Alex and Lisa pick up where they left off: collecting objects and solving puzzles on a mysterious island.
Some people just seem to attract trouble. Take Alex and Lisa, a young couple who have stumbled from one mysterious island adventure (2008’s The Treasures of Mystery Island) to another. To reveal the main plot device that drives the action here would be to spoil an early twist, so all you really need to know is that The Treasures of Mystery Island: The Gates of Fate offers more of the same accomplished hidden object gameplay.
This time Alex and Lisa find themselves separated on the aforementioned mysterious island after the intervention of a tricksy shaman. This sets about a fine (if nonsensical) cooperative adventure as our heroes bid to reunite and return home.
It isn’t spoiling too much to reveal that your quest involves the collection of four tiles from the magical gateway that got you into this mess. These are spread throughout the island, but the bulk of your time will be spent carrying out relatively mundane – if ingenious – tasks such as repairing bridges, drying out papers and chopping fire wood.
As this suggests, The Gates of Fate adopts the same approach to the HOG genre as its predecessor – that is that each bout of locating scattered objects contributes more to the game than just ticking off an arbitrary list. Rather, you’ll be collecting each of the components and tools for the aforementioned bridge repair, and you’ll need to recall where in an earlier scene you saw the chunks of wood for the chopping task.
This highlights to another of the features that has been carried over from the previous game. Your hand is held a lot less than in others games of this type, as you’re often expected to use your initiative and powers of recollection to determine where to go next. If you like your HOGs to wrap everything up in tidy, level-based solutions then this isn’t the game for you. There’s a lot of toing and froing just to solve the simplest of puzzles.
As you’d expect from a modern hidden object game, there’s also a fair smattering of mini-games to keep things fresh. While these prove to be the downfall of many, in The Treasures of Mystery Island: The Gates of Fate the hits manage to outnumber the misses. From lining up map templates to a fiendish rotation-based puzzle there’s commendable imagination on show in many of the game’s diversions. The ones that stump you (or annoy you) too much can be skipped at no penalty, other than to your completion rating.
Some of the irritations on show here are tougher to overlook. Quite a few of the puzzles go that little bit too far with their demands on you, sending you wandering through previous scenes with scant direction or justification. In a similar way, many of the puzzles contain unnecessary extra steps that just serve to frustrate, such as having to find something to pin back a tree branch in order to allow the sun’s rays through.
As hinted at before, the story is fairly ridiculous, with many of the puzzle setups clunkily handled and ineffectually justified. This isn’t helped by the two bland lead characters, with the spud-headed Alex and the Barbie doll-meets-extra-terrestrial Lisa wholly failing to engage. You’ll want to see the next puzzle, but you won’t care if the two protagonists ever see each other again.
Despite these shortcomings though, The Treasures of Mystery Island: The Gates of Fate is another enjoyable slice of HOG adventure. Like the prequel, it manages to lend purpose to finding and collecting a bunch of discarded stuff. By incorporating elements of the classic point ‘n’ click adventure genre, it extends its challenge and appeal considerably.