Enlightenus from Blue Tea Games is a creative, richly-textured game that offers an excellent combination of hidden object and adventure in a lighthearted, inspiring story. With 14 hidden object scenes and over a dozen magical rooms to explore, Enlightenus provides challenge without being overwhelming. The only drawback is that freeform exploration that lets you move as you like between rooms can sometimes leave you wondering where to go next.
You play as Inspector Doubleleaf, a famous detective who has been called in by an even more famous novelist to unravel a strange mystery. Arriving at the reclusive author’s mansion, you discover that he has access to a secret world of elves, and that his popular fantasy novels are based on his experiences there! Stranger yet is the fact that something has stolen all his novels and hidden the pages in the Enlightenus version of his mansion. It’s up to you to recover them and put everything back in order.
This begins a charming and unusual gaming adventure. As you move from room to room, you have to discover and use inventory objects, and also examine pages of the novels that you find scattered around. Each page turns into a Hidden Object scene. Only instead of finding objects in each scene, your task is to take objects from the Find List and put them where they belong, using clever text clues that appear as you move the object around. For example, "Fangs" in inventory might seem to go anywhere-until you discover the text label for "Toothless Snake." "Hat for a bonehead" is the finishing touch to evening apparel for "a Gentleman Skeleton." In some cases you have to use objects in sequence, like when you have to fill a bucket with water before you can use a mop.
Although there are a few spooky scenes, the game goes out of its way to make everything appropriate for a famous children’s author. A detached hand is clearly identified as plastic. A gopher who needs to be hit with a mallet is first labeled as a toy. The story also includes inspirational quotes from people like Helen Keller.
The novel titles are fun and interesting. I found myself wanting to know more about "Wild West Jack and the Raccoon Gang" and "The Strange Tales of Meadow Creek Farm." Production values were polished throughout, from the excellent voice acting in the opening to the detailed graphics in the novel scenes.
There are some mini-games which place figurine tokens in a logical pattern. For example, one requires 3 "tools for a sculptor" on one side and 3 "tools for a hunter" on another. None require physical dexterity and all are pretty easy. The story ending is satisfying.
I would have considered giving Enlightenus five stars except for two things. First, whenever you revisit the same hidden object scene with a new find list, it "resets" each time, so a broken item you fixed on the first visit is broken again on the second. This was disappointing in a game which otherwise pays so much attention to detail.
More importantly, it’s easy to get stuck in the adventure portion of the game. If you don’t use a walkthrough, you may find yourself having to retrace your steps through previous rooms, performing pixel level searches to find the one missing item you need to progress. Some of this comes down to luck. If you happen to find all the right items in the right sequence, you may go through thinking it one of the best-designed games of the year. But if you do hit one of the snags because you missed a nail to be hammered in or a flower that needed to be picked you may wander the same rooms over and over for several hours, and feel tempted to give up altogether.
Some people would argue that this is all part of adventure game play, and you can run into the same problem in any Nancy Drew style game or even another combo game like Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst. There’s a lot of truth to that. Though hidden object fans will enjoy the creativity of the gameplay in Enlightenus, and I think many of them may prefer a more structured journey, or at least a hint system to tell you which room you need to search next!
Still, a quick visit to the forums or Tips & Tricks should get you unstuck right away, and the overall experience is worth a little frustration. Enlightenus is a fun and refreshing update to the hidden object genre.