This is a two part review of Hidden Mystery Collectives: Mystic Diary 1 & 2. [Editor: Part 1 is over here]
Focus Multimedia have been releasing quite a number of Hidden Mystery Collectives to date. The concept of this series is to present to the buyer two great casual games in one box. We had the fortune to get our hands on the copy that includes both Mystic Diary: Lost Brother and Mystic Diary 2: Haunted Island together.
Developed by Sunray Games, these hidden object adventures are sure to keep you entertained for quite a few hours. Let’s begin with a look at the story behind each game before we get into the review proper.
Mystic Diary: Haunted Island
The second game, Mystic Diary: Haunted Island has you helping out a trapped ghost. Victor (the protagonist you played in the first game) and a bunch of lost souls have been trapped inside the Mystic Diary. You must follow Victor’s clues and stop Gustav, his rather disturbed brother, as quickly as you can. Seek out hidden objects, solve cryptic puzzles and put together bizarre machines to unlock the secrets in Haunted Island.
What you get
After the quick narrated cutscene is done, you are placed before a magician’s house deep in the Black Woods. A tutorial beckons, which serves its purpose for those not familiar with the casual style gameplay required in hidden object adventures.
Once again (as in the first game), sparkles in an area will denote hidden object scenes that you must enter to search for objects. However this time, you will have to work a little harder to find these scenes. That’s because this game plays out more like a traditional adventure: you must find inventory items hidden in the game areas, and then make use of them to open up more options and advance the storyline.
Hidden object scenes no longer present you with silhouettes to search; instead, you get a list of twelve objects to find. Their descriptions are quite obvious, although there were one or two minor ambiguities we encountered along the way. Luckily, there is a handy hint button to help you along in such situations.
To really advance in Haunted Island, you must carefully look out for items you can use; they are usually quite well hidden most often requiring your curiosity to move your mouse over them to see if it is something you might need in the adventure segment of the game. You will also need some creativity to apply an item: for example, a magnet is required to remove a key from behind a shattered window… you might be thinking of a simpler solution like me – using a rock to shatter the glass.
Items will wind up in your inventory and unless you are reasonably comfortable with adventure games, you will likely resort to using the Hint button. And by the way, the Hint button does not tell you outright where to go to use the objects… all you get is a small image that shows you where you must use the item. Now where did you see that area before?
There is the occasional puzzle or mini-game you will meet in Haunted Island. These run the gamut of tile laying/rotation puzzles, deciphering codes, (our favorite) adjusting a spectrum analyzer like device, placing gears in correct slots, mixing reagents in the correct sequence, untangling a mess of lines, balancing scales, or even tracing out spell symbols with your mouse.
Once again, the trouble with Haunted Island is the lack of a fun storyline; sure, you are here to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a magician, but for what purpose and where is the excitement in that? Another thing is that the story builds on the first game in a peculiar way; you do get to see both brothers (Victor and Gustav) again… but never was I expecting to find them as ghosts.
The adventuring segment is probably the biggest challenge to the Mystic Diary series; if you get lost, at least there is an inconspicuous looking button marked as Goals that you click on. Your main objective is to find useful items that is required to overcome mini obstacles in the game. You will often wind up having quite a number of items in your inventory. They will stay there for some time as the opportunity for their use is not immediate. If you are puzzling over where to use an item, you can simply reveal picture clues by dragging items from your inventory over to the Hint button – now that’s a rather nice touch in the spirit of adventuring.
Hidden object scenes are not as plentiful as the first game. You will also find yourself returning to most scenes at least twice, only to search a different list of items. Once again, the replayability factory for the hidden object segment is poor as the lists are static in nature. But at least the puzzles and mini-games are not too much of a letdown. The only thing I found out of place was the requirement of tracing out magical symbols, a rather difficult task when wielding a mouse.
A final complaint about Haunted Island would be the end sequence: you must make your way back to all areas you have traversed in the game to meet the final treasure hunt objective. Grr… we disliked that quite a bit.
Mystic Diary 2: Haunted Island plays out a little more like a typical adventure game than your usual fare – that made us really happy with it. The artwork is also improved over the first game, gone are the real estate crunches – the full screen is used in this game. Hopefully Sunray Games will address the rather lackluster story, otherwise it will probably be a hard sell for us to get into the next game of the series (it’s already out by the way – Mystic Diary 3: Missing Pages).
This however marks the end of our two-parter review, featuring Mystic Diary 1 and 2 from our “Hidden Mystery Collectives” boxed set by Focus Multimedia.