Curse of the Severed Heart is everything a great HOG should be, but the bonus content is a little thin.
Margrave: Curse of the Severed Heart takes you on a journey into the supernatural as you search for answers regarding your childhood and the fate of your parents. Starting with a gripping narrative that expertly combines photographic characters with painted backgrounds and cleverly-designed puzzles with hidden object gameplay, Margrave: Curse of the Severed Heart is fine example of what a good hidden object title should be.
As young Edwina Margrave, you return to the village where years ago your scholarly parents searched for a relic called the Severed Heart. Settling into the cottage of the area’s sole remaining resident, the otherworldly Miss Thorn, you soon realize both the picturesque village and your mysterious host are hiding something. The first clue that something’s amiss is that wherever you go, you encounter ghostly animals: spirits of former cats, geese and sheep that call out to you to free them by helping them remember their names.
Divination is done with a special deck of Dream cards in an entertainingly unique mini-game. A number of cards are laid out that contain half-symbols in all four of each card’s corners. A series of symbols are shown at the top of the screen and the idea is to recreate these symbols by lining up the half-symbols found on the cards. It’s a simple concept that’s more challenging than you might think. The artwork in these sequences is charming and it’s genuinely satisfying winning the mini-game and receiving praise and thanks from the pathetic little ghost beasts.
This little mini-game alone makes Margrave: Curse of the Severed Heart different from your run-of-the-mill hidden object titles, but it’s not the only unique thing the game has going for it. Another is the thoughtful, clever design of its many mechanical puzzles. Not only does every hidden object scene serve to solve an intricate puzzle; many of the individual puzzles are linked to one another to form an intriguing larger puzzle. You’ll be blown away by the complexity of it all and by the game’s beautiful environment art. You’ll also enjoy the dialog sequences which are fully voice acted and though photographic, work well within the 2D painted environments. Further, you’re bound to get the ethereal soundtrack—especially the haunting vocals of the game’s main theme—totally stuck in your head.
The one downside of the game is that for a Collector’s Edition, Margrave: Curse of the Severed Heart is light on extras. Many Collector’s Editions these days offer concept art, music and mini-games as well as bonus chapters but Margrave merely offers a strategy guide and one unlockable bonus chapter called The Blacksmith’s Revenge. This bonus chapter, taking place two years after the events of the main story, is meant to serve as something of an epilogue but makes a strange conceptual leap that will likely leave some gamers scratching their heads. Even so, it offers a new narrative as well as some new locations, art and puzzles and is good for another hour or so of interesting gameplay.
Margrave: Curse of the Severed Heart is one of those rare hidden object adventures that completely sucks you in, keeps you riveted throughout and when it’s over, you’re sorry to leave. Its photographic characters and fully voice-acted dialog make for enthralling drama, while its captivating environments and elaborate puzzles make you eager to explore and get to the bottom of things. Additionally, its beautifully phantasmic art direction and unique Dream card mini-game, not to mention its unearthly musical score make it an expertly-crafted adventure.
Regardless of your enthusiasm for hidden object titles, this is one game no mystery lover should miss – although given the title’s thin bonus content you might be better off waiting for the Standard Edition.