In The Inquisitor, an hidden object/adventure game hybrid based on the Wolfgang Hohlbein novel of the same name, you play as Tobias, a young monk sent to determine whether or not a young woman truly is a witch. You are understandably dismayed to discover that not only is she your ex-girlfriend (did they call it that back in the Middle Ages?), but also that the charges against her seem to be legitimate.
To unravel the mystery, you’ll have to quite literally search the area for clues, which are provided for you in handy list form. Ok, that’s not exactly how the hidden object levels go, but it does add a bit to the atmosphere if you think of it in those terms. The graphics are lush and richly detailed, making it quite easy to lose yourself in Tobias’ world. The items you’re charged to find are also kept period-specific, so that your immersion is never broken by being asked to find a cell phone or car keys.
The adherence to realism does hinder the searches somewhat when you revisit a location, however. Rather than move items randomly around the room – which doesn’t often happen when you simply step outside – things stay put, which makes them awfully easy to find the second time around. The game occasionally remedies this by weaving the relocation of items into the narrative, for which it deserves a lot of credit.
In between item searches, The Inquisitor becomes more of a traditional adventure game, with Tobias using items he finds in his travels to solve puzzles and defeat obstacles. Though not overwhelmingly difficult, these sections suffer from occasional lacks of polish that can make them unnecessarily frustrating. In one instance, it was pretty clear that I needed to pick up some nearby boards in order to repair a bridge and cross a stream, but I couldn’t grab them. Tobias pondered to himself what they might be used for, but nothing else happened. It wasn’t until I had also clicked on the river again – where the bridge was clearly out – that I was able to grab the wood and go. It’s a minor inconvenience, but such counterintuitive controls can provide for some baffling moments.
It’s also sometimes unclear where you’re supposed to go next. You might be told to “investigate the pond,” but the game gives you no indication as to where the pond might be. You usually only have so many paths you can take, so heading in the right direction is a fairly simple process of elimination, but a helpful sparkle or arrow would’ve been appreciated.
The Inquisitor‘s greatest strength is, unsurprisingly, its storyline, which is well written and compelling. Tobias’ inner struggle as he wrestles to balance reason with emotion makes him particularly sympathetic, and the machinations of those around him are entertaining to see unfold. Ironically, the game’s biggest strength is also its greatest weakness. The plot spins out via lines of text presented with line drawings that evoke Tobias’ own notes, but they’re delivered at a snail’s pace and there’s no way to speed them up. With writing this good, it makes sense to give players enough time to absorb it, but if you’re a fast reader, you’ll find your fingers itching to hit the “Skip” button from sheer impatience. You can get caught up on the story by reading Tobias’ journal, but skipping the cutscences does spoil the flow of the game somewhat.
These are all minor issues, however, that don’t diminish the The Inquisitor‘s beauty or polish. You may need to rely on your rechargeable hints more than you would normally, and the wonky controls can cause moments of aggravation, but the mystery and quality of the overall experience are well worth it.