Chronicles of Albian: The Magic Convention brings nothing new to the genre but does what it does very well.
After hour upon hour of complicated stories, tough puzzles, creepy characters and the serious business of hardcore hidden object adventure gaming, it’s nice sometimes to get back to the basics of looking for random items amidst overflowing piles of fantastic junk. That’s what Chronicles of Albian: The Magic Convention serves up in spades: Straight-ahead hidden object gaming that keeps things simple, light-hearted and lots of fun.
The fairy godmother Gwendolyn, who also happens to be your aunt, is hosting this year’s Convention of Magic Masters at her stately old castle. But it’s in a dreadful state of disrepair and overflowing with old, forgotten stuff, so she invites you for a visit and to help her clean up the place in time for the big day. That, as you might surmise, involves tracking down random items hidden among the castle’s ridiculously cluttered rooms, selling them to Fitz the leprechaun shopkeeper and using the gold to repair and upgrade the castle with new walls, bridges, towers and a whole lot more.
Every so often during your toils, the fairy godmother or one of her distinguished guests will give you a special task to perform by way of a puzzle or unique hidden object scene. They pay for the work, although not particularly well, but that’s okay because the jobs involved are almost always extremely easy. Mechanically, the puzzles in The Magic Convention are typical hidden object fare, like jigsaws, pattern-following, difference-spotting and even a little Sudoku, but in terms of difficulty they’re most definitely not. The puzzles can be skipped but unless you absolutely loathe them as a matter of principle there’s no reason not to spend the few seconds it takes to beat them – and, more to the point, to earn the gold they bring.
That, for all intents and purposes, is the entirety of the game. And you know what? I like it. I loved Phantom of the Opera, Hound of the Baskervilles was awesome, the new Mystery Case Files was a blast, but sometimes at the end of a hard day I want to just sit down and find me some objects, and that’s what this is all about. It’s a stripped-down experience that’s a welcome break from the intensity of high-end, triple-A hidden object adventure blockbusters.
That’s not to suggest that The Magic Convention is a walk in the park. While the puzzles are clearly meant as a way to dole out some extra funds rather than as actual stiff-armed brain-teasers, the hidden object searches are seriously tough. Scenes are very crowded and cluttered, some objects are half-buried under others and a lot of them are just tiny and difficult to see. Getting everything tracked down in timed mode can be a real challenge (a timer-free “relaxed” mode is also available) although a limited-use hint system, which can be replenished by finding magic wands hidden in each level, helps balance the scales. Each level also includes a tiny, hidden fairy, who will pick out one object at random for you, if you’re able to find her.
The game’s graphics aren’t quite spectacular but they’re attractive and clean, and even the aforementioned tiny objects are distinctly rendered and perfectly identifiable. The music is melodic and relaxing, and manages to avoid grating even after long sessions of play. And it’s huge, although specifically how huge is still a bit of a mystery. I hate to admit it but I’m still playing, earning more and more money to pay for increasingly exotic and expensive castle upgrades – and just when I think that the end is in sight, another batch of upgrades becomes available. I lost count around the six hour mark, and that was awhile ago.
The biggest knock against Chronicles of Albian: The Magic Convention is that it can’t help but grow repetitive after awhile. Levels are reused several times over the course of the game and while it does a good job of randomizing the searches, hidden objects will occasionally repeat as well. With no meaningful narrative to tie things together, it can easily start to feel like a long series of unconnected hidden object searches, with no sense that things are building to some greater, worthwhile conclusion.
That’s not necessarily a problem, but more a matter of managing expectations. Chronicles of Albian: The Magic Convention brings nothing new to the genre but it does what it does very well. Anyone after some good old-fashioned hidden object gaming with a whimsical, light-hearted touch should definitely give it a try.