iPad Game Review: Haunted Manor - Lord of Mirrors HD
Reviewed by Tom Slayton
Haunted Manor is yet another quality hidden object adventure game from Big Fish Games. In it, your task is to find an eclectic list of objects cleverly hidden in a variety of themed settings. Some of these objects can be collected and used to interact with other objects on-screen. While this is billed as a feature that enhances the game's challenge, all of these on-screen interactions are so blindingly obvious that they really only serve to immerse you more deeply into the gameplay (not a bad thing). For instance, you will find yourself tasked with turning on a lamp. As you go about playing the game and collecting objects , three of those objects will be redirected to your inventory, and you will be advised when this happens. When you finally get around to turning on the lamp, you will be faced with the mind-blisteringly difficult job of doing so with nothing but some lamp fuel, a wick, and some matches (don?t hurt yourself figuring this one out). This does not ruin the game, however, as long as you?re not expecting to do a lot of head-scratching. In fact, the straightforward nature of this aspect of Haunted Manor HD actually enhances its inherent relaxing nature.
One thing that Big Fish Games does exceptionally well is making each game subtly unique from its brethren in one way or another. In this game, before progressing to a new screen, you must first dust off the mirror to see its clear reflection. While my son found the game to be too scary, he would eagerly stop what he was doing and run at full speed to me each time I announced that a mirror needed dusting. I can?t really explain why I found it such a charming little feature, but I nevertheless found myself looking forward to those times when I got to dust off that mirror myself. As with Big Fish?s other hidden object games, Haunted Manor HD includes a nice variety of mini-games, all of which can be skipped if they?re not your cup of tea. I found them a pleasant diversion from the inherent monotony of scouring the screen for bits of randomness, and never skipped a one. Lastly, the game is untimed, and has a scale-able hint system making it accessible for all ability levels.
As with Puppetshow HD, Big Fish Games has opted to go with a single, free-to-download app supported by an in-app purchase to unlock the full game. At the risk of plagiarizing my own words, while I don?t object to in-app purchases to unlock content, this endorsement comes with a caveat; all games that offer this should include a large, friendly ?restore purchases? button prominently displayed on the menu. This should be a required interface element as I?m guessing that the number of people who feel confident that they won?t be charged twice for in-game content is a lot smaller than it should be. Alas, Haunted Manor HD does not feature one of these buttons, forcing those who are reinstalling the game to press that purchase button with much fear and trepidation. I actually uninstalled the game, then reinstalled it to see if I was charged a second time. I am happy to report that I was NOT charged to unlock the game a second time. When you press the purchase button and enter your iTunes password, you will see an iOS system dialog box advising you that you have already purchased this content, and asking if you would like to download it again for free.
The graphics of Haunted Manor HD, as with all of Big Fish hidden object games, are truly excellent. Each location is beautifully rendered, and the objects are cleverly hidden. As with other offerings, you may pinch/zoom to help you find what you are looking for, however each screen is already displayed at its highest resolution. This means that getting a closer look will not only make everything bigger, it will also make everything decidedly fuzzier. This is standard for every hidden object game I've ever played from any developer, however, so don't be too hard on Big Fish. I mention it here because they are one of the leaders in this particular genre and I would like to see them raise the bar on future games. Lastly, while this game is not jumpy, gory, or inappropriate, some of the images are definitely too scary for youngsters so use caution before you turn a child loose on this one.
Haunted Manor HD features an excellent, moody soundtrack. This, coupled with the spooky sound effects will definitely make you want to play this one with headphones. As I previously mentioned, this is not a game that seeks to scare you by startling you with jarring images or loud noises so turn the lights down, relax, and enjoy the game.
Haunted Manor HD is an excellent Hidden Object Adventure Game. It features great graphics, sound, and creative mini-games. The images are a bit too scary for kids, however, so use good judgment before handing your iPad over to your hidden object-loving 6 year-old. My only real complaint with this game is that it is not universal. This means that if you own an iPhone and an iPad, you will have to purchase two versions; one for each device.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 5 - Beautiful, high resolution locations.
Sound: - 5 - Spooky soundtrack and complementary sound effects will whisper for you to put on your headphones (not literally, though; that would be a bit too spooky).
Controls: - 5 - Spot-on touch interface.
Gameplay: - 5 - Classic hidden-object gameplay with nicely varied mini-games. Don?t expect it to break new ground, however.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Tapping randomly will result in a broken glass animation appearing where you are tapping. This obscures your vision and ultimately slows you down so take your time and tap with precision. There is no bonus for finishing quickly. Remember, the hints are there for a reason; use them if you need them.
Developer: Big Fish Gamesl
Release Date: March 16, 2011
Price: Free to download with a $4.99 IAP to unlock the full game
Buy App: Haunted Manor ? Lord of Mirrors HD
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