A young woman works to save her shape-shifter lover from a self-seeking magus in Tiger Eye: The Sacrifice

I’m not a fan of romance novels. There, I said it. For some of you, that might disqualify me right off the bat for reviewing a game based on a romance novel, but I assure you, I went into Tiger Eye: The Sacrifice with a totally open mind. I’ve been surprised by romantic storylines before, and I was willing to believe that an adventure game based on a book by best-selling romance novelist Marjorie M. Liu could be a winner. Unfortunately, it wasn’t.

Tiger Eye: The Sacrifice is based on Liu’s book Tiger Eye, a story about a young woman named Dela Reese (I guess Ms. Liu didn’t realize the name would conjure up images of Touched by an Angel actress, Della Reese?), owner of a magical box and its genie-like slave, a sexy shape-shifter named Hari. Dela’s goal in the game is to free Hari from the magic box, presumably with his tiger-shift ability still intact. The two go looking for an answer and are forced off the road by a “weird purple light” and end up not in a strange abandoned village, but in Dela’s own home town of Rose Apple. This beginning is well, odd, and the story only gets odder and more contrived from there.

 The Sacrifice

The game’s a sequel and takes for granted that you’ve played the previous title, Curse of the Riddle Box. The problem is that if you haven’t played it, you’re bound to feel disconnected from both the heroine and her goals. Worse yet, the storyline as a whole ends up feeling like nothing more than a thin excuse to solve puzzles.

Then again, limited story might be a good thing since the game’s writing fairly drips with cheese. Dela and Hari’s schmaltzy exchanges would be hard enough to get through even with good voice acting, but the heroes’ stilted, overwrought performances make them even harder to tolerate. (Yeah yeah, I know – romance novels aren’t meant to be high-brow, but Ms. Liu’s novels are considerably better-written.)

Another big issue is that its progression doesn’t make much sense. While your main goal is stated at the start, the steps you take to achieve that goal often feel terribly random. Most of your time is spent trudging around a weird collection of random locations (Dela’s art studio, a restaurant, a Chinese curio shop, a night club and a morgue) solving random puzzles, assuming somehow they’ll help you free Hari. On occasion you’ll use Dela’s “psychic power”, which means you play a match-three game in order to fill up a bottle of psychic energy. This could have been an interesting mechanic had it evolved over time and not become repetitive, but the psychic aspect is underdeveloped and never feels like an integral part of the game.

 The Sacrifice

Because of these things, Tiger Eye: The Sacrifice comes off pretty clunky. That said, it deserves credit for devising a few puzzles you might not have seen before, and for doing a good job of repackaging the ones you have. There’s a good variety of objectives within the game’s puzzles, and the unique hint system allows you to obtain two levels of hint per puzzle before skipping them entirely. This represents a welcome change from the all-or-nothing, solve-or-skip approach used by most other games. Tiger Eye also deserves credit for its graphics, which are nice – at least, the environments are. The characters, well… Let’s just say their faces on occasion, are pretty scary.

Going in, you’d think Tiger Eye: The Sacrifice would be a sure winner. With the work of a best-selling author as a spring board, it should have been an easy transition to interactivity. Sadly, it wasn’t, and what we’re left with is an adventure game with a lot of problems. From silly dialog to bad voice acting and clumsy plot contrivances,Tiger Eye: The Sacrifice did no justice to either Ms. Liu’s work or the game’s genre. As such, it’s one adventure game/romance novel adaptation you won’t regret missing.