There is little more frustrating than an interesting premise, executed poorly. Doors of the Mind: Inner Mysteries should be one of the most interesting hidden object games I’ve played recently, since it takes place primarily in the main character’s subconscious. There is a certain dreamlike quality to the item-stuffed tableaus that most HOGs present to a player, so making an HOG that’s literally a trip through the protagonist’s mind should make for some brilliant casual gaming.
The game even offers you a very interesting plot hook to get things going. You play as a woman named Hazel who’s had difficulty sleeping ever since her father died. Frazzled, she tries a visit to a doctor who practices hypnosis to see if she can sort herself out. What she uncovers in their first session together suggests she has suppressed memories of a terrible event from her childhood, one that concerns her mother’s death. The rest of the game plays out between trips to Hazel’s childhood home and the doctor’s office, where hypnosis lets Hazel examine the realm of her own mind.
From that promising beginning, Doors of the Mind: Inner Mysteries makes just about every mistake a casual game can without being outright buggy or glitchy. It’s an extremely short game, broken down into only five chapters. You get to sort through roughly three or four hidden object levels each chapter, and usually solve a couple of simple puzzles that can be skipped. Most players should be able to complete Doors of the Mind in at most two or three hours, probably less if you use the game’s Hints to speed yourself along.
A game this short is going to live or die on the strength of its gameplay and storytelling. Doors of the Mind‘s gameplay is mostly straightforward and unobjectionable, but does suffer from a fairly serious graphical issue. The problem isn’t one of quality, as the game’s visuals are workmanlike but not basically deficient in any way. Some levels manage an eerie weather-beaten look that’s quite atmospheric, in fact. The problem is, of all things, the game’s resolution.
There’s no widescreen mode, so if you have a newer monitor the game will be a blurry mess if you “fullscreen” it. It also looks pretty bad in fullscreen mode at any remotely high resolution setting. If you play it in windowed mode at higher resolutions, onscreen items you’re looking for may actually be too small to see, causing a lot of unpleasant squinting. You can either strain your eyes through this game or, if you don’t have a widescreen monitor, try lowering your resolution to fullscreen it. Either way, the low-res graphics make this game more of an annoyance to play than it should be.
When it comes to storytelling, Doors of the Mind fumbles badly. The game’s early chapters establish that Hazel’s mother died under mysterious, probably violent circumstances. Early levels suggest a tantalizing mystery behind the event. As you begin to piece together the particulars, though, the game grows progressively less interesting. The reason for Hazel’s trouble sleeping after her father’s death turns out to be absurd and dissatisfying. There’s a “plot twist” in the very last bit of the final level that’s infuriatingly trite.
The game’s soundtrack is largely ambient, with a few levels that use sound effects in a very unsettling way. This is definitely a game that works better if you play it with the sound on. It is, in fact, perhaps telling that one of the game’s most disappointing moments is delivered in silent movie format. Doors of the Mind uses very thoughtful and deliberate sound design in most of its levels, while its storyline is a bit sloppy at best.
Doors of the Mind: Inner Mysteries is a game that’s impossible to recommend, between its extreme brevity, graphics issues, and disappointing storyline. There are countless hidden object games available now that are going to be far more satisfying investments of player’s time. Most HOGs don’t play with ideas as promising as the ones Doors of the Mind tried to work with, though, which makes this game’s mediocrity all the more disappointing.