The last living descendant of the Charleston family is in danger of suffering a witches’ curse and it’s up to you to save her!

You ever wonder why hidden object games feature so many ghosts, insane clowns and twisted psychiatrists? Yeah, me too. Witches also seem to be frequent hidden object fodder, as do wealthy heirs who somehow always end up cursed. These types of characters have seemingly perennial appeal so it’s no surprise really, that Witches’ Legacy: The Charleston Curse features both witches and heirs. What is surprising is that despite the use of these well-worn archetypes, Witches’ Legacy weaves a clever and, on occasion, surprising story.

The game starts when a strange message arrives at your door declaring you the only living relative to a young, orphaned heiress. As the last descendant of the Charleston family, this young girl resides on the family’s tumbledown estate with a female guardian, and the latter invites you to the family mansion to visit the girl. As you’ve never heard of either the family or the girl, you do what anyone who stood to inherit a lot of money would do—er…I mean, you do what any decent adult who cared about the welfare of a child would do—you jump in the car and head to the estate.

Upon your arrival, you’re greeted at the 3D, computer-generated gate by video capture of a real, live girl. Inserting video into 3D environments might be new to a lot of casual gamers out there, but as an old school gamer who used to play point-and-click PC adventure games, I just about did a dance of joy when I saw this. [A bit of unsolicited video game history: in the early years of gaming there was a trend in adventure games called "Full Motion Video". In it—especially in the 1990's—game makers created surreal CG/live action hybrids by recording live actor performances and inserting them into computer-generated environments. The process was controversial and eventually died out due to its high cost in both time and money.] To me, there’s something so cool about seeing a real person moving around in a CG location and, in my opinion, it heightens the feeling that you’re “living” the story.

Anyway, for my money, this use of FMV is the first thing that really makes Witches’ Legacy: The Charleston Curse stand out from the crowd. Oddly enough, not all of the characters are handled via this technique; a ghostly helper and creepy little imp are represented by 3D models, which causes something of an aesthetic disconnect. Regardless, in addition to differentiating itself visually through the use of FMV, Witches’ Legacy differentiates itself from a storytelling standpoint, through an unusual narrative device.

 The Charleston Curse

The point of the game is to save the Charleston heiress from her guardian, who turns out to be an evil witch. As you hunt the witch through the house and the surrounding estate, you collect torn pieces of drawings done by the young girl you’re working to save. Once you’ve collected all the pieces of a given drawing, the drawing animates, providing not only insight into the story, but clues to the various puzzles you’ll encounter. Seemingly done in crayon, these charming 2D animations are a big departure from the rest of the game’s graphics, and can be replayed at any time by clicking on them in your journal. Both useful and beautiful, they’re one of the coolest means of communicating information hidden object games have seen in a long time.

In addition to these two innovations, Witches’ Legacy: The Charleston Curse also impresses by offering up some cool sound design as well as some truly weird and often surprising gameplay moments. The game’s musical score is simple, almost spartan, with each theme characterized by a single instrument, like organ, oboe or piano. It’s amazing how much mood can be gained from such simple means, and the game’s ambiance is further heightened by the insertion of strategic sound effects, such as the sound of disturbingly witchy laughter. On top of that, here and there you’ll find yourself jumping or giggling while having to chase down a weird little imp in gameplay sequences that are simultaneously amusing and startling.

 The Charleston Curse

It takes roughly three hours to finish the game proper, and once you do, a bonus chapter unlocks that serves as the true end to the main story, though it seems as though this chapter will remain exclusive to the Collector’s Edition. This section is good for another hour or so of gameplay and earns a thumbs-up for presenting new hidden object scenes as well as new areas of the Charleston estate. Other unlockable extras in the Collector’s Edition include concept art, wallpapers, screen savers and music tracks, the latter of which is to me, the most worthwhile.

Although thematically, Witches’ Legacy: The Charleston Curse isn’t the most original game in the world, it’s still an admirable example of an expertly-made hidden object adventure. With cool Full Motion Video effects, creative storytelling, great sound design and more surprises than your average adventure, it’s a grade above most offerings in the genre and as such, is well worth playing.