Ever walk in on the middle of a movie and find yourself hopelessly lost, but still enjoying yourself? That’s what playing Lost Realms: The Curse of Babylon is like if you didn’t play the previous game, Lost Realms: Legacy of the Sun Princess. You’ll have a hard time following the plot, but you’ll be having such a good time on your adventure that you won’t really mind.
The story, which is told with still panels and text between chapters, basically boils down to this: Your friend has been cursed and without your help, he probably won’t survive. The two of you immediately take off for Turkey and begin prowling through ancient temples and ruins to search for clues. This is where the game’s beautiful and exotic hidden object levels begin. Each location has several different areas that need to be searched, sometimes more than once, and they’re all jam-packed with beautifully drawn items.
You’ll be provided with a list of items, and as you make progress on your journey, you’ll find tools to help you with your search. The magnifying glass helps you get a closer look at the scene, which is definitely helpful given how subtlety some of the items are hidden. The knife cuts through spider webs and cloth, while the baseball bat can smash open objects like vases and crates to reveal their contents. A sparkle very helpfully indicates areas that need a tool, and if you still have any doubt about what you should do, a hint will flat-out tell you. While I appreciate the mechanic, I felt guilty about smashing open priceless antiquities just to tick an item off my list. Indiana Jones would almost certainly not approve.
Some of the objects on your list will be in gold, which is either because they’re useful for solving a later puzzle, or because they’re a regional item with which you may not be familiar. Hovering over "shofar," for example, will bring up a pop up explaining that it’s a kind of horn. It’s an understated way to work a bit of education and culture into your gaming, and it works very well. Items in your inventory can sometimes be used immediately, but more often are put to the side to use for a level-ending puzzle. These come in a variety of forms, such as peg puzzles and sliding boxes, and can be quite challenging. You can skip them if you like, but you’ll have to use a hint to do it.
You can play Curse of Babylon in either Timed or Relaxed mode, and if you play with a timer running, you may find yourself dipping into those hints more often than you’d like. Some of the items on your list are extremely well-hidden – you can be looking right at them and still not see them. This is in part because the scenes are so well constructed, and some of it is because the game cheats a bit by playing around with color and transparency. Don’t feel bad about using them, though, because earning new ones is fun by itself. Rather than find new ones tucked away in the hidden object levels, you head off to the Hint Bazaar and play one of three games: memory, match three, or a shell game. You can earn a certain number of hints per game, and can only hold a total of six at a time. Not only is it a fun break from the object hunting, it’s a wonderfully inventive way to refill your hint coffers.
Its hidden object gameplay is solid and satisfying, but what gives Curse of Babylon its particular appeal is its use of exotic locations like Istanbul and Persia. The game makes an obvious effort to include genuine aspects of the culture of the regions you visit in your quest to break the curse, and the effort gives the game a distinctive flavor.
Lost Realms: The Curse of Babylon greatly improves on its predecessor, providing a beautiful, well-paced game with plenty of intriguing twists on the genre. If you’re not already familiar with the characters, you may find yourself a bit nonplussed by the plot, but don’t let that stop you from joining the adventure.