It was a dark and stormy night. A woman runs through a dark and foreboding forest towards the safety of the moonlight, fleeing an unknown terror. She reaches the nearby town, only to find it deserted and badly damaged by the storm. With blood on her hands and no recollection of her reason for being in Maple Creek, the detective must discover what is going on if she is to save herself and the residents of the small town. The story for Artifex Mundi's latest Point & Click title, Enigmatis: The Ghosts of Maple Creek Achievements, is definitely not an original concept, but this doesn't mean that it is bad. Instead, the developer has managed to create an interesting detective story, one with a rather creepy supernatural atmosphere, out of a tale that is definitely tried and tested.
Whereas Artifex Mundi's previous title Clockwork Tales: Of Glass and Ink mixed standard point & click gameplay with a variety of different hidden object games and puzzles, this title heads back to basics. Players will need to search a variety of locations for clues or items that are needed to progress further, and most of the clue searching takes the form of Hidden Object Games. As before, some scenes require the manipulation of objects to find the items that are on the list, but this only happens rarely. Unfortunately, some of the scenes can sometimes feel too cluttered and it's upon this that the developer relies to create a challenge. Five minutes to find a single object meant that trial and error style clicking happened in most of the scenes.
Every item serves a purpose although it is up to the player to work out how it must be used. The objects are often triggers for simple logic puzzle mini-games that must be completed to reveal more clues. None of these mini-games are too difficult, but the player does have the option to skip them if they hit a wall. However, the new feature, and the one that really makes the game shine, is the Evidence Wall. Here players can map out the evidence that they have gathered to form conclusions that help to drive the plot along, similar to the deduction boards found in the Sherlock Holmes games. Rather than just being told a story, this allows players to interact with it instead and gives some satisfaction as you uncover more layers of the story.
Maple Creek does not feel terribly welcoming
The story takes place on a map that gradually grows larger as players discover more locations. Each of these locations remains open for the entirety of the game once they are discovered and players will find themselves revisiting the same scenes numerous times. Players have a handy map that helps to remember the layout, but the game is devoid of a fast travel option. The story will take players 4-5 hours to complete without the use of a guide, but much of this is backtracking through every location just to reach your intended destination on the other side of the map. With so many different locations, it also seems like a strange decision from Artifex that they chose to re-use the same hidden object locations two or three times apiece, making some of the map feel underused.
Aside from the obligatory backtracking, the game's story travels along at a satisfying pace and treats players to an unpredictable tale of missing girls in a village that hides a dark secret. The hand-drawn locations and characters do not disappoint and lend a suitably eerie atmosphere to the game, although some of the game's cutscenes haven't really stood the test of time since the game's original 2011 PC release. Like Clockwork Tales, though, the voice acting is more variable. The game's lead character is voiced adequately, but the supporting characters can range from sufficient to wooden and monotonous — some of the actors couldn't sound more bored. It's the only real letdown for a game that manages to inject life into a Hidden Object genre that is otherwise occupied by cookie cutter clones.
I challenge you to find the Power Source
The game does offer two difficulty levels, Normal and Expert, which do offer a distinct difference in the challenge on offer to gamers. As well as the longer hint recharge, reduced number of hints and penalty for too many incorrect clicks during hidden object scenes, Expert difficulty also doesn't give players a notification on the map for available actions. This means that players really do have to use their brains to work out the next course of action and where they have to use the objects in their inventory. The only downside is that when players truly can't continue onwards with their current inventory, they must backtrack through every available location to find which of the hidden object scenes has regenerated and is offering a new clue.
Upon completion of the story, players will unlock a bonus prequel chapter that tells the events of 30 years ago, during the disappearance of the first girl in the area. The chapter will add an extra hour to your play time and offers more of the same gameplay, locations and characters. You will need to complete this chapter to earn one of the game's achievements, the other ten of which can be earned in a single playthrough of the story. To do this, you'll need to make sure that you play on Expert difficulty, not skip any of the game's mini-games and not use any hints during the hidden object scenes. With no time limit on any of the puzzles and no penalty for getting it wrong, players can take their time throughout the game and will easily manage this.
SummaryEnigmatis: The Ghosts of Maple Creek is another solid adventure game from Artifex Mundi. Despite bringing the gameplay back to basics with hidden object scenes and point & click problem solving, players must use their own initiative to progress through the game, while the new Evidence Wall means that players will truly become immersed in the story rather than watching the events play out. Unfortunately, the amount of backtracking and sometimes cluttered hidden object scenes can lead to some frustration, and the variable quality of the voice acting can be grating. Despite this, adventure fans shouldn't pass up the chance of another easy completion. Those who don't normally play this type of game should perhaps consider this game to be a great starting point for their entry into the genre.
- Simple and accessible gameplay
- Evidence wall adds player immersion
- Lots of drawn-out backtracking
- Hidden object scenes sometimes too cluttered
- Questionable voice acting
EthicsThe reviewer spent six hours visiting and revisiting many storm damaged locations in a bid to find a missing girl and earn all 11 of the game's achievements. An Xbox One review copy was provided by the developer for the purpose of this review.
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