So, Leonardo da Vinci. You’ve heard of him, right? The master of inventions is having a bit of trouble in renaissance era Florence, and he needs your help, detective, to set things right. It seems some crazy masked guy is destroying the city’s artwork and claiming himself to be the one true king. Problem is, he stole Leonardo’s work and is using it to fool the people of Florence. You’ve got to unmask this Great Mage character and set things right, or the da Vinci name may disappear forever.
Grim Facade: The Artist and the Pretender is a casual adventure title that’s heavy on mini-games and puzzles. Set in the 15th century Italy, you’ll encounter a world of mechanical inventions and superstitious townsfolk as you pick your way through village and countryside in search of the truth. The game takes abundant license with the myths surrounding Leonardo da Vinci, which makes for some creative companions and entertaining, if slightly cheesy, cutscenes. There are some factual pieces thrown in for good measure, but by and large Grim Facade is a work of fiction, and it’s not afraid to have fun with it.
Hidden object scenes in The Artist and the Pretender come in a few different forms. Most of them pile a list of items or silhouettes at the bottom and set you loose with a screen of crowded objects above. There’s plenty to interact with in these scenes, which lends a light puzzle atmosphere to these diversions. They’re a little on the easy side, but you’ll have a blast solving them all the same.
Mini-games in Grim Facade largely stick to the basics, providing frequent distractions in the form of jigsaw puzzles or tile sliding riddles. One key difference is each puzzle has a casual and a hard mode you can choose toggle between on the fly. If a game isn’t giving you enough challenge, put on your thinking cap and crank things up a notch.
All of the puzzles and gadgets in the Grim Facade world feel like they were taken straight from the mind of Leonardo himself. You’ll stumble across pendants and talismans and gear driven mechanisms around every corner, all of which have some unique riddle-like purpose. Finding the somewhat convoluted solutions is a lot of fun, even if you have to stop and think for a few minutes.
Grim Facade: The Artist and the Pretender hits its stride with amazing puzzle and mini-game design and a setting that’s a lot of fun to explore. It misses the mark in a few minor areas, including voice acting and story originality, but the experience as a whole is so engaging you’ll easily forgive its few faults.