What beauty lies beneath the surface

Elephant Games has rolled out another entry in the Surface series, this time bringing a more noir-flavored approach to storytelling. Surface: The Pantheon follows Gina as she travels through a world that is literally turned inside-out and filled with strange creatures, magical landscapes, and a unique mythology. The game easily lives up to the standards set by previous releases, providing a solid puzzle solving experience with great visuals and inventive hidden object scenes.

A fantastic new tunnel has been built leading through the heart of the Ridge of Leviathan, and the Capital Express train is about to make its historic first run through it. Your husband and daughter are already aboard, but someone bumps into you and spills your luggage as you rush across the station. The delay causes you to miss the train, but that’s not even the worst part. The Capital Express enters the tunnel but never emerges on the other side, vanishing somewhere in the mountain. For months researchers attempt to determine what happened, but eventually the tunnel is shut down, leaving the disappearance a mystery.

Surface: The Pantheon

Gina never really moves on from the loss of her family. A year later she’s at the tunnel entrance when a strange man approaches her from the other side of the gate. Dr. Martin Bors, a somewhat radical sort of scientist, claims he has a way to find out what transpired on that fateful day. He needs your help to recreate the conditions at the time of the train’s disappearance. Gina goes along with it, hoping to finally reunite with her long-lost husband and daughter.

Surface: The Pantheon is an elegantly balanced hidden object adventure game that is equal parts item hunting, mini-games, and exploration. Just like the previous titles in the series, you can expect boatloads of great puzzles with very few (if any) moments when solutions don’t make logical sense. Most areas confine you to a handful of screens to explore, each littered with zoomable hotspots that contain items you can grab to store in your inventory. Actually getting at them will require some backtracking and creative object usage, however, but it’s nothing you can’t handle if you put your mind to it.

Surface: The Pantheon

Hidden object scenes are a good mix of item lists and interactive elements. Many highlighted objects can only be collected once you solve a mini-puzzle on the screen, usually something as simple as placing a gem on a container to open the lid. The fun part is you can actually switch to your inventory and use items from there, uniting the normally disparate worlds of hidden object scenes and adventure quests. Afterwards you’re rewarded with a key item you’ll need to push forward in the game.

Everything about Surface: The Pantheon is top shelf. The graphics are Elephant Games’ usual high quality, though some of the character models stray into the creepy territory with their pseudo-realistic appearance. The voice acting is, on the whole, very well done, and the interface never gets in your way. There are enough extras to keep you entertained beyond the story and main puzzles, including handfuls of achievements to unlock and bonus items to collect. It’s a great entry to the Surface series, and The Pantheon will keep your hidden object adventure itch scratched for several long hours.