game that really falls flat, though, is where you have to place items back into the scene. The art simply isn’t crispy enough, nor the objects well-drawn enough, for you to figure out what half of them are, let alone where they belong.
In spite of a cute theme that could have proved to be a big hit around Valentine’s Day, Matchmaker: Joining Hearts simply fails to deliver the goods.