Now here’s something you don’t see every day – a 3D hidden-object game (“HOG”) that lets players move around environments in order to find items. The concept works very well in Annabel, an Egyptian-themed adventure from Jet Dog Studios.
Annabel begins in modern times, when a young female tourist visits a museum in Egypt. She hears a disturbing ancient tale about another “Annabel,” a princess whose lover, Akhenaten was sacrificed to the gods by an evil high priest. Not only do the two women look alike but our contemporary heroine is magically transported back to ancient Egypt and must try to undo the fate of her handsome prince. As we learn during the first few minutes of the game, the nasty Amertekh is keeping Princess Annabel captive as his forced marriage to her enables him to become a full-fledged Pharaoh and take control over Egypt. He also plans on killing her boyfriend.
The story is interesting, but the voice-acting sounds quite stiff and some lines of dialogue are downright cheesy. Annabel, to Amertekh, after hearing he will kill her boyfriend: “Oh, you’re a scoundrel!” Oy. Fortunately, the story, visual presentation and puzzles more than make up for it all.
As Annabel, players must escape a pyramid, open a locked sarcophagus, meet her lover on a ship and sail down the Nile, explore vast temples and eventually stop Amertekh from his malevolent plans. This will be accomplished by three main kinds of game-play: collecting relevant items in the various locations related to the task, talking with characters and finding out what they want and solving some puzzles that are then unlocked as mini-games to play from the main menu (including variations of Match-3, jigsaw, sliding tile, and more).
For example, early on in the game you need to trick a soldier into thinking he’s being taunted by the god Horus, and so you must collect items that can resemble the god, when casted as a shadow onto a wall. This includes a comb for hair, upside-down shoe for a face, thick bracelet for a neck and branch for arms, all of which can create a convincing silhouette. Not sure about the guard fainting from fear, though, but you just kind of accept these silly things in this game.
You’ll also collect items for character by finding 10 pieces of this and that, and then giving it to them, who in turn will help you. You will see what you need to find by a picture of it at the top of the screen, a number that refers to how many items are required in total and your mouse pointer will glow when you’re near one of the items you’re combing for in the room.
Moving around the 3D environment is handled intuitively by the mouse, but players who suffer from vertigo might not like the quick movements – viewed from a first-person perspective – such as running up the stairs of a temple and then turning around to enter a room. While the lip-synching doesn’t match with the character’s words, the graphics are impressive overall with high-resolution scenery and special effects. The good soundtrack also adds to the game’s charm and high production values.
Along with the aforementioned issues, I also found it odd you couldn’t pick up an item until it becomes your objective at the time — such as finding 8 crystals or 6 stamps. Perhaps, instead, the developer could’ve opted for an inventory system, as with traditional adventure games.
Overall, though, Annabel is a highly enjoyable hidden-object puzzler that takes a chance on a different approach and succeeds. It might not be for everyone – especially those who get motion sickness easily – but the clever gameplay, many mini-games, story and production values all make this a recommended pick for fans of the “HOG” genre.