Fantastic Creations: House of Brass is a fun, but unremarkable hidden object adventure
Fantastic Creations: House of Brass starts strongly, with an intriguing tale of immortality and the promise of lost love renewed in a magical, steam-driven house, and it even tries to mix things up with its own unique twist on the hidden object genre. And it’s pretty good – but it stumbles a bit, and never quite manages to raise itself above the crowded ranks of decent, conventional, but unremarkable hidden object adventures.
As a child, you were raised on generations-old stories of a great house filled with wondrous creations and an inventor who discovered the secret of everlasting life. But the passing of your mother reveals a secret: those bedtime stories she used to tell you are more than simple fairy tales. The house is real, and with the help of one of those amazing inventions she kept hidden until her death, you’re soon standing in front of it, about to begin your greatest adventure.
From the start, Fantastic Creations: House of Brass seems like a very straightforward hidden object adventure, a mix of puzzles and hidden object scenes tied together with a pseudo-magical story of failed love and – maybe – redemption. And so it is; the mini-games are plentiful but, for the most part, not terribly original, and while a few will try your patience the bulk of them aren’t overly difficult. For those moments when you do get stuck, the usual “skip puzzle” option will save the day, but the pre-skip countdown timer is relatively slow compared to most other games, ensuring that you’ll have plenty of opportunity to work things out on your own before you throw in the towel.
The hidden object scenes, on the other hand, are a wee bit different. Instead of being given a list of random objects to find, House of Brass tasks you with finding of all items of a certain type, like concave objects or pointed ones. The net result is essentially the same, but it’s a bit of a novelty and an extra challenge not knowing exactly what you’re looking for, so HOG fans tired of the same old might find it a nice change of pace. Like the puzzle skip timer, the hint timer also ticks off rather slowly, so you can expect to do most of the heavy lifting yourself.
The game packs a pleasant visual punch, although that’s as much to do with the setting as with the actual graphics, which are very good, but certainly not the best we’ve ever seen. The house itself is a charming and fascinating place, especially for gamers who enjoy the steampunk genre, and it even has something of a sensible and almost cozy aesthetic to it. The voice acting isn’t especially strong, but it’s good enough to add a little life to the game. And while the music is actually quite good it feels disconnected from what’s happening on the screen; it’s nice to listen to but doesn’t really do anything to accentuate the game.
But around the halfway point, I began to notice a few bumps in the road that, while they didn’t ruin the journey, made the ride a little rougher than it needed to be. The in-game journal, for instance, spins the game’s tale very well, but it lacks any sort of useful map. The basic layout of the House of Brass is contained on the first page, but it doesn’t tell you where you are, nor does it indicate which rooms are which. So when you’re told to go to the mail room, for instance, it’s pretty much useless. There’s a lot of back-and-forth running around, and despite the game’s relatively small size it’s not too difficult to get turned around or forget exactly where it is you’re supposed to be going, so the absence of a proper map hurts.
The story didn’t do much for me either, which was particularly disappointing because it began so well. There were creepy bits and sad bits, which I thought suggested the potential for an engaging and memorable tale, but when all was said and done it just petered out into nothing. Even the big finish wasn’t really a resolution of any sort, and instead of an epilogue or even an explanation, it just rolls credits. Kind of a letdown.
House of Brass is currently available as a Collector’s Edition, with a fairly average and uninspired mix of extras: a prologue bonus chapter, access to the mini-games, wallpapers, and a soundtrack. It’s pretty conventional as far as these things go, but nothing to get too excited about.
Fantastic Creations: House of Brass is the classic “close, but no cigar.” It’s a decent game, but I can’t help feeling that it could have been a whole lot better than it was, and that, in the end, makes it a disappointment.