Santa Claus is missing and Christmas is doomed! Dooooomed! At least, that’s what the Abominable Snowman would have you believe. Unless, in the guise of private detective Arthur Knight, you can solve the mystery. So, don your snow gear, sprinkle some magic dust on your noggin and it’s off to Christmasville. With a bit of help from Yeti, Reindeer and Elf, you just may discover the truth about Santa before the holiday’s ruined.
If you’ve played any of the hidden object adventures Magic Academy, Mysteryville or Mysteryville 2, you know exactly what to expect in their holiday-festooned younger sibling. Dialogue-based cut scenes are interspersed with item hunts and various merry mini-games to tie the disparate elements together into a cohesive whole, telling a humorous (bordering on corny) tale while challenging you to solve the various mysteries that ensue. A single, timed mode of play is provided, but more than sufficient time is offered to solve the game’s puzzles and mini-games. You can also replay completed stages at any time.
As with most seek-and-find games, Christmasville is all about locating various objects buried in the midst of rooms overflowing with a menagerie of mostly out-of-place junk. While not every location is a complete muddle of accumulated paraphernalia, it’s still pretty messy by most folk’s standards. It’s from this accrued collection of hundreds of bits and pieces that you must extract the necessary goods. Click on an item to select it, but avoid random clicking. Too many haphazard mouse presses will result in a time penalty.
Hidden object puzzles are comprised on three basic varieties. The first requires that you locate objects from a grocery list by name. For example, an abacus, toy soldier, horseshoe, pineapple, paper fan, bowling ball and reindeer. Second is a variant that supplies you with just the silhouettes of objects that you must identify by shape alone. Then, there are hunts where you must find all items of a certain type such as wrapped presents, bottles or letters of the alphabet. Finally, you have searches based on locating objects that differ in two almost identical side-by-side scenes of the same location.
Christmasville also offers a variety of mini-games to punctuate the object-hunting action. Included are games of Concentration-style tile matching, jigsaw puzzles where objects are simply rotated in place as well as those requiring more traditional piece relocation, matching pairs of playing cards and word scrambles to rearrange letters and unscramble notes. Nothing extremely original appears, but it’s all entertaining nonetheless.
So, what can you expect in this holiday potluck of gaming? Here’s a for-instance. At some point you need to meet Ear. Actually, Ear is Bear once you locate the missing "B" from his name in a find-all-the-letters puzzle. But, to reach him in the first place you need to uncover a whistle at Elf’s house, and to do that you have to perform several hidden-object searches followed by a hunt for some missing instructions. Once the document has been located, you need to unscramble it so you can use the whistle to call Reindeer, who then takes you to Ear, err, Bear. However, before he can do that you must locate a hidden map and then reorient all its pieces so they make sense. By the way, Reindeer will need some magic potion to recharge his flying ability, too, so you’ll need to collect all the bottles in Elf’s house before he can fly you to your destination. And, that’s the gist of play.
A fun-filled way to begin the holiday season, Christmasville features attractive visuals and snappy music. It provides an enjoyable mix of hidden object puzzle types and more mini-game varieties then much of the competition. The story and characters are a bit on the silly side, but it flows well. And, with 20 stages of play and multiple levels per stage (around 80 levels in total), there is a fair bit of play in store – about three hours sans the dialogue.
And speaking of dialogue, there’s way too much in comparison to actual playtime. The cut scenes drag on interminably, but at least you can skip them if you wish. More significantly, though, the puzzles are simply too easy. Most take, at best, take a little over two minutes to complete for an accomplished object-hound, and some under a minute. It really screams out for an adjustable difficulty setting.
Still, if you’re in the mood for some holiday fun and you simply can’t get enough hidden-object fare, Christmasville may be worth the investment. It’s easy, but not abominably so, and somewhat en-deering. Go ahead. Download the demo and give it a try for your elf.