Near-impossible hidden object scenes make for a disappointing effort.

Tamara the 13th is one game that I wanted so desperately to like. PlayFirst has rarely disappointed me in the past, and the concept of the game showed a lot of promise. However, this isn’t your typical hidden object game (it should be called “impossible-to-find” instead), the cutscenes are more laughable than enjoyable, and the entirety of gameplay is more frustrating than fun.

Tamara the 13th follows the titular character Tamara McNamara on her journey to save her mother. Mad Maggie, the villain in our tale, kidnaps Tamara’s mother through a magical portal, and Tamara, along with her cat, jump through the portal to try and rescue her. She travels to the realm of Earth, where she meets the Green Man, an ivy covered mystical creature that has magical powers over the Earth. He’s been trapped by Mad Maggie as well and you must free him.

Tamara the 13th

So the story goes for most of the game’s seven chapters (which can be completed in under 2 hours). You’ll travel from one realm to the next (each realm being ruled by a different elemental – water, fire, air, and so on), freeing the leader of the realm and therefore returning the realm to its former glory, before Mad Maggie stepped in to steal all power for her own use. You’ll gain each realm’s magical powers for yourself, as Tamara comes to understand that she is a 13th generation witch, capable of harnessing them.

Throughout the hidden-object gameplay are horribly animated cutscenes. One can probably look past the fact that there is no voice acting, but characters literally bounce around, rather than walking, and all characters (or other important items) look like they’ve been animated with a one-dimensional cardboard cutout, rather than something that actually took any forethought.

The gameplay itself unfortunately doesn’t fare any better. This isn’t a hidden object game in the typical sense – there are no lists of objects to find. Rather, you’ll spend your time looking for one or two items at a time, many of which have been broken into pieces. The complete item is shown as a silhouette at the bottom of your screen, but you have no idea as to the item’s color, material makeup (stone, fabric, wood, etc.), or in some cases what the item even is. Furthermore, items are hidden so well (or perhaps so badly, depending on your viewpoint), that they are almost impossible to find with the naked eye, without spending 10 minutes looking at a single scene or randomly clicking and hoping to get lucky. The hint button will become your best friend, but that simply shouldn’t have to be the case.

Tamara the 13th

After you’ve earned various magical powers, you’ll be able to use these powers to reanimate trees, fill pools of water, remove fog, and so on, in order to complete your journey. Each object that can be altered by magic sparkles with the like-colored symbol representing that magic (Earth is green, Fire is red, etc.). The question then becomes – Why are these objects pointed out to us so blatantly, when everything else isn’t? With Tamara the 13th, I’m afraid it’s a situation of having one question after another, but no one to answer them.

If anything has the power to redeem the title, it would be the puzzles found throughout gameplay. These consist of “Simon Says” puzzles, and a multitude of tile-rotation puzzles that are actually quite fun to complete; that is, they are challenging, but not to the point of frustration. One good deed, though, can’t redeem the game for its multitude of sins.

All told, Tamara the 13th has an awkward storyline (Tamara accepts that she is a witch far too easily, with little to no explanation), cutscenes that are almost unbearable, and frustrating gameplay that has but one redeeming quality (that being the puzzles). Being from PlayFirst, I would expect so much more, but as it stands, this is one to avoid.