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By Erin Bell | Apr 15, 2009 |

Jesse grew up not knowing much about her past, so she's excited to receive a letter from the Flux Family promising answers if she'll help them retrieve various historical artifacts by travelling through time with the help of a special device. Flux Family Secrets: The Ripple Effect is the latest casual title to combine hidden object and adventure gameplay, and is certainly fun while it lasts.

Both the time-travelling story and the gameplay, which involves searching scenes for pieces of objects to fit together, then putting the whole objects back into the scenes where they belong, are extremely similar to Mortimer Beckett and the Time Paradox. In each of the game's 10 chapters you'll visit three different historically significant locations, such as Shakespeare's theatre in Renaissance-era England, ancient China in Confucious's time, and the famous Abbey Road recording studio in the 1960s. Here you'll interact with famous historical figures themselves to help them find historically significant items (like Einstein's missing E=MC2 equation) that fall into broad categories like Art, Music and Invention.

Some special "tool" items are found intact, and you'll use these to solve puzzles, such as using a lockpick to gain access to a cupboard. Mostly, though, you're actually searching for pieces of items rather than whole ones. Like Mortimer Beckett, the items are spread out across the three scenes so you'll have to travel back and forth several times to find everything. Flux Family Secrets also boasts its fair share of mini-games, which are challenging and enjoyable, but which can be skipped if you would prefer. (Doing so adds extra minutes onto your overall completion time, though.)

Flux Family Secrets is untimed, and there are unlimited hints provided you wait a few seconds for them to recharge in between uses. Using a hint not only reveals an object's location, but also offers suggestions about what to do next if you get stuck. For example, it might suggest that you try using a certain object in a scene, or tell you that there's nothing you can do here at the moment, so try travelling somewhere else.

There's also a magnifying glass that lets you zoom in for a closer look. I didn't find myself using it that much, and sometimes it didn't seem to make a huge difference (such as in Amelia Earhart's garage in Chapter 7) but a couple of times it did actually help me find items I might not otherwise have seen that easily.

There are only ten historical figures and ten time periods in the game, so you'll find yourself visiting the same ones several times in different contexts. Some of them seem like a stretch – such as Albert Einstein showing up in the Antiquities of Music chapter. Sure, he loved playing his violin, but surely there were more significant musical moments that could have been highlighted? The locations themselves might be similar, but the scenes themselves are different – in other words, you might see the same garage from three or four different angles.

The story offers some intrigue as Jesse starts to have doubts about the noble motives of the Flux Family. Are they really a family of time-travelling do-gooders, or do they have some other reason for trying to meddle with history? (Be warned, the ending creates more questions than it answers.)

Once you've completed the game, you can play again with items in different places, which gives it some welcome replay value.

In spite of a few nitpicks here and there, chock up another enjoyable, if not entirely original, hidden object / adventure game hybrid in Flux Family Secrets: The Ripple Effect.

For similar games, try Mortimer Beckett and the Secrets of Spooky Manor, Mortimer Beckett and the Time Paradox, and The Serpent of Isis.

Pros:

  • Polished production values. Interesting scenes and puzzles. Well-implemented hints system. Not too stressful. Educational and replay value.

Cons:

  • Borrows concept from Mortimer Beckett. Only 10 historical figures that keep repeating. Vague To Be Continued ending.

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