Living Legends: Ice Rose is as beautiful as newly-fallen snow, but its gameplay offers nothing new

The village of Rosemount has a problem. For years, it’s been beset by a vile witch with an unhealthy liking for cold and snow. Worse yet, it’s burdened with a series of foolish individuals who against all logic, seem bent on helping said witch send the village back to the ice age. In Living Legends: Ice Rose, you play a young woman determined to save her gullible beau from becoming the latest of this icy enchantress’s willing thralls.

The story behind Living Legends: Ice Rose is somewhat typical, seemingly ripped right from the pages of a book of fairy tales. We’re not given a ton of insight into who the Ice Witch is, or why she wants to turn the world into one big block of ice; we just know that she’s bad news, and if she manages to find all the pieces of a rare magic mirror, the world as we know it is doomed. The thing is, as long as the mirror remains broken, she’s a captive. Unfortunately, she keeps managing to sucker innocent people into fixing the mirror for her. It’s an ugly business, which you’d think would uglify everything it touches. Surprisingly though, it all takes place in one of the prettiest settings you’ll ever see.

There’s no denying it, Living Legends: Ice Rose is one beautiful game. The snow-covered village of Rosemount is like an elaborate wedding cake, with one gorgeous frost-covered scene after another. Tons of skill and effort went into making it, and the sheer number of sparkling environments, close-up views and hidden object scenes will likely be enough to win many gamers over, regardless of the gameplay. Which isn’t to suggest that the gameplay isn’t good. Through the careful alternation of puzzles, exploration and hidden object scenes, Ice Rose maintains a subtle, yet always forward momentum that’s never slowed by confusing objectives or poorly-designed puzzles. All told, it’s an expertly handled hidden object adventure, one that will no doubt provide hours of fun to all but the most avid hidden object gamers.

The latter crowd might find that the game covers ground they’ve trod before, many times over. It doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to the elements of well made fantasy-themed titles; it’s got an evil witch, a captive love, a village in jeopardy, a magic whats-it everyone’s trying to control…it even has ghosts! Of course, a mixture of overused pieces doesn’t equal a fresh, original whole, and Living Legends: Ice Rose is anything but original. Not only are the setting and characters a little too familiar, the puzzles too feel like things we’ve solved a hundred times before. The worst issue in the game by far though, is repetition. Everywhere you go, you encounter locks of various types that coincidentally enough, are always missing some pieces. Your job is then to go forth, find the pieces, unlock the lock, and move another four feet, in order to complete the next incomplete locking mechanism.

The game’s hidden object scenes also suffer from an epidemic of sameness, in that they’re all composed of items of similar scale. Yeah, I know—I’m nitpicking, right? The more scenes you play though, this starts to matter. You realize that no matter what the scene, every item in it is roughly the same size, and the result is a series of monotonous, hard-to-look-at hidden object scenes. Well constructed? Beautiful? Yes and yes. But fun to play? Not so much. And while we’re at it, I’ll bring up one of my other hidden object game peeves. Why is it, when an intelligent villain’s trying to outwit you, he or she creates obstacles and then leaves the means of overcoming those obstacles right nearby? Hrm…I discover a well I need to climb and I think, “Wow, I really could use a rope ladder.” Seconds later, what do you think I find in a box nearby? Why, fancy that, a rope ladder! I really do have such amazing luck.

 Ice Rose

Contrivances aside, once you’re done with the main storyline of Living Legends: Ice Rose, a bonus chapter unlocks, as well as a wide range of reasonably entertaining extras. The main game ends on what I see as kind of a lame cliffhanger, whose main purpose seems to be to set you up for the bonus chapter. This extra hour or so continues the story and reveals that the Ice Queen might not be the real prime mover behind all the badness that’s been going on. It also sets you to discovering just who the real prime mover is. And once you finish this bit, you unlock other stuff, such as movies (if you actually care to watch them again), wallpapers, screensavers and concept art, as well as the puzzles and hidden object scenes you’ve already played, if for some reason, you feel compelled to play them again.

Living Legends: Ice Rose is a good, but not remarkable game. It’s impressive looking and well constructed, but takes zero chances in terms of story and gameplay. As such, it’s likely one of those games you’ll enjoy at the time, but will forget the minute you finish it. And I don’t know about you, but in my view, the hidden object genre needs more at this point and hidden object game makers should aim higher.