Zap from the past offers few shocking twists
With so many hidden object games on the market, simply replicating the formula of the genre will do little to set a game apart from the crowd. Since many of these games offer the same mix of hidden-object scenes, mini-games and object-based puzzle progression, visual themes and settings can do a lot to set a HOG apart. In this regard, Deadly Voltage: Rise of the Invincible does plenty to achieve an original look, but beyond it visual appeal remains a competent but by-the-books hidden object adventure.
The game’s visual style seems pulled straight out of 1950’s science fiction. The town of Waterstone has been enveloped in some sort of electric force field, and the environment is filled with tube TVs, tail-finned cars and broken down robots that look like they could have evolved from the Tin Man himself. The futuristic inventions you encounter run purely on analog technology, mostly made up of gears, tubes, bolts and bulbs. Even your menu hub resembles an old-timey video phone, while the hint gauge looks like some sort of EMF detector the cast from Lost in Space would use if ghost-hunting on a distant planet.
Retro futurism is found throughout the game, creating detailed environments to explore filled with decades-old visions of the future. In a toy shop, for example, there’s a sturdy steel box entitled “Toy Recycler” that would look at home in the Jetsons’ living room. Made up of various tubes and screws, it can magically reanimate broken down or fried robotic toys. In a scientist’s hidden lab, a riveted furnace runs giant gears that presumably give power to his kooky creations. Even the object-based puzzles you encounter will sometimes involve piecing together similarly outdated mechanisms, using their singular purpose to advance the game.
“ These object-based puzzles require you to collect and use various items and tools you find, meaning you won’t be able to “solve” most of them upon your first encounter. Thus, you’ll be revisiting areas frequently, using newly acquired items to solve puzzles or gain access to new areas of the game. Traveling between areas is made very easy thanks to the handy map system, which presents all the game’s scenes on a single page, allowing you to click the scene you wish to visit and transferring you there instantly. While many HOG/adventure games feature item-based backtracking puzzles, few make zipping between individual scenes as easy as this.
Hidden object scenes are plentiful, and may even be a bit too frequent for some. They do feature both single-click items and those that require some form of interaction, but these two-step processes range wildly in cleverness. For instance, finding firewood in one puzzle requires the two simplistic steps of clicking on a furnace to open the door, then collecting the wood inside. Another asks for a bicycle horn, but throws a non-clickable bike into the shot to throw you off the scent. There is hidden imagery that appears to be purposefully concealed, but is not always collectable at the moment. Seeing as the hidden-object scenes are commonly revisited more than once, there is a good chance you’ll be asked to find these well-hidden objects somewhere down the line, so you may want to keep a mental note of their location for later.
Puzzles not requiring the use of items are a bit rarer, tasking you to do things like match colored wires in a fuse box, arrange matches or punch in numeric codes. Actually, a majority involve number-based puzzles, tasking you to manipulate on-screen elements into chronological order or add up sums. While such puzzles offer a nice reprise from the bevy of hidden object scenes, they could be a bit more involved, as most can be breezed over before the “skip” meter even finishes filling. Obviously, they become more challenging towards the end of the game, but at first are a bit overly simplistic.
“ In fact, that is a complaint that could be levied against the most of the game’s first half – it is all rather simple. Your character will usually come right out and say the item needed for each puzzle or scene, making it very clear what it is you are supposed to do once a new object is discovered. Objects get used more than once too, so finding a single item sometimes solves several puzzles at once. For instance, a bunch of puzzles demand a crowbar, and you are looking for one for quite some time. However, you oddly encounter a hidden object scene containing a crowbar early on, and are even asked to locate it. Upon completion, however, the crowbar is not awarded, giving you a different item instead. This seems an odd design decision, as it only serves to break the logical flow of game.
Visually, the game’s 2D art is highly detailed and consistently retro, with lots of animations to liven up the environments. Leaves twirl through the air, electricity and lightning zaps across the screen at every turn, headlights flicker on broken down vehicles and clouds lazily drift across the sky. Even the cutscenes are well done, generally featuring some sort of action sequence to progress the story.
On the auditory side of things, there are no voice-overs, leaving you to read through clickable text during the cutscenes. Still, the game features light jazzy music that pairs nicely with the retro aesthetic. It is quite soft and meant to blend into the background, so if you’d like to hear it more prominently, we recommend adjusting the volume via the options menu.
“ Other customizable options allow you to tailor the experience to your liking. You can change your cursor type, fiddle with sound levels and switch the aspect ratio to fit normal or widescreen displays. There are two modes of difficulty on offer, which change the amount of hints you receive and how fast the corresponding meters will fill up, giving you incentive to try the game on its harder mode should you have finished the easier mode at first.
Deadly Voltage offers up an imaginative world to explore filled with enough nods to retro science fiction tropes to make Buck Rogers blush. However, beneath its stylized veneer lies a simple story with unexceptional mechanics that fail to achieve much originality or challenge. Thanks to the great visuals, exploring the detailed environments is an engaging affair in and of itself, but when it comes to hidden object scenes and puzzles, you may feel like you’ve see this all before.