Mo Monsters, Mo Problems.
The hidden object game genre carries along with it many common tropes, with its collection-based gameplay and puzzling plots that must be put together piece by piece. Sure, each game casts a unique art style and thematic glaze over the whole experience, but it is within the details of the plots that many of these games really get to flex their creative freedom. The results may not always be enthralling or captivating, but once in a while a gem shines through with an original story to tell, one beyond simple mystery devices and the who-done-it blueprint, one which delivers a tale really worth investigating. Chimeras: Tune of Revenge is one such game.
Set in the town of Graysand, the game has you tracking down a mysterious villain who has let loose a team of monsters that are maiming and terrorizing the citizenry. The story gets jump-started right off the bat, and the voice acting is done very well, namely the performance of the game’s antagonist, known around Graysand as the Organ Grinder. No, this isn’t some monster who enjoys turning spleens into hamburgers. Instead he is a musical ghoul wielding a hurdy gurdy. He also likes to rhyme, and the delivery of his cadenced cackles sounds like a mix between an Australian Dr. Claw from Inspector Gadget and Cobra Commander from G.I. Joe. Not a nice-sounding dude.
“ The Organ Grinder has a bone to pick with the people of Graysand, who apparently did him wrong somewhere down the line. Unable to let bygones be bygones, his ghoulish grudge is cryptically revealed through versed messages emblazoned on 13 “curse cards.” Each card is connected to a monster and person in town, and each sheds some small portion of light on the Organ Grinder’s overarching schemes for revenge. But these cards serve as more than just narrative devices, too, as acquiring them usually means facing off with some form of otherworldly creature.
This is where the game really starts to set itself apart from other HOGs, as the gameplay features heavy adventure mechanics requiring you to collect and use items in interesting ways to advance the story, save townspeople from monsters and gather clues. Many games within the genre employ similar mechanics, but usually as a way to break up time between hidden object scenes and mini-games. Here, it plays a large role in progression and serves as a great means to convey plot and backstory. You’ll fight off a vampire only to learn of his victim’s worrisome past, then save the town archivist from a fang-toothed grimoire, learning how his troubled fate intertwined with that of the Organ Grinder. You even adopt a pet baby Phoenix (named Terrance) who continually helps you solve puzzles in a variety of ways. On top of all this, the game mixes in a bevy of cutscenes and 2D animation to great effect, helping to bring both the story and characters fully to life (except for the undead ones, of course).
The combined use of animation and static imagery continually impresses throughout the game, and the painted town of Graysand features environments so wonderfully detailed that you may forgo the map function (which lets you jump between areas) just to stroll through the town and take in the beautifully grim sights. Equally as impressive is the game’s sounds, which punctuate animated segments and cutscenes while adding atmosphere to static scenes. Sound and visuals come together best during the moments you dispatch a monster, as your animated actions are made more vivid by top-notch sound effects. You’ll experience this early on when besting a medusa as she turns to stone, later enjoying the auditory treat of a vampire’s fiery demise, after which you get listen to the thunderous stomps of a giant stone Golem as a cannonball blasts through his chest. While the game consistently delivers quality graphics and sound throughout the experience, it really shines through during these sequences.
“ Adventure mechanics aside, the game still features a good amount of visual puzzles and hidden object scenes, which never feel too forced and actually help the game achieve a nice sense of pacing. Many hidden object segments require some form of interaction on your part before they begin (like using a broom to clear away cobwebs and access the scene), which helps make them feel more intrinsic to the world rather than piles of junk for you to randomly click at. Some objects also require additional steps to be collected, like combining two items or moving others about the scene. Puzzles also commonly need to be activated through the use of items, and come in a range of difficulty and styles.
With 13 curse cards to collect in all – each of which are needed to complete the end-game scenario – the main game can be blitzed through in Casual mode in a matter of a few hours. But the presentation is so well done that you may want to opt for a higher difficulty simply to prolong your stay in Graysand. Though, you may want to stick with Advanced mode, as Hardcore mode removes all help, and the hint and skip meter come in handy pretty often, namely due to a few of the game’s gruelingly aggravating visual puzzles. While some of these brainteasers and mini-games offer little challenge, others are tougher than a Rubik’s Cube in the dark, and the difficulty curve is nonexistent, with one of the hardest puzzles the game has to offer arriving within the first half hour of play. As such, you may want to retain the skip option merely to avoid frustration should you get stumped.
Once you do finish the game, there is still more content to explore. The game features a “Lost Pets” section (or “seciton” as the game mistakenly puts it) which can be collected throughout the town. These small, mystical creatures are translucent, but fade in and out of sight throughout the game. Also, bonus content is unlocked after completion, offering a jigsaw puzzle mini-game and some extra gameplay that adds a bit more story to the tale.
“ Chimera: Tune of Revenge is an impressive offering from Elephant Games, with an outstanding amount of detail poured into the environments, and even more attention given to the game’s monstrous presentation. Sound and animation come together seamlessly to enliven the game, and the plot and pacing all work together to form a cohesive experience. While the hidden object scenes work well enough, and the puzzles are a bit of a mixed bag, the adventure mechanics really shine, making backtracking through the game and uncovering the mysteries of Graysand a smooth, enjoyable endeavor.