Friday, September 24, 2010

Review - Enlightenus!

I can imagine the game designer sitting down with his developer buddies one afternoon:

Designer: "Hey guys, I have a sweet idea for a new game. It'll blow your minds."

Developer buddies: "Oh yeah? Enlighten us."

Designer: "Wait a minute....Enlighten us. Enlightenus. Finally, a title for my game! w00t!"

If you're bored with the endless supply of half-baked HOGs, this game should offer you the change you've been looking for. So read on, and see what Enlightenus has to offer!

What I liked

  • Excellent graphics
  • Solid music
  • Adventure game elements
  • Object placement

What I didn't like

  • Repeated scenarios
  • Lackluster story

Quick Plot

Travel to somewhat magical places, collecting scattered fragments of some dude's books.


Object placement: This is the first game on the market to reverse the functionality of a cluttered scene. In your standard hidden object game, you're given a list of items to seek out with your eyeballs. In this game, you are instead given the objects, and your job is to place them correctly into the scene.

You are given a row of items at the bottom of the screen. When you mouse over an item, it displays the item's name. Clicking on an item will pick it up.

Then, when you hover the mouse over various areas and objects in the scene, names for those areas are displayed. In this way, you are assisted in finding matches. For instance, maybe I pick up the item called "steak" and then move the mouse around the screen. I see that the wolf in the scene is called "hungry wolf", so I click the steak on the wolf and *POOF* - they combine.

Once you do this sort of matching for every item in your inventory, the scene is completed, and you earn an emblem token that will be used on a puzzle somewhere nearby.

These item placement scenes make up the bulk of the game. You find them by walking around the environment, as you would in any other first-person adventure game. When you see a sparkling piece of paper attached to something, you click on it to play the item placement scene. Each scene is named after one of the author guy's stories.

You will visit each "story" a few times, with a different set of items each time (as in many HOGs).

The game is easy enough that you'll rarely need to use hints. But if you want them, you can find two in each scene. They show up as hidden cards with an "E" on them. Each one of these cards counts as one hint in your reserve, and they don't ever expire or refresh; you get to keep them until you use them.

Puzzles: You will have to solve a number of simple, but amusing, puzzles. I always enjoyed when one of these showed up. Many of them involve some form of connection-making, such as memory matching or deciding which items go with which season.

Inventory: You'll have an inventory containing items that you pick up in one location and use in another location. This is a standard adventure game feature.


This game scratches my adventure game itch in its overall presentation. The graphics are much like those of the old first-person adventure games of the 90s. You walk around in ambiently lit locations, where fascinating visuals greet you at each new turn. The environments were obviously designed with care and skill.

Also, there are a number of paintings in the game. I thought the artwork on these was excellent. There were clearly some pro artists on this game.

Music: Is the music great? No. Does it work well for the game? Yes. The music has a synth orchestra vibe to it, but unlike many casual games, it sounds like the composer was someone who knows what he's doing. The tranquil underscore, I think, complements the gameplay in a satisfying way.


Repeated scenes: I can't dock the developer too many points for this one, because most HOGs do this same thing: take you back to the same scenes you've already scrutinized. They think that changing the list of items will make it more bearable. After all, they spent all that time designing the scenery, so it only makes sense to get a little mileage out of it, right? Personally, I get tired of repeated scenes in this sort of game.

Let me soften this gripe by saying that I didn't mind it in this game quite as much because of the item placement mechanic. In this game, it can actually be fun to place items into those spots that you didn't get to interact with the first time through a scene. But still, 3 or 4 times through the same scene is just too many for my taste.

Story: "The heck?" This is my response to the story in many games, including this one. I admire the writer for trying to come up with something somewhat fantastical and literature-themed, but the execution left me bored. I think I kind of understand what happened. Or maybe not.

You see? I don't like that kind of story. I want to have a clear understanding of exactly what happened, how it worked out, and why my part in it was significant. I am admittedly slow in the mental department sometimes, but I'm pretty sure this story wasn't tied together very well. You may disagree. I hope you get more out of it than I did.

Suitable for the family?

Sure. My kids stood by watching, and enjoyed some parts of the game. There's nothing scary, shocking, or offensive. I can imagine your whole family appreciating this one. It'll appeal more to older kids, I think. There aren't many bright colors or cute things to watch, so little kids might lose interest more quickly. But that's good, right? Shouldn't they be out playing anyway?

The family man's final ruling

This game was a welcome change for me. HOGs these days are so yawn-inducing that the item placement mechanic of Enlightenus was very welcome. I think if there was more diversity in the item placement scenes, and in the music, then this game would have been even better. Then, hire a professional writer to make the story compelling, and you could have a really great game. I recommend this above most HOGs, even the newer, shinier ones.

So, while it loses points for lack of variety, the game was still beautiful, innovative, and kept me playing through to the end.

And, if you end up really liking this one, there is a sequel! It plays exactly like the first game in terms of mechanics and music, but with a new story and new scenery.

You'll get to solve many of these disc placement puzzles.

You'll like the game if...

  • You like HOGs
  • You like first-person adventures
  • You like a mellow gameplay experience

You won't like the game if...

  • You get bored by matching items with other items

My rating:

If you want to play Enlightenus, click below:

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