A woman buys a home in the country to find peace and quiet but is pulled into a supernatural war among the Fae
Interactive entertainment can be many things: a distraction, an escape, a means of relaxation… On rare occasion however, it transcends these commonplace things and becomes something else—magic. When that happens, the experience is akin to getting sucked into a page-turning novel or watching spellbound as a great movie unfolds; you’re completely immersed in the experience and are sad when it ends. At the risk of sounding gushy, I’ll confidently assert that Otherworld: Spring of Shadows is one of those rare games.
It starts with you in the role of a woman looking for some peace and quiet. You’ve bought a beautiful old house in the country where you hope to enjoy its idyllic, natural surroundings. That plan’s blown out of the water when, shortly after you arrive, you realize you’re not alone in your new house. Unsettling mists fill every corner and you find clues indicating that the former owners met a sticky end. Worst of all, it seems their young daughter was taken by an evil entity called a Shade—a frightening, eyeless creature bent on plunging the whole world into endless winter. Determined to stop the Shade and find the girl, you allow yourself to be pulled into the land of Faerie, a place you discover is equal parts danger and beauty.
What’s great about Otherworld: Spring of Shadows is the way it balances the dark and the light. The Shade and other dark creatures are truly grotesque and often startling, while the powers that oppose them are unbelievably lovely. Graphically, the game reminds me of the Drawn series due to its incredible color, as well as its references to art and its depictions of the natural world. Scenes burst with colorful flowers, sparkling streams, radiant sunlight—one scene featuring a cherry blossom tree is particularly breathtaking. Though scarier in tone, the dark environments are just as gorgeous and thanks to a magic locket that enables you to see the unseen, you’ll see a large number of environments, both dark and light.
Of course, it isn’t enough for a game to just look pretty; it has to be interesting and fun, too. Otherworld: Spring of Shadows deserves high marks all around, not only for its art, but for its mechanics. Strictly speaking, it is a hidden object game, but it so skillfully blends the hidden object sequences into the story, it manages to totally eliminate that plodding, “first one of this, then one of that” alternation from which many hidden object games suffer. It also utilizes a more creative approach to hidden object scenes by having you search for sets of similar items (things you need to collect or clear away) rather than just bunches of random junk. Puzzles too, offer new and creative takes on familiar formats, and the game as a whole provides unusual objectives. You mean for once, we get to do something other than finding keys and unlocking doors? Well, Hallelujah.
In addition to great art and creative gameplay, other amazing things about Otherworld: Spring of Shadows include great character art (i.e., no one looks scary unless they’re supposed to), strong voice acting, a cool soundtrack that reminds me in places of the musical scores from the Harry Potter movies, and an exciting boss-battle-style story climax that’s several steps beyond the usual hidden object game ending. In addition to all this, the Collector’s Edition contains a bonus chapter (which is really a prologue that explains everything that happened before you arrived at the house), concept art, wallpapers, cutscenes and music tracks from the game.
If you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop, and are thinking that now I’ll launch into an “on the other hand” kind of paragraph regarding the bad things in Otherworld: Spring of Shadows, don’t bother. I’ve got nothing bad to say. The game was pure fun, beauty and excitement from start to finish. I unhesitatingly recommend it to anyone who loves adventure games, and I’ll be waiting with baited breath until developer Boomzap Entertainment comes out with a sequel.