Two friends bent on big adventure in Thailand find big troubleâ€”of the demonic, villager-napping variety
The Orneon development team has not one, but three successful franchises going for them: Agency of Anomalies, Echoes of the Past and Secrets of the Dark. At this point, they could well be considered experts of the hidden object genre. But just in case some doubters remain, this month Orneon brings us yet another excellent titleâ€”the second in the globe-trotting Secrets of the Dark seriesâ€”a toothsome, Thai-spiced adventure called Eclipse Mountain.
At the start of Eclipse Mountain, you’re off on another international adventure with a buddy of yours, this time to visit some picturesque ruins in Thailand. Your plan is to investigate a local legend about a petrified demon, but you’ve hardly set foot in the demon’s village when your traveling companion is taken by a savage were-creature-thingie. Faster than you can say “pad thai,” your vacation becomes a rescue mission, and you set out to discover where the savage were-thingie’s taken your friend.
Although the notion of rescuing a kidnap victim is fairly common in the hidden object genre, Eclipse Mountain freshens it up a bit via its beautiful Eastern setting. Your hint button’s a sparkly lotus flower, and throughout the game you’re surrounded by Asian-inspired architecture, furnishings, items, dĂ©cor and plant life. A quaint village, echoing caves and crumbling temple ruins make for visually satisfying exploration and expertly-done special effects (sparkles, water, fire) add magic to every scene. The inspired visuals extend to the carefully orchestrated hidden object scenes, which in addition to everyday items, are filled with beautiful Asian art and artifacts.
Of course, a game needs to be more than beautiful; it needs to be fun too; fortunately, Eclipse Mountain’s gameplay is as well-made as its graphics. At the core of the design is a morphing mechanic controlled by the scene’s lighting. Many scenes have a source of illumination in them that, when activated, reveals the scene in literally a whole ‘nother light. For instance, with the lights on, you’re looking at a cozy hotel lobby; with the lights off, that cozy retreat turns cold, dark and derelict. Different items reveal themselves depending the lighting mode, and often must be manipulated in one mode to be used in the other. It’s a very cool idea and makes already exotic locations even more mysterious.
Other aspects of the game that deserve the thumbs-up are its sound and its approach to hidden object scenes. There’s not a lot of voice-acting, but what’s there is well done and the Asian-inspired musical themes are both relaxing and lyrical.
As far as hidden object mechanics go, Eclipse Mountain has some of the standard subtractive hidden object play (where the items you find are zapped out of the scene when you click on them) but it also has additive hidden object scenes in which you put the listed items back in place. This adds another layer of interest, since you’re not just searching for objects, you’re also associating one object with another. This is made even more fun thanks to some great little animation flourishes that happen when two matching items come together.
In addition to interesting hidden object play, the game’s puzzles also offer a few nice surprises. Sure, there are some of the usual missing key-type things, but there are also a good number of unusual exploration puzzles, as well as some new takes on some old stand-bys (my favorite of which was a layered twist the match-two idea).
My only criticism of Eclipse Mountain is of its ending which for me, was quick, abrupt and anticlimactic. In my opinion, after a really meaty, satisfying adventure and a work-intensive resolution, there really needs to be more of an epilogue or things really fall flat. As it is, the story here just ends. There’s no fanfare or cinematic wrap-up; the credits just roll and you’re off to the bonus chapter. Thankfully the bonus chapter is as carefully constructed as the main game, with a good balance of new and old locations. And although it’s a bit sketchy narratively speaking, it does offer a respectable extension of the main gameplay. Other than this, the extras are a little thin. There’s a strategy guide, a couple of wallpapers and the option to replay the puzzles you’ve already solved (though I’m not sure why you’d want to).
Except for a couple of minor flaws, Eclipse Mountain is a great hidden object adventure. Orneon has a good number of solid hidden object games under its belt, and its experience shows in the look, sound, gameplay, presentation and feel of this game. Despite being a little light on extras, it boasts 4-5 hours of quality entertainment and for that, true adventure fans might not mind paying the Collector’s Edition price.