Behind the Reflection is a so-so HOG that’s playable but not that interesting
Let’s cut right to the chase: Behind the Reflection does not impress. It’s visually dull, musically generic and tells a disjointed story built around anonymous and entirely unengaging characters. It’s also very short and very easy. It feels like it comes from the early days of the hidden object genre, when games lacked the depth and sophistication that’s commonplace today. There’s nothing specifically wrong with it; you will find hidden objects and you will pursue your missing son. Just don’t expect to have a whole lot of fun while you’re doing it.
The game opens on a mother and son out for a walk on a nice summer day. But things take a turn for the unpleasant when the mother is distracted by her ringing cellphone and her son goes off to play nearby while she talks. While her back is turned, he disappears inside a magic mirror, and the chase is on! Except it’s not really a chase, but just a matter of reassembling fragmented objects (a new genre term I learned thanks to this game) across a series of essentially unconnected game levels that will eventually lead to a happy reunion.
You won’t learn why or how he was taken, however, aside from a vague allusion to some kind of dark magic fountain-of-youth type of machine that doesn’t really seem to be doing the trick for its owner. The story is paper-thin, with anonymous characters, arbitrary actions and not one ounce of surprise over, or even passing interest in, the extraordinary events taking place. This is forgivable in games that serve up solid, entertaining gameplay – sometimes, you just want to search for hidden objects without having to think about why – but Behind the Reflection stumbles on that count too.
Behind the Reflection puts together a fairly standard mix of hidden object scenes, fragmented object searches and puzzles, but they’re so simple that anyone used to dealing with mainstream HOGs will blow through them very quickly. Hidden object scenes are so bright and uncluttered that everything is easy to find, while most of the fragmented object pieces scattered through the game’s levels “pop” so much that you’ll probably be picking out many of them without even looking at the list of needed items. And since the difficulty level can’t be adjusted, you can’t even toughen things up a bit by slowing down the hint recharge time or turning off hotspot indicators.
There are a couple of interesting puzzle designs but most of them will be very familiar and aside from one or two that may try your patience as you turn wheels to match colors, they’re firmly entrenched on the easy side of the scale as well. In spite of that, Behind the Reflection also has the fastest-moving puzzle skip timer I’ve ever seen. It’s as though the developers decided that, one way or another, nobody is going to spend very much time on their puzzles.
The game’s piano-driven soundtrack is entirely instrumental and appropriately creepy-urgent for the most part, although there are moments when it grows almost comedic and becomes distractingly out-of-place. There’s no voice acting and although I didn’t notice any outright errors in the text-based dialog, it felt vaguely awkward and unnatural throughout. It’s emblematic of the entire game, really, in that it’s technically correct but just never quite right. And while it may sound like complaining about the tiny portions of the terrible-tasting food, Behind the Reflection suffers from being very short, offering a mere two hours of gameplay at the most.
To the game’s credit, I didn’t experience a single technical hiccup while I played. That’s a compliment as far as it goes but the truth is that it doesn’t go very far; technical competence is desirable but should be assumed, not a highlight in a review.
Alawar has put out some really good hidden object games over the years but Behind the Reflection is definitely not one of them. It’s not a train wreck and unless you’re particularly lucky it’s far from the worst game you’ll ever play, but it’s too easy, too short and just plain too uninteresting to bother with. Try the demo if you’re curious, but don’t feel as though you’re missing out if you don’t play the whole thing. Take my word for it, you’re not.