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Developed by Shaman Games, and bearing the rather impressive title of Spirit of the Ancient Forest, this next game belongs to the Hidden Object genre. However, instead of the usual approach of producing lists of text objects or silhouettes that need to be found, this game takes a totally different route when presenting its challenge of finding the required objects. It does this by simply not telling you what objects are required.
The game, which is not the fastest piece of code that I have come across when it comes to loading, gives you the option to create profiles for individual players. These profiles record a player’s progress plus the volume levels for music and sound effects. Other options include playing in full screen mode with a custom cursor. Three levels of difficulty are available with the game but the only difference I could find was regarding the amount of time allowed to finish each level. There is no time limit with the Very Casual level even through it does mention a time limit when playing the game. You do have a set time limit in both Casual and Hard levels.
The game follows the story of Sarah, a young girl, whose life is disrupted when the evil Lord Marcus invades and takes over her country. Sarah’s story slowly unfolds at the conclusion of each level as she tells of meeting the Wizard of the forest who reveals that the Great Tree, the symbol of all that is good has been poisoned by the evil Lord Marcus as part of his campaign to take over the land. Sarah and her friends decide to do their best to save the Tree and thwart the plans of Lord Marcus. This information comes in the form of printed text displayed beneath scenes depicting appropriate still images.
The game is spread over 90 levels of mainly Hidden Object game play. As mentioned earlier, these Hidden Object sessions do not come with a list of the objects to be located. Instead you are informed as to whether the objects can be selected in pairs or as a group of three. In some cases the displayed clutter of objects might contain both double and triple sets of objects. You just need to find the correct items and click on them in sequence. When faced with a mixed double and triple scene, I took the approach that every matching involved a pair of objects until proved otherwise by the non-disappearance of the selected pair of items. I would then look for the third item in the set.
Looking for two and/or three of the same objects was not the only challenged faced. In some scenes you had to pair a coloured version of an object with its monochrome twin; a large version with a smaller copy; or the two parts of an object that had been split down the middle. Some scenes even feature an additional challenge as random objects would, without warning, change their position just as you were preparing to use them as a pair.
A further challenge comes when the layout of the Hidden Object scene changes. Instead of a cluttered scene, you are shown a single pile of objects which you need to sort through in order to make the necessary matches. As there is not enough room to neatly organise all the objects this can add to the confusion and difficulty of the level.
During the Hidden Object scenes you will be shown the number of matches yet to be completed and the number of hints available plus, in the case of Casual and Hard levels, the time left to complete the level. At the conclusion of each level you are presented with a roundup of your performance. This will include level and combo scores along with the number of hints used.
From time to time the sequence of Hidden Object scenes will be broken by the appearance of a puzzle game. You will either have to recreate a picture that has been sliced into a series of vertical strips or solve a jigsaw puzzle. In each case your reward will be an additional hint to add to your total.
While the various Hidden Object scenes are well drawn and challenge, the game quickly becomes an exercise in perseverance as you try to match up pairs or triple examples of the same object. This is a game that will really only appeal to fans of the Hidden Object genre. I downloaded my version of the game from Gamehouse.com where it is available for $9.95. System requirements call for a 2.0GHz processor with 1024MB of RAM and 380MB of hard disk space running Windows 7 and later.
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