A teenage girl with magical powers is tricked into seeking revenge against a powerful witch.
Over a year ago, I gave the first Witches’ Legacy game, The Charleston Curse a glowing review. That game, with its creative approach to well-worn themes, slick presentation, and impressive attention to detail, deserved high marks. Unfortunately, its sequel, Witches’ Legacy: Lair of the Witch Queen, though beautiful,is neither as interesting, nor as well made.
Lair of the Witch Queen begins some years after The Charleston Curse, when your adopted daughter Lynn has grown into a pretty, intelligent teenager. Of course, adolescence is generally a tough time, and for Lynn it’s even worse since powerful magical abilities reside deep within her. She becomes moody and withdrawn, and one day you discover she’s run away: lured to a distant European town by a woman who claims to understand her. As a good parent, all you can do is follow Lynn, and if possible, prevent her from destroying herself.
Stopping a willful teen from doing what she wants is no easy task, and luckily you don’t have to tackle it on your own. Your faithful (though still creepy) little imp is back and ready to retrieve hard-to-reach items for you. The two of you find yourself magically transported to the snow-covered European village of Rothenburg where you meet up with Lynn and her mysterious hostess. Once you and Lynn reconcile, your goal changes so you’re helping her search for magic artifacts. From that point forward, the game becomes a very predictable and repetitive series of puzzles and hidden object scenes that, though reasonably entertaining, are far from mind-blowing.
Before getting into the negatives, Lair of the Witch Queen deserves two thumbs up for good looking graphics. Every scene is beautifully composed, the cinematics are high-quality, and the characters are the best I’ve seen in some time. Although the facial animations seem to distort their skulls in odd ways, they’re seamlessly rendered and extremely attractive. The voiceovers match these spectacular digital actors and the music too deserves mention; although not especially memorable, it does the job conveying appropriate moods and emotions.
Where the game feels like it’s lost some of its fizz (so to speak) is when you get to its puzzles and hidden object scenes. The former can be pretty challenging, but at the same time disappointing. There are frankly too many variants of the same puzzle (enough with the colored rings, guys!). The hidden object scenes have a similar problem, although they offer you a choice between searching for items or playing a match-two game. The match-two never changes or evolves, so you’re stuck playing the same thing again and again. If the hidden object scenes were interesting, the monotony of the match-two wouldn’t be such an issue, but the scenes rely on color casting (bathing the entire scene in say, strong yellow light or strong blue light) to “hide” items, and as such, aren’t as interesting as they could be. They’re also not triggered in particularly interesting ways, and most of them have to be played through more than once.
Lair of the Witch Queen tries to augment this uninspiring gameplay by making you collect stuff—in this case, puzzle pieces and morphing items. The former can be made into a finished image in the game’s extras section (provided you find all of them), and you can win achievements by collecting the latter (as well as by doing other things like interacting with your little imp friend). These are fine for what they are, but don’t really make up for the gameplay’s overall lack of creativity.
Lair of the Witch Queen also leaves something to be desired in terms of presentation. The Charleston Curse had some very cool ideas as far as conveying story through animations in the game’s journal; here the journal feels like something of an afterthought – it’s simple, dull, and not really worth looking at. Although this and other things previously mentioned make the game feel a bit lackluster, it redeems itself a bit near the end with an unusual multiple choice dialog puzzle. It’s admittedly strange that your character is referred to here as the generic “Main Heroine,” but at least the sequence allows some kind of meaningful interaction with your adopted daughter.
The game’s bonus chapter continues the main story and serves as the game’s true ending. It’s well-constructed, but here again puzzle types are repeated and the chapter’s super-fast resolution doesn’t provide any narrative “umph.” Along with the bonus chapter, Lair of the Witch Queen takes smart advantage of its prettiness by offering wallpapers, screensavers, and concept art, as well as music tracks, an achievements gallery, the opportunity to replay the game’s puzzles, and a fully detailed strategy guide.
The Witches’ Legacy: Lair of the Witch Queen is a good game; some might say better than many other hidden object games like it. Without doubt, it is beautiful – however, it just doesn’t do enough gameplay-wise to get outside of its comfort zone.