Sunday, April 25, 2010

Review - Dark Parables: The Curse of Briar Rose

"Dark Parables: The Curse of Briar Rose" is the latest adventure / seek-and-find offering from Blue Tea Games. The story is based on the Legend of Sleeping Beauty; in the game we find ourselves 1000 years after the original story, Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty) was not awakened by the kiss of her prince and the curse has returned threatening to cover England in thorny briars within a week or so.

Cut scenes and your Journal help keep the story on track, and I must say that the story itself unfolds beautifully. The story is suitably dark considering it was inspired by one of the Grimms Fairy Tales and I would go as far as to say that the story is the strongest feature in this game.

The main issue we had was with the Journal entries which seemed to not only be several scenes behind us but also made reference to things we hadn't experienced within the game. I know that this was just being used to keep the story moving forward but it was very annoying that they started talking about spotting birds flying above the castle and that we should investigate this after we had already found the aviary and found the bird puzzle.

The graphics, voice acting, music and cut-scenes are all very good. The style selected for the game is used uniformly throughout, the artwork was also nicely done. The game is a little darker than the Disney inspired movies, but not so dark as to scare off younger players.

The game is easy to play, directions are always very clear. I especially liked that the seek-and-find portions made sense within the context of the game (finding pieces of an axe to add to your inventory rather than 20 random objects). The game also had several puzzles that you need to overcome in order to progress, mostly in the form of door locks. All of the puzzles could be skipped and the game mentioned that it would add a few minutes to your time for doing so, but at the end of the game we were surprised to see that our total time wasn't even reported to us.

There were also a series of morphing cursed objects that you could find throughout the game, the game stated that finding these would recharge your hints faster, but since we never found a reason to use the hints it was kind of pointless. After finding the last cursed object we were also disappointed to find that nothing special happened, no fan fare, no congratulatory message, nothing.

Laurie: And to add insult to injury, at the end of the game you know that there was one door left unlocked. At the beginning of the harder version you find a gold rose which opens the mystery door. Behind the door is a statue of the frog prince. Then nothing! I was so disappointed that there wasn't more to it. Apparently it hinted at a sequel though.

As veterans of many a hidden object game we found this one to be obnoxiously easy (okay, that was my term, not David's). I have always been challenged by the puzzles in most hidden object games, but these puzzles barely made me think. Also, (as you can see by the screen shots of the seek and find boards) you are only finding pieces that make up a single object, like a key for instance. The only thing wrong with this was that you could find the pieces fairly easily. You could knock out most of the pieces in less than a minute. We only used a hint for maybe one piece the entire game, and that was only because we got lazy.

Once you complete the game the first time a harder version is unlocked, but the only differences were not being able to use hints (not a big loss) and slightly harder puzzles.

LENGTH: Moderate
I normally would like my hidden object games to go on longer than they do, except this one. I'm honestly glad it was over. It was a decent enough game, but too easy. We could have completed it in one night if we hadn't needed to get up for work the next morning. We only played for like an hour that night and an hour the next. It just went by too quickly, particularly because of how easy it was.

David: I think it was a bit longer than two hours, but not by much.

Once you complete the game you have the option to play it again at the more difficult setting. One additional room can be unlocked with some behind-the-scenes information about the game, but quite frankly it just wasn't worth it. you will only want to play this game once.

OVERALL: 3 out of 5
Story: 4 out of 5
Atmosphere: 3.5 out of 5
Game Play: 3.5 out of 5
Difficulty: Easy
Length: Moderate
Slight game play issues, easy game play and lack of re-playability all detracted from this otherwise great game. If you are looking for a new casual game to play this might be worth a look, but don't get your hopes up too far. There are other games out there that are more challenging and will occupy you for longer. But, this is still a fine addition to the casual gaming world.

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