Princess Isabella: Return of the Curse changes little and retains enough to be as impressive as its predecessor.
While you may have thought that witch was defeated at the end of Princess Isabella: A Witch’s Curse, she’s definitely not going down without a fight. After Isabella and the Prince begin raising their new baby girl, the witch plans her ultimate revenge, kidnapping the child and placing a curse not only over the castle, but also over Isabella’s entire kingdom. The story here in Princess Isabella: Return of the Curse helps continue Isabella’s overall quest for a peaceful life, and while it doesn’t see many gameplay changes from the first game, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Where A Witch’s Curse was a large game, Return of the Curse is even grander. You’re not confined to the walls of your castle, and can instead travel throughout your kingdom – through the woods, across streams, and even into the fairy village that your helper fairy from the first game calls home. The fairy returns in this installment, serving not only as your hint button, but also allowing you to use an assortment of returning powers, like breaking objects to see what’s inside, among others.
Also joining you is a new companion – a baby dragon that can stand the heat where the fairy cannot (and has different powers, like being able to blow smoke, which is useful against the many “evil” insects flying about). While the added variety of your helpers is appreciated, the voice acting of both is still nothing extraordinary, and can be a bit annoying as phrases are repeated ad nauseam. In fact, the overall voice acting was a problem in the first game, and unfortunately, it hasn’t improved here (emotions seem forced and some accents are clearly faked).
Where the voice acting needed improving over the first installment in the series, most of the gameplay has been left just as it was before, which is a good thing. The hidden object scenes never overpower the game (although they are a bit more cluttered than usual), as Gogii has placed an equal weight on the game’s many puzzles and other activities (fixing machines or puppets, cooking tasks and so on).
In addition to finding different colored gems to free your castle’s staff and friends (just as you found the mirror pieces in the first game), you’ll also come across an assortment of villagers that must be awoken. These villagers add to the story, and even give you other missions in addition to your overall task of trying to remove the curse from the entire land and save your daughter.
As for the puzzles themselves, they’re as highly varied as you’d expect. There are some standard options like tile sliding puzzles, but you’ll also find yourself completing painting puzzles, and manipulating a puppet on strings to unlock a door, as just two examples.
The game’s user interface is still quite helpful, giving you an all clear symbol when a curse has been cleared from a scene (or all of the other tasks therein have been completed), and you can more easily see which items in a scene can be interacted with via floating stars or flying butterflies. The world here is a large and sometimes confusing place, so those continue to be very appreciated touches.
Ultimately, the same things said about the first installment in this Princess Isabella story can be said about Return of the Curse. The game is a solid hidden object experience that offers plenty of gameplay variety for those that quickly feel bogged down in item lists, and the in-game world is incredibly expansive, which will keep fans busy for a few hours. While “more of the same” may be a negative in other cases, here, it’s a great compliment that truly fits this sequel.