Beauty and the Beast 

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Having appeared as a book, film and television series, this classic fairy tale of love conquering adversity reaches the gaming platform.

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Although the titles might be the same, the actual content is decidedly different.  I am referring to Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont’s original novel and PlayPond’s take on the tale of Beauty and the Beast as the developers have turned it into a Hidden Object Adventure game.  Described as “a dark twist on a classic tale”, this game is available from Focus Multimedia in Collector’s Edition format.

As well as adding a twist to the original story, the game’s developers have approached other aspects of the Collector’s Edition format in a different manner.  The Strategy Guide becomes part of the standard Journal feature which includes an outline map of this game world.  This isn’t the only change that has been implemented to the Strategy Guide. 

Other Strategy Guides that I have seen offer the player step-by-step instructions for each scene along with screen grabs showing the important areas.  However this Strategy Guide limits its help to just providing a brief description of what is necessary but not how to carry out the various tasks.  This level of assistance applies to all the different elements on the game including any puzzles that need solving.  You are provided with a Help feature but this again provides very limited assistance and just explains the basic details.  A Skip option will appear after a delay for those puzzles you find too difficult.

Along with the Strategy Guide, this Collector’s Edition has a bonus chapter that becomes available once the main game has been completed.  You will also gain access to a couple of other extra items.  You can scroll through the original version of  Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont’s original tale and check out your position in a top ten table.  Your ranking will depend upon how long it took you to complete the game and your accuracy level when making decisions.

Various adjustable options can be selected prior to starting the game.  You can independently set the volume level for the background music, sound FX, ambience and the voices that are used by various game characters.  There is also a choice of widescreen, regular or windowed viewing.  The game can be played in Easy, Normal or Expert mode.  While all three levels make use of sparkles to pinpoint Hidden Object and Puzzle areas only Easy and Normal mode have a silhouette option to help identify Hidden Objects.  You will also find that inventory items will glow when over usable areas in Easy mode.

Optional help at the start of this game will explain about the different types of cursor and how direction arrows will name the destination available plus the rechargeable Hint feature which resides in the lower left corner of the screen.  The lower right corner houses the combined Journal/Map/Strategy Guide tool.  Your inventory, which contains the items you find or are rewarded with for completing Hidden Object scenes, runs across the bottom of the screen.

Your role in this game is that of Belle (the Beauty) who sets out on her task to rescue her Prince (the Beast) who has been turned into a multi-layered statue by an evil enchantress.  You will need to find a series of Shards representing different elements.  Each of the Shards that are found will remove one of the different spells imprisoning the Prince.  On the way you will meet an owl, robotic creatures and characters from other traditional tales such as Alice in Wonderland, Hansel and Gretel, Gepetto (Pinocio) and even the Beast of the original tale.

There are numerous Hidden Object scenes to tackle although some locations are repeated with occasional duplicated items in the search list.  When playing in either Easy or Normal mode you can rest the mouse cursor on an entry in the list to see its silhouette appear on the Hint feature crystal ball.  Occasionally some care had to be taken when clicking on items in these scenes as they were positioned near the bottom of the screen so as not to open up the inventory or move back to the previous location.

This game features a range of puzzle types.  Some follow the usual trend of moving objects around and recreating images while others offer a more arcade style as you need to destroy floating objects or countermand the spells of the evil enchantress.  The game’s graphics, animated sequences and audio features are all of  a high quality.  Beauty and the Beast does take a little time to get going but can grow on you and will draw you into the story line.

Beauty and the Beast requires a 1.4GHz processor, 1024MB of RAM, 992MB of hard disk space and support for DirectX 9.0 running Windows XP and later.  The game is priced at £10.20.

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OverallFocus Multimedia Beauty and the Beast rated 72 out of 100

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