As if being single wasn’t bad enough…

It’s bad enough having a broken heart, but to make matters worse, someone is going around bumping off those who are unfortunate enough to find themselves newly – and unhappily — single. Dubbed ‘the Lonely Hearts Killer’, this nefarious criminal is determinedly working his or her way through the recently bereaved or bereft upper classes of Victorian England, and putting an end to their misery by putting an end to their lives.

Logan Green, the detective in charge of the investigation into the killing spree, is joined by his old friend Owen Wright, who is desperately worried about his daughter Olivia. Nobody’s seen or heard from Olivia in 24 hours, and she’s a conscientious, responsible woman – running off just isn’t her style. Not only that, but she recently had a rather messy break-up with her partner Lewis. Owen is worried that she might have become the Lonely Hearts Killer’s latest unwitting victim.

Brink of Consciousness: The Lonely Hearts Murders

The pair set off on a hunt for the murderer through 1890s London, along the way visiting locations including the front parlors of the mansions of the rich, grisly crime scenes, and the dank, dark sewers underneath the city. Brink of Consciousness: The Lonely Hearts Murders is essentially a hidden object game with some added adventure elements, and comes from Magicindie Softworks, the development team that also made previous hidden object titles like Brink of Consciousness: Dorian Gray Syndrome, The Fool and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. If you liked those, chances are you’ll like their latest game, too.

Firstly, the graphics are fantastic – really closer to those that you would expect from a full-blooded adventure game you’d pick up in a store rather than a downloadable title. Cut scenes are fully animated and voiced, complete with lip-syncing, and the detailed environments are a pleasure to explore and poke around in. There are all kinds of lovely little touches, like a sleeping dog that occasionally twitches awake in one scene, and leaves blowing across the bottom of a woodland path in another. The hidden object scenes themselves use mainly ‘straight’ clues with a few trickier ones thrown in for good measure. For example, you might need to find a pirate flag and stick it on a model boat to make a ‘pirate boat’.

Many of the adventure-style tasks require finding objects to ‘complete’ other objects or solving a variety of different types of puzzles, such as lining objects up according to size from the smallest to the largest or guiding a ball through a maze. There are three different levels of difficulty to choose from, casual, normal and expert. Casual is the easiest, and even a hidden object novice would have no trouble completing the game on this level, whereas expert is more frustrating and a little more challenging. In expert, you are unable to use hints or a map and active zones are not highlighted.

Brink of Consciousness: The Lonely Hearts Murders

The Collector’s Edition comes bundled with a bonus chapter that’s playable once you complete the main game and adds a little more flesh on the bones of the story, as well as a strategy guide, an interview with the developers, a soundtrack, concept art and wallpapers.

This is clearly a game which has high production values, and the story premise is initially interesting and deliciously creepy. Who is this madman (or woman)? Why is s/he killing people who are unlucky in love? Why only members of the upper class? Why do they keep their victims alive for 28 days before killing them? Will you be able to catch them in time to save your daughter? Unfortunately, it quickly becomes rather unbelievable and slightly silly. Many of my questions weren’t answered satisfactorily by the end of the game, which was disappointing. Having full voice acting should really add quality to a game, but the dodgy British accents and clichéd lines don’t really use the actors to the best of their abilities. It seems a shame for a game that is otherwise of such high quality that more time wasn’t spent perfecting the dialogue.

Another minor niggle is that the game could have done with a few more scenes to scour. All in, it felt like there were too few hidden object areas, although none felt like they were overused. Perhaps I’m just being greedy to hold out my bowl and ask for more. Criticisms aside, this is still a great game and a real treat for hidden object fans.