Treasure Seekers: Follow the Ghosts reunites globe-trotting adventurers Tom and Nelly, out on a mission to solve mysteries that all seem to demand fetching bits of random junk out of cluttered (but gorgeous) locales. This is a game that proves the old truism about good graphics making game experiences better, as you’ll do little in Treasure Seekers you haven’t done in other HOGs. Follow the Ghosts just makes every object more beautiful and every locale you visit, from France to Siberia, is immaculately detailed.
The game’s plot is a bit thin from the get-go. Tom and Nelly are pretty much just out to solve more mysteries, which in this game inevitably seem to demand encounters with sad ghosts or monsters like a depressed mummy you meet in Egypt. The two siblings split up for a time before finding clues that indicate their old enemy Totenkraft is back. Once you finish the main game with the siblings, you unlock a post-game mode called “Extra Play.” Between the two modes, Follow the Ghosts makes for an exceptionally lengthy game by HOG standards.
Individual levels (or “anomalies” as this game calls them) are marvelously designed little stories in and of themselves. You get to learn quite a bit about each spirit you lay to rest before you move on. You cheer up the depressed mummy by putting his tomb back in order and sealing up his pyramid, for instance. At one point you even get to construct a new heart for Frankenstein’s monster, along with baking him a nice loaf of bread. It’s a bit surreal and wonderful, keeping the object hunting in a context that never gets boring.
Follow the Ghosts brings back the selectable difficulty it introduced in The Enchanted Canvases. It works basically the same way here: Normal mode offers standard HOG features like hints while Advanced drastically slows down the hint timer, makes mini-games harder to skip, and removes certain in-game clues. In Advanced you’re pretty much on your own when it comes to solving puzzles while Normal is a more conventional HOG experience.
Playing on Advanced is very challenging but not unbearable. Many HOGs don’t bother to make puzzles intuitive because the designers know you can just flog Hints in moments of confusion. Follow the Ghosts‘ puzzles are more subtle, with NPCs you meet in each level offering substantial clues to attentive players. A downside is that if you do get stumped, Hints have the same problems in Follow the Ghosts that they do in other HOGs. In more complicated puzzles, they may stop giving you useful information.
Follow the Ghosts is a very good-looking game. Every area you explore is gorgeous and every inventory puzzle is loaded with curious and fascinating items. The animations for human NPCs are particularly impressive, using a blend of digitized photographs and jointed animations. Characters actually sway back in forth in rest animations, changing their expressions as you interact with them. Backgrounds are always seamlessly convincing, enough so that it’s not always obvious which objects you can interact with and which are just decoration. You may find yourself pixel-hunting for objects you know you need but can’t quite seem to pick up.
Sound is also used extraordinary well in Follow the Ghosts. Every level has its own bit of ambient theme music that’s interesting but never distracting. You get good, convincing sound effects as you interact with various objects. When you put the temple knight’s ghost back in his tomb, you’ll hear a sound of grinding stone that’s clearly not from some stock sound effects directory. There’s no voice-acting in this game, but there’s so little dialogue outside of the level-puzzles that I’m not sure it’s really warranted.
Treasure Seekers: Follow the Ghosts is an exceptional game that certainly raises the bar for HOGs in terms of visual appeal and good gameplay. Big fans of HOGs shouldn’t miss it, and it might be good enough to make a convert out of someone skeptical about the genre. This is the rare game that can offer real challenge on Advanced without being pointlessly confusing. Played on Normal, it’s a perfectly seamless casual experience.