Being in trouble with the law can apparently be a lot of fun.
3 Days: Amulet Secret teaches us a very valuable lesson: You should never buy your friends souvenirs while on vacation. Mere moments after Anna receives a puzzle box from an Egyptian vendor, she’s struck down in a car accident, loses her memory, and is accused of theft. Little does she know that her adventures are just the latest chapter in the amulet’s story – a tale that’s stretched over hundreds of years.
Amulet Secret, the sequel to 3 Days: Zoo Mystery, is a huge, sprawling adventure that shakes up the typical laundry list-style hidden object gameplay with clever variations on the concept. You’re always looking for objects, but the why and the how change up so frequently that you never feel bored, even when you’re searching a single location for the fourth time. You might have to find a fire extinguisher, then put out the sudden blaze threatening to destroy a shop by locating each burning location. You may have to prove you’re not a criminal by matching inkblots to their real-world counterparts, or test your cognitive abilities by pairing an item in your list – like a light bulb – with something associated with it – a lamp, for example. The base mechanic of looking for objects never changes, but because of the different goals, each search feels brand new.
The game adds a few fun wrinkles to the searches with items that can be opened, closed, or generally shoved out of the way, as well as a plasma gun that can zap obstructions to another dimension. Once they’re out of the way, you can grab whatever might be lurking behind them, but whatever you zapped will return eventually. In some scenes, you can also move from side to side by clicking navigation arrows at the top of the screen. All of these ideas are excellent ways to keep item hunts vibrant and compelling, but the fact that you can only grab the items displayed in your tool bar can be mildly frustrating. There might be something you absolutely know you have to pick up, but have to wait to snag it until its picture gets its turn in your roster. You just have to pay attention and remember to run through all of your search options – there’s nothing more sure to make you slap your forehead than using up a hint because you forgot you could move a gas can out of the way.
You won’t spend all of your time looking for stuff, though – there are a few minigames mixed in, as well, that similarly play on established game types to deliver something new. There are standard jigsaws, but there is also the multilayered reconstruction of a 3d object. A pachinko-style pill sorting game drove me insane, but reconstructing circuits was more fun. There were more gear-assembling games than I would like, so I skipped them – but unlike most games that just give you a free pass, Amulet Secret expects you to earn your way out by solving a hidden object sequence. It’s a method I hope more HOGs will adopt in the future. If there’s no downside to skipping tricky games or puzzles, players might be tempted to opt out too quickly, and miss their shot at enjoying the sweet victory that comes from finally beating a brain teaser into submission.
Amulet Secret is a shining example of how innovative hidden object games can still be, yet at the same time suffers from an odd lack of polish. The gameplay itself is sensational, but everything it’s wrapped in is just a bit bush league. The music, though well performed, seems slightly out of place, as does Anna’s look. The way she’s drawn, I can’t tell if she’s supposed to be a 20-year old with questionable taste in fashion (really, Anna, those glasses aren’t helping you) or a 60-year old with great hair.
The text looks awkward in chat bubbles, as though it was added after the bubble itself was drawn. None of these issues affect the game itself, but do diminish the overall presentation in a small way. The bottom line is that 3 Days: Amulet Secret is a smart, inventive, enormous, and ceaselessly satisfying hidden object game, so we can forgive its ill-fitting exterior.