It’s hard to know just how to describe Princess Isabella: A Witch’s Curse, because it has so much going on. It’s a huge, involved, beautiful mess of a game with a little bit of everything: hidden object portions, puzzle solving, skill games, even a quiz.
As Princess Isabella, this should be the happiest day of your life. You’re about to marry your beloved Prince Adam, but it seems that while you were out riding, a witch invaded your home, cursed the entire castle, and trapped everyone inside mirrors. You’re the only one left to remove the curse and restore your family.
Fortunately, you’re not entirely alone; your faithful fairy companion (who has a more than passing resemblance to Tinkerbell) is there to help. At first, she can only provide you with hints, but as you progress through the castle, you unlock new powers for her: smashing things with rocks, burning with fire, blowing a mighty wind, or pouring out water. Each power is only used to solve a handful of puzzles, but it makes her more interesting than simply being a flying hint dispenser.
You’ll have to remove the curse from every room of the castle in order to defeat the witch, and the castle is far from tiny. The requirements for cleansing vary from room to room. In one, you might have to restore a painting to its proper form by flipping switches in the correct sequence. In another, you may have to find all the ingredients for a stew to feed hungry ghosts. Several rooms require you to make a potion, which involves first collecting ingredients in a hidden object sequence, then playing a minigame where you have to mix the ingredients in the fewest possible moves.
You’ll also have to collect the mirror pieces to restore each of the seven shattered mirrors that hold members of your household. Once you have all the pieces for a mirror, you’ll reassemble them , jigsaw puzzle style, to release the trapped victim, receive a clue and an object you’ll need to progress into the next section of the castle. The puzzles of Princess Isabella vary wildly and pleasantly; there’s just enough variety to keep you interested in what you might find in the next room. Some of the puzzles can be quite difficult, but your fairy helper will help you solve them after you try for a sufficient amount of time.
One thing that Princess Isabella does extremely well is help you navigate the castle. Your royal home is enormous and it’s quite easy to get lost. Rather than leave you roaming around the halls in frustration, you can simply pull up the map, click on the room you want, and warp there instantly. Given how much backtracking you’ll be doing to solve puzzles, you’ll definitely appreciate this feature. The game also lets you know when you’ve done everything you can in a room, and marks that on the map, too. If you haven’t received the "Room Clear" message, you know there’s some other tidbit or secret there waiting to be uncovered. Very, very helpful when you’re trying to solve a particularly devious puzzle or track down that last mirror shard.
While the visuals are quite lovely, the voice acting is incredibly bad. The queen, in particular, sounds as though she’s about to nod off to sleep, and your fairy companion, helpful though she may be, is incredibly annoying. Her chirpy "You undid the curse. Yay!" when you clear a room makes you wonder if it might not be worth the risk of going on alone.
As bad as it is, the voice acting is the sole black mark against what otherwise is a very enjoyable game. The final showdown with the witch is a hidden object search race; you’re both looking for items to complete a number of potions. Whoever finds enough objects first wins. You think it’s stressful having a time limit? That’s nothing compared to watching your health meter go down as you try to find the feather pen and the tiara in the mess of bookshelves.
Princess Isabella: A Witch’s Curse is a little strange (one of the items I had to find was a "twisted neck") and seems to have something against snakes (the game considers them "evil"), but its healthy variety of well-crafted puzzles and hidden object searches make for a challenging and creative fairy tale. The game’s ending hints at a possible sequel; here’s hoping we get to see another chapter of this story.