An interactive retelling of the classic fairy tale “The Pied Piper of Hamelin.”

Fairy tales are fertile ground for games and this month, Alawar Entertainment draws its latest hidden object adventure straight from them. Oddly Enough: Pied Piper follows classic fairy tale, “The Pied Piper of Hamelin,” telling the story of a village plagued by rats that hires (and then swindles) a skilled musician to lure the rats away. While the tale’s a natural fit for this kind of adventure, the game suffers from an ill-thought-out ending.

Like the fairy tale it’s drawn from, Oddly Enough: Pied Piper begins with a village in desperate need of an exterminator. Or at least a guy who can talk its thousands of nasty rats into taking a permanent vacation. Enter the Pied Piper, a flutist (floutist? Flute-playing-guy?) in a top hat who in this version, looks more or less like a tall-ish leprechaun. He agrees to get rid of the village’s rats for the price of ten pieces of gold, and the villagers agree; however when the job’s done, they cheat the Piper (no doubt thinking “What’s he gonna do – PIPE us to death?”) and refuse to pay. Whoa-ho-ho! These provincial fools think they’ve got him, but come to regret their treachery when the Piper uses the same pipe he used to lure away the rats, to kidnap the villagers’ children.

By now you’re asking yourself, “What part do I play in all this?” Well my friends, you are—get this—a debt collector. (As far as I know, this is the first time in history one of those soulless jerks has been cast as a hero, but hey…) The villagers ask you to save their children but funnily enough, still aren’t particularly willing to cough up the Piper’s fee. This means you get stuck poking through their homes and businesses in order to pry it out of their greedy, reluctant fingers, one gold coin at a time. Their kids’ lives are in jeopardy. What’s wrong with these people?

Anyway, the upside to completing this chore is that Hamelin’s a quaint, charming little village that’s fun to explore. Embracing the fairy tale idea, the development team presents us with characters and environments that would be right at home in any fairy tale compendium. Cool nocturnal exteriors contrast against warm, twinkly interiors as you hop back and forth among places like the bakery, the fortune teller’s and the alchemist’s shop and ultimately infiltrate the Piper’s lair. Better yet, in traveling among these locations, you’ll never be confused about what your objectives are since every task is specifically called out and tracked in your simple, but useful, journal.

Unlike most games’ 50/50 hidden object scene-to-pure-exploration ratio, Oddly Enough: Pied Piper offers more of a 30/70, emphasizing the “adventure” side of the genre. Hidden object scenes serve mainly to allow you to locate the parts to various necessary (but somehow always broken to pieces) items that are needed to progress. You’re clued in to what you’re looking for during hidden object sequences with item silhouettes rather than word lists and this approach presents its own unique challenge, especially since half the time, the silhouettes ignore their corresponding items’ relative size.

On the other hand, for my money, the game could do with a weensy bit more challenge.

The game’s puzzles in general, very easy. None are particularly complex and many can be solved by clicking around randomly rather than oh say…thinking. That said, difficulty is relative so it may be that only experienced hidden object gamers will find this a disappointment. What a larger portion of the game’s players may find unsatisfying is the lack of gameplay variety and the thinly-conceived, too-sudden ending. The former problem refers to a dependence on hidden object scenes alternating with all too familiar puzzle types, with little else mixed in. A couple of instances—where you play a fishing mini-game and where a rhythm game controls the blows of a strong man’s hammer—represent entertaining diversions from the main flow of the game and left me wishing there were more of them. This is a small problem though, compared to the oddly abbreviated ending. No spoilers here; let’s just say there’s a good measure of build up that in the end, leads to very little pay off.

At about three hours, Oddly Enough: Pied Piper offers a reasonable amount of gameplay that could—and perhaps should—have been augmented by a (conspicuously missing) bonus chapter. This won’t be a big deal to some, but with gamers getting used to longer games and better bonus content, even on non-Collector’s Editions, it could be an issue. Regardless, Oddly Enough: Pied Piper is still a well made game and represents a respectable entertainment value.