A young prince must defeat an evil enchanter to restore his kingdom and prevent the corruption of a beautiful young girl.

Wouldn’t you think that a game with “Love Chronicles” in the title would have something to do with romance? Well strangely enough, the majority of Vendel Games’ new hidden object adventure Love Chronicles: Salvation has nothing at all to do with Cupid’s arrow, and instead focuses on some decidedly un-romantic themes. While that’ll no doubt disappoint romance fans, hidden object/puzzle enthusiasts are still in for a reasonably good time.

Salvation tells the story of what a young prince does after he returns to find his kingdom decimated by an evil witch. Not only is his palace a smoking ruin, but his friend and court wizard/advisor warns him that the fate of a virtuous young girl depends on his efforts. He suggests the prince should travel back in time and stop the girl from becoming a witch in the first place, and doing that means two things: confronting an evil mage named Zander, and finding all the pieces of a suite of magical jewelry that will protect the girl from Zander’s dark magic.

Love Chronicles: Salvation

As mentioned, it’s odd that the game was released as a Love Chronicles title, since it really has nothing to do with love unless you count its last sixty seconds. That weensy bit of lovey-doveyness feels totally tacked on. Worse, it then leads into a completely nonsensical bonus chapter that doesn’t fulfill the title’s promise so much as make you cringe at its badness. This extra hour changes location completely, and launches headlong into a goofy story of star-crossed love between a wistful elven queen and a mopey human king. There’s little here that’s all that romantic, or that even makes much sense, and the story’s resolution is well, inexplicable. As a whole, this chapter feels as if it was thrown together in a week and can hardly be deemed a “bonus.”

Before this awkward episode can be experienced, however, you have a kingdom and a girl to save, and that involves a lot of puzzle-solving and hidden object hunting. Fortunately, these are the game’s strengths. Vendel finds a host of clever ways to trigger hidden object scenes (I enjoy the one that asks you to beat a down pillow and then hunt for the feathers you’ve sent flying), and the scenes themselves are expertly composed. They come in three varieties: two-item interactions, finding pieces of a single broken item, and putting groups of missing items back into the scene. Puzzles are equally well done (my favorite involves shadow puppets) and provide nice graphic payoffs. If any criticism can be leveled at these areas of the game, it’s that they’re unequally distributed. The game feels hidden object-heavy, and this makes for monotonous pacing.

Graphically speaking though, the game is fairly well done. That is, if you ignore the oddly handled characters. For some reason, Vendel decided to use three different approaches to character rendering: digital paint, photo montage and 3D models, and the transitions among these are pretty jarring. Beyond the character issues, the game’s locations look a little soft, like they’re rendered out of multi-colored marshmallows, but are still mostly successful. In terms of audio, the voice acting is, what’s the word?—acceptable—and in terms of the music, your enjoyment of it depends entirely on your penchant for new-agey, Enya-like tunes.

Love Chronicles: Salvation

Aside from the general lack of romance and the sad bonus chapter, Salvation’s main issue is that it fails to create its own internal logic. The seductive thing about the fantasy genre is that it allows us to make the worlds anything we want them to be. The dangerous thing about it is how easy it is to end up with something that’s so loosey-goosey that it doesn’t make any kind of sense. Salvation starts with a story that suggests the Middle Ages, but contains items you wouldn’t see until centuries later (19th-century-looking Steampunk contraptions show up at convenient intervals). The effect of this “kitchen sink” approach is a sort of generic visual feel, and a disturbing lack of cohesion that can pull you right out of the story.

Because of this and other things, this Collector’s Edition isn’t the best value. Not only do you get a hokey bonus chapter, but the Extras aren’t all that special. They consist of a mostly pointless (since there’s a Hint button) strategy guide, a handful of so-so concept art, another handful of screenshots/wallpapers, and seven extremely similar-sounding, floaty musical tracks.

Love Chronicles: Salvation

Love Chronicles: Salvation is really a mediocre third entry in the well-liked Love Chronicles series; it’s not great and it’s not terrible. On one hand, it exhibits somewhat monotonous pacing, a poorly-made bonus chapter, lame extras, and perverse ignorance of its implied love story. On the other, it offers a good amount of fun puzzle-solving and hidden object gameplay. Ultimately, if your heart isn’t set on romance, it could be worth your while.