It’s a good news/bad news situation in Mystery of the Crystal Portal: Beyond the Horizon. The good news is that after spending all of the first Mystery of the Crystal Portal game looking for your father, you’ve finally found him. The bad news is that now you’re both trapped with no apparent way home.
The portal that brought you, your dad, and your pal Igor to this mysterious and beautiful realm of floating islands – supposedly the remnants of Atlantis – was one-way only. Your father thinks he knows a way to get you all home, but he’s going to need you to do the legwork, which is where the hidden object searching comes in.
The item searches in MCP: Beyond the Horizon are a little different than your typical HOG. Each level begins with you being given a task, such as unlocking a gate or finding some maps. To accomplish that goal, you’ll have to complete a series of other tasks – repairing broken machinery, cleaning up a basement, and so on. Items that need your attention are highlighted with a helpful sparkle, and clicking on them brings up a group of circles displaying pictures of objects you need to collect to complete that particular goal. To complete that task, you must find all of the displayed items and deliver them to their respective circles. The images are a bit on the small side, so sometimes it can be hard to tell what you’re looking for, but moving your cursor over a circle will display the name of the object in question.
It’s a simple enough concept, but it provides a wonderfully layered approach to item finding. You may discover that the last item you need to complete your set is out of reach until you complete an entirely different set of objects, which in turn may rely on the completion of an entirely different goal. It’s a design that provides structure and purpose to object searches, rather than simply checking items off a list at random.
It unfortunately also causes a bit of pointless busy work. Sometimes, before you can pick up an object, you have to reassemble it or free it from restraints like ropes or screws. The item will appear in a zoomed-in pop up window that makes it easy to see exactly what you have to do, and while it’s a fine idea in and of itself, in practice all it really means is that you have to click a few extra times before you can pick the darn thing up. There’s simply no challenge to it. You don’t have to find the pieces you have to put back or track down the tool you need, they’re sitting right there in plain sight. If they were genuine puzzles, it would add another layer of complexity to the search, but as it is, it’s just a speed bump getting in the way of the fun.
Beyond the Horizon‘s scenes are crammed full of items that are well-hidden and gorgeously drawn, so finishing each level might take you a while. Unless you’re really looking to test your gaming mettle, you’ll probably want to play the game on its casual setting, which lets you search at your own pace and helps nudge you in the right direction with hints to help you navigate through the game’s more vague objectives. The one problem with the casual mode is that it can be a bit too helpful, highlighting items for you too quickly and too frequently.
While you’re scanning scenes for objects, make sure you keep your eyes peeled for small red beads. Beyond the Horizon contains a somewhat useless, but still quite nifty mini-game: The beads you find are added to the frame around the scene. Fill in all the beads, and you get a brand new frame, ready for filling. You can change frames – or GUIs – from the game’s Options setting. You can certainly complete and enjoy the game without picking up a single bead, but collecting all the frames is pretty fun.
Mystery of the Crystal Portal: Beyond the Horizon is a stunning, well-designed hidden object experience. It has a few mildly annoying quirks, but the pros far outweigh the cons.