18th century Venice is gripped by the plague while a mysterious organization stalks its people.

When hidden object fans download a new game, we hope to experience a spectacular adventure. We hope to be transported from our humdrum lives to another time and place where we have the opportunity to experience the exotic and to become someone smarter and more heroic than we normally are. Full of mystery, beauty and danger, Grim Facade: Mystery of Venice is the just the kind adventure to make all this happen.

You play as a detective (apparently a foreign one since the local police don’t seem to appreciate your efforts) investigating the kidnapping of a woman and her daughter who have disappeared on their way home from a masked ball. At the request of a distraught husband and father, you set out to catch the mysterious damsel-snatching criminal – a masked man who was seen with the two women right before their disappearance.

 Mystery of Venice

From the start, the game is extremely beautiful and you’ll be amazed by the amount of work that went into making it so. Ornately painted 2D characters are painstakingly animated during dialog scenes and lush backgrounds will have you oohing and aahing at every scene. Venice is an inherently romantic location and the graphics more than support that; everywhere you go, rippling waters reflect saturated skies and all is bathed in a lovely sunset/twilight luminescence. This aesthetic excellence extends throughout the hidden object scenes which are just as elegantly painted, and does a lot to reinforce the game’s atmosphere.

The gameplay is just as polished as the graphics, with a sense of urgency imparted by the feeling that you’re always one step behind the enigmatic evildoer. While little new ground is broken in terms of the hidden object formula, situations are skillfully intertwined, making for some interesting back and forth between locations. Puzzles too are fairly familiar but manage to feel fresh, having been customized and re-contextualized to fit the specific setting. Hints can be gathered (in the form of decorative fans) and saved up, thus minimizing the wait for the hint meter to recharge.

In the main, Grim Facade: Mystery of Venice is a extremely well done and the only area that could use some improvement is the audio. The excellent musical themes, characterized by guitar, flute and tambourine, are expressive and romantic; the voice acting however, is uneven and at times, embarrasingly amateurish. The most obvious examples are the chief of police’s exaggerated Italian accent (which is laughable but at least appropriate) and the young kidnap victim’s American accent, which would be more fitting for a kid on a modern day sitcom than for one living in the Venice of three centuries ago.

 Mystery of Venice

Despite this, the game is a very high-quality adventure that clocks in at roughly four hours. Once you’re done with the main story, an extra bonus chapter unlocks that focuses on finding the cause of the plague in Venice. This cool mini-adventure opens up a few brand new locations complete with new puzzles and new hidden object scenes. In addition to the bonus chapter, other extras include four musical tracks, a screensaver, several high-resolution wallpapers and a concept art gallery.

Grim Facade: Mystery of Venice is one of the best hidden object adventures to be released this year—not surprising, considering it comes to us from the makers of the Redemption Cemetery and PuppetShow series. If you live for beautiful, spooky hidden object adventures and you’re looking to be truly transported to another time and place, make sure you don’t miss this one.