A somewhat predictable setup turns into an extraordinary game.
Stray Souls: Stolen Memories is an adventure game whose goal is to make you think you ate some bad tacos. By that we mean you’ll encounter unusual things that don’t make a lot of sense, such as a life-sized wooden puppet hanging from a bridge, or a door that turns into paper. That strangeness works in the game’s favor, however, and makes you ever so curious to see what’s around the next corner.
Brian, Julie, and Rose are one big happy family. Until Brian disappears. Months later, he manages to get a message to them saying that he’s still alive. Julie, being the peculiar, prescient-dream-having girl that she is, says she knows where he might be. So mother and daughter take off into the night and soon find themselves at an abandoned motel. Julie’s hunches prove pretty accurate, but then the closet door opens and Brian makes an appearance, leading Julie into another world before sealing the entrance behind him. Something strange is definitely going on here. Using what few clues Brian left behind, it’s your job to track down husband and daughter, even if you have to cross into another dimension to do it!
Stray Souls: Stolen Memories follows the layout of its predecessor Stray Souls: Dollhouse Story pretty closely. That’s not a bad thing, though, as the previous game was well-balanced and a great all-around casual adventure game. You’ll spend most of your time in Stolen Memories collecting items and using them from your inventory to solve simple environmental puzzles. Need a bridge across a gap? Toss a ladder down there. Lamp not lighting up? Some glow-in-the-dark moths can help!
Outside of the adventuring portion, Stolen Memories drops a lot of mini-games in your lap. They range in complexity from simple arcade-style diversions, to more intricate affairs, almost all of which go beyond the usual battery of tangram ripoffs and basic jigsaw puzzles. Hidden object scenes are fairly rare, though when you do encounter them, you’ll find they’re short, well-proportioned, and stocked with a good number of interactive items to find.
The story and setting really set Stolen Memories apart from other games in the genre. To say there are strange things going on is a massive understatement. To start things off, your main helper is a talking doll with button eyes and a huge zipper on his chest. Actually, it looks practically identical to Sackboy, the main character from LittleBigPlanet. Creepy and somewhat surreal, but whatever, we’ve got a family to save (and many more creepier and surreal things to find).
Stolen Memories really works as a hidden object adventure. Everything about it fits together perfectly. The interface is smooth and responsive, with plenty of extra animations and sound effects to make you feel as if even the menus were solid objects in the palm of your hand. Using inventory items, working with mini-games, and traveling through the environment is all perfectly seamless as well. The cutscenes are visually stunning and punch up the action a few notches each time they play. It may seem like small points to mention, but when a game lets you sit and enjoy everything without interfering, it makes for a much better experience.
Every bit as good as its predecessor, and maybe a button or two better, Stray Souls: Stolen Memories is an adventure game that’s going to take you for a wild ride. Sit down, have some coffee, and prepare to lose yourself in a stunning game.