Can you find your son in a parallel world?
You’ve likely heard the myth that claims that every person has a twin somewhere in the world. In Surface: Mystery of Another World, this ends up being true, at least in the case of parallel universes. You’ll play as the mother of a young boy named Bobby that has been kidnapped along with Bobby’s “long-lost” twin. You’ll need to question even your own reflection as you play through this spooky adventure, as you’ll work to save Bobby and return to your own reality.
In terms of the basic gameplay, the structure here is what you’d expect. You’ll play through standard hidden object scenes, finding items on lists, but may occasionally have to add an item from your inventory into the scene to find or manipulate another item. This is a unique mechanic, which adds challenge to these specific scenes that would otherwise be quite brainless.
Outside of hidden object scenes, you’ll pick up items from various hotspots, and will need to use those items in other locations to unlock doors, repair tools or otherwise investigate more of your environment. Unfortunately, some of the backtracking here is quite lengthy, requiring you to pick up an item and then travel upwards of 10 scenes backwards to an area you may have forgotten about completely to actually use it. This is a rare occurrence however, and the game’s great hint system will tell you, point blank, what you need to do if you do forget. That is, you’ll see “Take X item and use it on X item” as your hint.
Along the way you’ll complete a wide variety of mostly enjoyable puzzles. There are the classic tile-swapping puzzles, but also those that may have you rearranging pipes or cables to clear a surface, among other more unique options. The puzzle skip meter charges quite rapidly in the game’s most Casual gameplay mode (as does the Hint meter), but you will miss out on the occasional in-game achievement if you do choose to skip or hint your way through these puzzles or scenes.
Technically, the graphics in Surface: Mystery of Another World are quite good, and while lacking in a widescreen graphics option for those playing on larger monitors, the hidden object scenes have items that are quite crisp and colorful. Likewise, the game’s collectibles – red flowers – stand out mostly unobstructed on top of the gloomy, dark environmental backgrounds. Collecting these unlocks additional mini-games back at the main menu, but as the story is quite interesting, you’ll likely want to keep going forward within the game instead of going back.
Unfortunately, while Surface does come with voice acting during the cutscenes, the scenes themselves contain full motion video actors that come across as blurry on top of the animated backgrounds. This could be overlooked, but when combined with the fact that the English dialog has been dubbed over non-English video, you’re left with mouth movement that doesn’t match the audio whatsoever, making most cutscenes just appear sloppy (voices keep going after the mouths have stopped, for instance).
While most of the gameplay in Surface is rather good (aside from the aforementioned backtracking), and the story is at least fairly unique, the technical issues bring the game down a notch. With so many hidden object games being released on a weekly basis, these minor details become more important than ever when it comes to spending that hard-earned money. Ultimately, Surface: Mystery of Another World is worth playing, but it would have been undoubtedly better had more attention been paid to how the story was actually presented to the player.