Discover the mythological terrors plaguing the island village of Black Water
It’s common for hidden object games to take place in empty settings; most of them occur within closed insane asylums, condemned manors and abandoned villages. Mystery of the Ancients: Curse of the Black Water falls into the third category, and its not-very-unique premise sends you searching an abandoned seaside village for two missing scientists. Despite its solid mechanics, the game is unspectacular. In fact, the only thing that prevents it from being utterly forgettable is its unusually well-constructed bonus chapter.
Curse of the Black Water starts with news reports of the quaint town of Black Water being plagued by a sudden influx of nasty (surprise!) black water. Officials immediately evacuate the town, and just as quickly two ambitious archeologists swoop in to figure out what’s causing it. Myth and rumor has it, the black water signals the advent of a mythological beast called the Kraken that only appears when called with a legendary horn. You arrive shortly after the two scientists vanish, and discover that crazy as the gossip is, it might—in this case—actually be true.
As mentioned, many, many, many (yes, there’s enough of them to warrant three “manies”) hidden object games take place in abandoned villages. The unimaginative village setting of Curse of the Black Water undermines it from the get-go bymaking itfeel far more familiar than it should. It’s not good for a game to tempt you to check your purchase history, just to make sure you haven’t played it before – and a couple of times, I sincerely considered it. That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with the game; it’s just that veteran players could find themselves suffering some serious deja vu.
Things get slightly more interesting when you find documents explaining myths regarding an ancient war between the Gods and the Titans, and the Gods’ desire to punish humanity, but that back story isn’t that strongly reflected within the main game. Puzzles and hidden object scenes again are decent, but not remarkable. Ditto the game’s sound effects, graphics and music. Collectively, they’re sort of like an inoffensive but not particularly interesting party guest; the kind you might spend an hour chatting with over a cocktail and then forget about the second you get home.
Thankfully, (and in an unusual reversal) the Collector’s Edition bonus chapter is far better looking, more distinctive and more entertaining. In my personal experience, bonus chapters generally feel tacked on like the half-baked afterthoughts they are. In Curse of the Black Water, the bonus chapter’s the star of the show. Without giving anything away, I can say that the mythological aspect of the game doesn’t really get rolling until the close of the main game, and that’s a real shame. The second things go full-bore over-the-top, they finally get interesting. Hidden object scenes become more interactive and puzzle-like, items are used in cleverer ways and locations become drop-dead gorgeous. Although the climax and end of the bonus chapter are still on the weak side (totally lacking in epilogue), the bonus chapter is really the sole reason to play this game.
Oh, Mystery of the Ancients: Curse of the Black Water… If only you had skipped all that boring rooting-around-in-empty-buildings nonsense and jumped into the mythological stuff from the start! As it is, three-fourths of the game is so-so, lackluster, mediocre (choose your own middling designation). Not exactly what most developers (or gamers) are shooting for. Best case scenario? Someone hands you a free game code so you can play the cool bonus chapter without having to spend Collector’s Edition dough.