Some hidden object games, naturally, are better than others. And now we’ve got The Conjurer: A Magical Mystery, a very good but not flawless "HOG" from GameHouse. When it comes to production values, personality and story, this new game delivers the goods, but falls short in other areas.
The story surrounding this adventure follows the world’s greatest magician, the Conjurer, who decides to retire – but not before he delivers one final performance at his mysterious Victorian-era mansion – and you’re invited to the legendary show. But there’s also a catch: the illusionist has also issued a challenge to ten other top magicians, such as "Inkwell the Incredible," to perform at this retirement party, and whoever impresses the most will inherit the Conjurer’s coveted secrets. There’s more to the tale, too, including assassination attempts against the host, but we’ll let you unravel all the details yourself.
The core gameplay will be familiar to hidden object game fans: your job is to find a dozen or more objects spread throughout the mansion, be it in the guests’ rooms, foyer, theater, library, bathroom, and other places. For each of the ten magicians you’ll encounter each has three or four areas to explore, plus you’ll revisit some on occasion, tasked with other objects to find. Not all objects listed at the bottom of the screen are relevant to the scene, but many are, such as swords, masks, capes, coins, trunks, and other magician-themed items. After you find and click on these hard-to-locate items, it gets scratched off the list and you can then visit the next scene. Some items are tossed into your inventory, which you will use in the environment at the end of each magician’s story (more on this in a mo’).
Keep in mind, this HOG is easier than others: there is no timer, no penalty for clicking on incorrect items and there are three kinds of hints. One hint shows you a silhouette of the object you’re trying to find, a second will show you the general area of the object if you click on a crystal ball (and replenishes after a minute or so) and a third that will reveal the exact location of the item, but there’s only one of these "super hints" per magician. Also, while every few levels or so there’s a puzzle you can play related to the story – including the jigsaw variety, card-related math games and challenging logic puzzles – you can skip these puzzles if you deem them too tough.
The Conjurer lets you place some inventory items back into a scene, allowing the magician to perform a magic trick or illusion with the props you set up. While watching these animated tricks proves entertaining, I’m not sure why the game makers at Freeze Tag made it so easy for players to drop the items into the environment. Once you scroll your mouse over the stage, you’ll see a silhouette that shows you exactly what goes there from your inventory, such as a drape, basket lid, rice, knife, flower, gong, cannonball and chest. It would be more fun to try and guess where the items need to go instead of the game giving away the answer. I did enjoy the occasional riddles, though, such as "Drop it, you stop; Pick it up, you go; You’ll never cease sailing without one in tow." (answer: anchor).
A bigger issue is related to the objects you’re finding. For one, there is often more than one answer on the screen, so you might click the wrong one — this includes looking for a bone, book, hook, katana, hammer, scary mask, and others. This might frustrate the gamer some – it did for me. Secondly, you might see some clues as to what to click on, such as lingering yellow fairy dust that seems to point at an item or an object that shakes around as if to tell you it needs clicking, but it turns out they’re not relevant at all. Weird. Finally, there’s only one mode, which hurts the game’s replayability.
If you can forgive these minor issues, The Conjurer, with its high production, enjoyable story and fun HOG searching, should prove to be a better-than-average HOG puzzler for those looking for a weekend-long diversion.