If you’re a hidden object fan with a sentimental streak then Love Story: Letters from the Past – a game whose romantic storyline is brimming with nostalgia and sap – just might hit the spot. Other than that, it’s just a run-of-the-mill HOG.
As the game begins we meet Mary, an older woman whose second husband Frank has recently passed away. As Frank’s nurse Beth prepares to board a plane and return home, Mary receives a package with letters and notes from her first husband, John, who was declared missing in action during the war. Through these notes players will piece together Mary’s most cherished memories of her first love, from the first time she and John met, through their to their courtship, proposal and marriage.
While sweet, the whole thing is more than a little contrived. John’s notes just happen to blow all over Mary’s house, which means you’ll have to explore every room to hunt them down – in addition to, for some unexplained reason, searching for other randomized items from a list. For example, when Mary spies a letter wedged in between the stove and counter in the kitchen, you’re asked to find such things as a chili pepper, pickles, and tart trays before she’ll pick up the tool that she needs to pry it out. Needless to say, searching the rooms of an average person’s house (as opposed to, say, the creepy mansion in Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst) isn’t particularly exciting.
The story is made somewhat more interesting by the fact that it switches between Mary in the present and John 30 years later during the war. As the story builds towards a somewhat predictable and ever more melodramatic conclusion, the hidden object searches just seem to drag down the momentum. Mary can’t get into her car, for example, until she finds her driver’s license and then cleans the garage. There’s a scrapbooking section towards the end of the game where you have to fill in blank words of text by finding the objects that represent those words (a clock for “time,” for example), which seems like a way of padding the game even more.
There are a handful of mini-games, like quilting, helping John to navigate a maze, a memory sequence involving blinking lights – but these can all be skipped and there’s no reward for actually beating them, so one wonders if the developers actually expected anyone to attempt them in the first place. The hidden object gameplay is untimed with unlimited hints.
There’s one last type of gamepaly to mention, involving scenes where you have to match pairs of items that have some relationship to each other. Although the game’s unlimited hints system prevents these challenges from ever becoming truly frustrating, they’re still not particularly fun since it can be hard to tell what the items are all the time.
Love Story: Letters from the Past at least makes an effort with its romantic story, but it’s hardly a stand-out in a sea of HOGs that all have similar graphics, settings, and so-so production values.