Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Review - Tiger Eye Part 1: Curse of the Riddle Box

When I was asked to review Tiger Eye Part I: Curse of the Riddle Box, and was told that it was designed by the same team who developed the Nancy Drew Dossier games, I jumped at the opportunity.

I finished the game a few weeks ago and I've been eager to share my thoughts with you. Today, Big Fish has released the game on their site, and so I will now give you my official two cents! Well, maybe three.

What I liked

  • Mechanics
  • Music

What I didn't like

  • Story/Writing
  • Art
  • Themes/Content



Quick Plot

Solve a bunch of puzzles as you work at figuring out what kind of deadly conspiracy you've unwittingly gotten yourself into, with the help of a genie-like hulk from the past.



Mechanics

Puzzles: This game is very puzzly. Azada fans should be pleased. You'll play a wide variety of puzzles, none of them very difficult. I never needed to use a hint on a puzzle, and I don't think you will either.

HOG: When you're not solving puzzles, you'll spend most of your time looking for hidden objects. Usually, the objects have a related theme like "weapons" or "vegetables." The hidden object scenes were probably the most difficult and time consuming portions of the game. It always comes down to that last one pesky thing you just aren't seeing.

Minigames: The game will throw a number of minigames at you, including but not limited to
  • match 3
  • puzzle pieces
  • matching similar items, and
  • word games.


Puzzle: Hang the weapons.



Highlights

Mechanics: The three mechanics I mentioned above were actually my favorite thing about the game. It was the only thing that kept me from running away from the computer to barf (more about that later).

The HOG scenes were pretty fun, and usually made some kind of sense with the scene. A lot of times, you are looking for pieces of things. I remember liking the scene where I had to find a bunch of scattered pieces for a bicycle in an alley.

Usually, you have a list of scene objectives at the bottom of the screen. You can carry them out in any order. Sometimes, you need to solve certain puzzles. Other times, you may need to collect a number of items, or put something back together.

My favorite element was the puzzles, simply because I enjoy puzzling my way through brainteasers and such. You'll get a broad variety of puzzles in this game. You're given very good instructions for solving the puzzles, which is nice.

There's a drag-chain type match 3 game you'll have to play several times, and it's just boring. The graphics are mediocre and the whole thing feels like a waste of time (to me).

Every time you complete scenes and tasks, your hint ball fills up. It fills pretty rapidly, too. Once you save up 50 hints, you unlock the game's bonus material. This was very easy to do, and the reward was minimal. I think it allowed me to play "Dress-up Hari" all I want! And maybe one or two other little features that I didn't bother to remember.



Music: This is the other element of the game that I was able to appreciate. While I think Matt Sayre's work for the Nancy Drew Dossier games was more interesting than what he produced here, it's still better than most casual game music on the market. My only beef is that I really think a composer with his talent should upgrade his sample libraries. He could be pumping out high quality orchestra music instead of the more synthy sound you'll hear in this game.

And I'll give the audio team one more thumbs-up: the voice-over work is actually pretty good. Not great, but it's believable.



The main character: Delilah, or Dela for short.


Issues

Plot: This, of course, is merely opinion, but I thought the story was . . . lame. I know the game is based on a supposedly well-known fiction series, but it just didn't draw me in at all. In fact, it seemed amateurish to me. It's primarily a romance, with a significant amount of paranormal weaved in. The "romantic" scenes between the two main characters made me sick to my mental stomach. I wanted nothing more than to be done with the lengthy cutscenes, and get back to the puzzles. And I don't think it's just because I'm a man. I really think it's a poorly written and unbelievable romantic relationship. You can decide for yourself.

Artwork: A huge chunk of the game plays out as cutscenes, which advance the story. These are done in the same manner as the Nancy Drew Dossier games. A series of hand-drawn images depict the story events, timed with the voice-over and music.

The problem is, the artwork isn't very good compared to some of the high quality casual games on the market. When I looked at the concept art, I was surprised to see that it actually looks much better than the finished and colored art in the game. I'm not sure how this happens. But heck, who am I to complain? I know it probably took those artists hours upon hours to finish their work, and it's better than what I could do.

On a more positive note, I will say that the artwork for the scene backdrops is actually pretty good. It's about the same quality as the Nancy Drew Dossier scenes.


Hari - Dela's burly dream man from the ancient past.

Themes/Content: This is my main gripe, which I'll develop more in the section below. To summarize: I wouldn't play this game with kids around. The themes and visuals are more "mature" (as they say) than most casual games I've played.



Suitable for the family?

This really depends on how you feel about exposed male buttocks. (And that's probably the last time I'll use the phrase "exposed male buttocks" in a review.)

As is often the case with game companies, the developers seem to be pervs, as evidenced by the repeated shots of Dela in nothing but a towel. I found myself actually laughing as there was one scene after the next of Dela heading for the shower. And then, to top it off, Hari goes to take a bath, and then hastily runs out naked to save Dela. This is where the male buttocks come in. Yes - you are actually forced to behold Hari's full hand-drawn moon. Twice. *shudder*

He spends a good chunk of time with his shirt off, too, so that you can admire his muscles. And, of course, so that Dela can hug him. And she's always wearing small, stomach-baring shirts for good measure.

And if that weren't enough, you'll get a chance to see Dela's unmentionables scattered around her hotel room at one point. Gagging yet? If not, then maybe you will be, after a number of other random sexual innuendos pop up from time to time.

I don't remember the exact words used now, but I know the language was also family-unfriendly. I don't remember if it ever got worse than "damn" or "hell" and the like, but I remember thinking, "Whoa! Back off, game!"



The family man's final ruling

I really, really wanted to like this game. I wanted to see what the Nancy Drew Dossier team would offer this time. But what makes the Nancy Drew games so fun was missing here. I think that missing element is primarily a good story, and of course the object-matching mechanic that is still unique to the Dossier games. Curse of the Riddle Box was like a drippy romance novel with a casual game forced into it. And even though I'm not a fan, I think the popular Twilight stories do a much better job with this romance/paranormal genre.

But the weird thing is, despite the crummy story, I found myself interested enough to keep playing, not because of the story, but because the puzzles and other mechanics kept me playing, as any casual game should.

If this game had been published by a high-polish developer like Big Fish Studios or PlayPond or MumboJumbo, and had a good story to go with it, this could have been a great game. As it is, I don't know whether or not to recommend it. I liked playing the game, mechanically, but I didn't like the game in terms of story and themes. In terms of fun alone, I would have rated it a solid 4. If only the puzzles were a little bit more challenging, I may have rated it higher. Will I play the next game in the series? Probably, but I might skip the cutscenes.

(NOTE: I have made many references to the Nancy Drew Dossier games in this review. Let me make it clear that Curse of the Riddle Box was developed/published by PassionFruit Games, who, if I understand correctly, did the development work for Her Interactive on the Nancy Drew Dossier games. Her Interactive produces all of the Nancy Drew-themed games on the market. I think Her Interactive's involvement in the Dossier series is what made the games come out so good. That's my suspicion anyway.)



Dress-up Hari.

You'll like the game if...

  • You get shamelessly into mawkish romances
  • You like paranormal stories
  • You like the art and music style from the Nancy Drew Dossier games
  • You like lots of puzzles and hidden objects scenes

You won't like the game if...

  • You don't like sappy romance in your games
  • You only like top-notch graphics
  • You want thoroughly challenging puzzles


My rating:

If you want to play Tiger Eye Part I: Curse of the Riddle Box, click below:



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