Rating: ESRB – Teen
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PS – From today onwards, I will be keeping my reviews more compact. This way I can spend time getting more great reviews out to you, dear readers. Thanks for your continued support.
Unleashing Pandora’s Box on Hallows’ Eve
Vampire Saga: Pandora’s Box, or shortened to VS: PB, is a casual hidden object game (HOG) that has you playing the role of Matthew Ward who stowaways on a ship known as Pandora. Little does he know, he will be in for the trip of his life (thanks to the dead give away from the title of the game).
For any HOG to be successful, it must be strong in the story department, the visuals department, as well as the game play department. VS: PB does reasonably well in the story department, but it does have some slight issues in the visuals and play department; the former is really a matter of taste, but the latter can be quite annoying.
Shall we begin?
Anchors aweigh! As we cast off to find out more about Pandora’s Box…
The single player game starts you off in what is apparently a prologue. You take on the role of Tyler Ward from Boston. It’s the year 1950, and it’s not every night that you receive a manic phone call from your grandfather who seems to have been spooked out and badly needs your company. You rush over to his place to help him out.
A handy tutorial brings you off to a good start. It teaches you how to move around, how to use your journal to read background information on the story, how to find objects and to use the hint system, how to use objects in your inventory, how to solve puzzles, and so on.
I recommend you memorize the location of purplish sparkles as you will be returning to them time and again to play the hidden object segment of the game. You won’t usually know which ones are active though (unless you are a master of observation), so you must travel back and forth between locations to see if such an area has been activated.
You get a list of 12 words that you must search through the hidden object scene. Some words require you find an x number of an item, but these aren’t too common. Unfortunately, sometimes the words used are rather ambiguous in describing objects, you may wind up clicking too often and it results in your cursor going around in circles to waste your time. If you activate the hint system (represented by a compass at the bottom right of the display), you will be given the location of a randomly chosen object from your list.
Upon helping out grandpa, you realize that this is actually Matthew Ward – the protagonist of the entire story. Very shortly, the game brings you back even further to 1898, as Matthew tells of how he wakes up unconscious on Pandora after he successfully smuggles himself on board. This will be the biggest mistake of his life as you follow him through a story that shifts between these two time periods. I won’t surprise you with any spoilers, suffice to say you will meet some monsters that go bump in the night in VS: PB.
You will occasionally net yourself inventory puzzles that require you to use an object at a specific location. These locations are not related to the Hidden Object game segments in any way. If you have no clue as to where you should use an item, you will have to look out for a quick light sparkle that appears at a location, or to use the hint button. When used like that, the target location and the inventory items will be specified.
Graphics overall is lovingly rendered in exquisite strokes. Every scene is laden with things to look at and explore. The Hidden Object scenes are also littered with many detailed objects placed on a nicely done backdrop of a particular location. The journal uses a nice cursive font that is very readable while the interface is well designed, and the inventory hides itself when you don’t need it.
The main music is mysterious sounding and sets the right mood for the game, but alas, the in-game music is short and set to loop forever. I opted to turn off the music completely. The ambient sound effects do make themselves noticed and sets the mood for the scene – there are many opportune moments like the phone ringing, or the cab driving off, or the sound of waves crashing on the Pandora. There is no voice acting in the game.
- There is a good story in VS:PB with some really interesting twists.
- The game features rich artwork throughout.
- Features only a small handful of interesting puzzles and comes equipped with a skip button (for those who don’t like these mind bogglers).
- The hint system is direct with a reasonable recharge time of one minute.
- VS:PB is quite a long game.
- And, it begs for a sequel.
- Hidden object descriptions may sometimes turn out to be ambiguous, for example the word block refers to a hook block, so don’t go round looking for children’s letter blocks.
- Lots of moving back and forth between HOG locations to acquire new items in your inventory. Problem is, you usually won’t know which next HOG location would be activated.
- Don’t expect fancy movies to watch; the story is told in a series of jerky frames – for example the image of a man may be moved around in a cut and paste manner on the foreground layer to simulate a character walking. It all looks very distracting and amateurish.
- The game is definitely more suited for teens, kids will be scared by some of the adult horror themes within such as dead bodies, murder, loading weapons with bullets, and such.
- There are occasional weaker threads thrown in to the main story that don’t add much meaning to what’s happening on board the Pandora.
It’s Hallows’ Eve, and Vampire Saga: Pandora’s Box should make a good companion for you. Try it out tonight!