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If I was to state that Ancient Secrets is a hidden object game then I could be guilty of slightly misleading you. Hidden object game play is well represented but there are numerous other types of puzzle solving elements that need to be tackled. Ancient Secrets is best described as a task based adventure that sets you on the Quest of the Golden Key.
A few words of pre-amble or explanation regarding the story line behind this quest is perhaps appropriate at this point. Back in the dim and distant mists of time, there was a tribe known as the Tekka People. They were a kindly civilisation that possessed wealth and knowledge that were the envy of many. In order to safeguard these items, the Tekka hid them away and protected them with a golden key which was broken into pieces,
Not surprisingly, you have the job of finding the various pieces of this golden key. To this end you are cast in the role of Kate Miller, the daughter of the owner of one of these key pieces. Following a series of clues and information provided by characters you meet on the way, you will need to explore various locations and carry out tasks that are listed in the appropriately named New Task list located in the lower right section of the screen. Your thoughts appear in the upper left section of the screen alongside your explorer hat (it seems it is compulsory for explorers to have a hat of this type). When other characters have something to impart, an exclamation mark appears above their head and, following a mouse click, their dialogue will appear on screen.
In hidden object mode, which occurs at regular intervals, the list of objects to be located will appear on the left of the screen. Once an item is found, its entry will disappear from the list. Unlike many other games of this type, Ancient Secrets does not offer a Hint option that you can select to help find an item that might be difficult to locate. That is not to say there is no help in this respect – it is there but not under your control. After a period of not finding an object, a light will wink at you to identify the location of whichever item is top of the list. I must say I prefer to make the decision when to ask for help rather than have it thrust on me.
As mentioned earlier, this game does feature other types of puzzles, some more difficult than others and occasionally offering little in the way of explanation of what is required to solve the problem. Puzzle boxes are particularly well represented as you need to clear a path for a key to be inserted into a lock. With each occurrence of this type of puzzle, the solution becomes more intricate and difficult to solve. Another type of puzzle to appear more than once is the task of having to link electrical wiring to the correct connection. There are also examples of maze solving, mastermind-like colour selection, jumbled pictures, code breaking, pelmanism, peg solitaire, tic tac toe, and Simple Simon pattern duplication.
The various locations and scenes are well drawn with appropriate sound effects to help add atmosphere. Difficulty level, however even with the mix of puzzles, is not that hard. I reckon it took between two and three hours to complete the game from start to finish. There also seemed to be hardly any variation when replaying the game either using the same profile or a different one which really means there is no incentive to play the game more than one.
Ancient Secrets: The Quest for the Golden Key requires an 800MHz processor with 512MB of RAM, 72MB of free hard disk space and support for DirectX running Windows XP or Vista. A trial version, giving 60 minutes of game play, can be downloaded. Registering the title will cost $19.99.
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