There seems to be no shortage of capable, inquisitive female investigators out there, and now we can add Millennium Secrets‘ Kate to that list. Over the course of the game, the star of the latest hidden object/adventure hybrid from JetDogs Studios will be tasked with doing everything from hacking computers to re-wiring a security camera. Unfortunately, while Kate herself is an interesting new character, she seems to be stuck in a fairly generic, Indiana Jones style adventure.
Things kick off when Kate receives an ominous phone call from a professor friend of hers, asking her to find and look after his briefcase. It turns out that during his research the professor ended up working with some pretty shady people, and when he goes missing, Kate decides its up to her to investigate and find him. Her adventure takes her all over the world, from New York to Barcelona to Mexico. But while it’s pretty large in scope, the main problem with the story is that it suffers from a very distinct lack of detail. The game just sort of thrusts you into the adventure, with almost no background information on either Kate or the professor. And things don’t much better as the story moves along.
While the game consists of five different sections, one for each different location Kate ends up investigating, they often feel separate and unconnected. And why Kate ends up in each location is rarely explained properly. This is especially disappointing because it feels like there is an actual interesting story buried somewhere in the game, it just needed more time and detail to become fully developed.
As you’d expect, much of the game is spent investigating various locations. And in Emerald Curse, this means looking for objects. Lots of objects. Unlike most hidden object games, where you are tasked with picking out a number of unrelated objects from a giant mess of other unrelated objects, everything you look for in Emerald Curse is something you’ll actually be using. Whether it’s a DVD, a poison dart, or a vial of acid, you’re only finding objects you need.
Since the game doesn’t use the standard HOG formula, the developers have thrown in a few twists to add some challenge. You can move some objects out of the way to reveal ones that are hidden, and certain floor and wall panels can be removed. You’ll also spend quite a bit of time rifling through drawers, cupboards, and lockers. Unfortunately, while these gameplay elements feel fresh at first, the novelty wears off very quickly, since you’ll be doing them so often.
There are also a number of different mini-games thrown in to help break up the object finding action. These range from cool and imaginative — like a dart board safe or an actual arcade game that gives hints — to completely unoriginal and cliche. Sadly, the latter is much more common: most of the puzzles are ones you have seen many times before. Everything from the old “knock the key onto a magazine and slide it under the door” to the all too familiar “putting the pieces of a torn up letter back together.”
Before you set off on your adventure the game also gives you the option of two different difficulty levels. Choosing the “casual” options makes things slightly easier, giving you access to a brief tutorial, and making the hint and skip puzzle features recharge faster. This mode will also make places of interest sparkle, giving subtle hints as to what you should do next.
Where the game does take a step above mediocrity is with its visuals. Emerald Curse sports detailed, albeit slightly boxy, 3D graphics that just look great. This is especially true for the different characters in the game. While they animate a bit stiffly, the actual design for each character is distinctive and memorable. And since you’ll be doing quite a bit of globe trotting, this also means that the different areas you’ll visit are quite varied. You’ll be exploring everything from an ancient manor to a giant oceanarium.
As the first game in a planned six-part series, Emerald Curse is a good start. Though it’s not the most original game, it features some solid gameplay and production values. It’s just a shame that the actual story that holds the game together feels so unsubstantial, with much too little detail. But with five more games to go, we can only hope that the adventures of Kate will only get more interesting.