A Grim Tale or Two
The latest two-game pack to arrive from Focus Multimedia features a couple of offerings from the Grim Tales series. These titles are The Stone Queen and The Wishes. Both titles have been developed by Elephant Games and belong to the Hidden Object Adventure genre.
When setting up your game profile for either game you can adjust the volume levels for music, effects, environment and voice plus gamma, special effects, full screen, wide screen and custom cursor options. A choice of difficulty levels is available as you select from Casual, Advance or Hardcore mode. While Casual provides helpful sparkles and a quick recharge Hint feature, Advance mode takes longer to recharge and has no sparkles. You can forget about any assistance with Hardcore mode as there are no sparkles, Hint feature or the option to skip any of the mini games you might find too difficult.
In The Snow Queen you come to the aid of your nephew Brandon who lives in a mining community where the inhabitants had previously benefited from the protection of the mysterious Snow Queen. However the arrival of a money-grabbing developer has upset the balance between the Snow Queen and the local inhabitants with the result that people were being turned to stone and the town falling into ruin.
Arriving at the town of Stoneville, just as your car runs out of petrol, you see a young woman being turned into a stone statue as she tries to escape from the fate that has befallen the community. Overlaying the bottom of the full-screen view of the current scene are the tools that are available to you. Taking up a central position is the inventory which remains concealed until brought into play by the mouse cursor. Items that are required for use on more than one occasion are automatically returned to the inventory until no longer needed.
A container of crystals acts as the Hint feature and sits on the left of the inventory. On the right of the inventory is a compass which provides a map feature showing an illustrated view of the area. Icons are used to indicate your current position, locked areas and where tasks need to be completed. This map has the ability to instantly transport you between locations – a useful feature as the game does require plenty of travelling from place-to-place.
The various scenes are well-drawn with some appropriate animation touches and sound effects to add extra appeal. From time to time conversations will take place between your character and others. Although voices are used throughout the game, no attempt has been made to include any lip movement for the various characters even though their eyes move.
Hidden Object game play makes full use of the screen area with a list of 12 items arranged across the bottom of the scene displaying a cluttered arrangement of objects. Any item that is listed in green will require a specific action to be performed before it can be selected. As a reward for completing each Hidden Object scene, one of the found items will be added to the inventory for use later on in the game.
Several cut scenes are used throughout the game. These cut scenes help with the flow of the game but can be skipped if you are in a hurry to get back to the more interactive aspect of the game. There are also a number of mini games which are both challenging and innovative. Depending upon your choice of game playing level, you can skip any mini game that proves too difficult.
The second title in this two-game pack is The Wishes. Not surprisingly, as both titles are the work of the same development team, The Wishes follows the same style of game play as The Snow Queen. Apart from the story line and a couple of minor differences, you could easily be confused as to which game you were currently playing.
Unlike The Snow Queen, the characters in The Wishes show some lip movement when they are involved in conversations and helping the story flow. While it might not seem important, this minor difference adds to the appeal of the game. The second difference involves the Map feature. Initially this feature will be missing from the available tools. It will be only become available when you find a map partway through the game.
The game of The Wishes is spread over five chapters that take you to a variety of locations as your role involves coming to the aid of your sister whose young son has become possessed by an evil spirit. This situation has been brought about by your nephew entering into a deadly bargain with an evil force. It is up to you to get to the bottom for the reason for this bargain and released the boy from the powers that have taken hold of him.
As with The Snow Queen, the numerous scenes in The Wishes are well-drawn with eye-catching animations to add extra visual appeal. A great deal of movement between scenes will be required and this will ensure that the Map feature, once it appears, will be well used on a regular basis. The game has a good mixture of innovative and challenging mini games while Hidden Object scenes again make use of two different colours to indicate which items need an additional action before they can be selected.
Of the two games, The Wishes has more content but that is not to say that The Snow Queen was lacking in this respect. I felt that the story line in The Snow Queen has a smoother flow to it and held my attention slightly better. For this reason alone The Snow Queen would be my preferred choice if push came to shove but I will still recommend both titles. One slight criticism was the appearance of a Strategy Guide option on both titles screens which, rather than giving you access to this helpful feature, takes you to the Big Fish website so you can purchase this feature.
Priced at £10.20, the two games require you to have a 2.5GHz processor with 1024GB of RAM and a total of 1497MB of hard disk space running Windows XP and later.
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