iPad Game Review: A Witch's Curse: Princess Isabella HD
Reviewed by Tom Slayton
A Witch's Curse: Princess Isabella HD is not only a big mouthful of a game title, it is a big mouthful of a game. Not all hidden object adventure games are created equal, and this one resides comfortably near the top. The smart combination of an interesting story, original game mechanics, good voice acting, and beautiful graphics make Isabella HD one of the stronger entrants into the crowded genre.
With so many hidden object games available on the app store, developers really have to work to set their games apart from the crowd and, in this case, they succeeded. The game starts predictably with a dramatic back story, complete with cut-scenes. However, when the game begins, you are greeted with an assistant in the form of a flying magical fairy. As the game progresses, your companion will attain various skills and abilities that turn out to be necessary to solve puzzles and overcome obstacles. This adds another layer to the environmental puzzles, making them more challenging. This is a good thing, as these types of brain teasers are often mind-blisteringly obvious in hidden object games (use the match to light the lamp, etc). The hint system is also cleverly worked into your flying assistant?s repertoire, allowing the player to remain immersed in the game while accessing it rather than forcing you to take a step back and punch what is usually a large, reproachful hint button.
As you progress through the game, you will find hidden objects, items for your inventory (used for either the environment puzzles or the standalone ones), and mirror shards to release the trapped castle occupants. Although the premise involves a witch?s curse, it is not a visually scary game, and my 7-year old hidden object game expert found this one quite accessible, although more challenging than most. There is also a map built into the quest journal, and the game allows you to travel instantly to any room you have previously visited by simply double-tapping on the map location; A wonderfully thoughtful feature on the part of the developers. 135 locations and 15 mini-games means this one will keep you busy a bit longer than many competing offerings, and the high production value will make you come back to it again and again.
The graphics in Isabella HD are gorgeous. Every scene is subtly animated to avoid that static screenshot look. Wherever you are required to hunt for items, the game supports pinch/zoom to make it easier to scan the fine detail. The resolution of the images and objects don't change when you zoom, making everything look not only larger, but chunkier. This, however, is the standard for the industry. I only mention it here because I'm hoping somebody will take it upon themselves to do better. The current hardware can certainly support it.
The soundtrack, voice acting, and sound effects are first rate. Coming from a chronic disabler of in-game music, that is high praise, indeed. Try playing it with headphones, to really get that immersive experience. The audio in this game is one of the reasons I found it so relaxing, almost soothing to play.
Isabella HD is one of the best hidden object adventure games available for iOS. Beautiful graphics, innovative and challenging gameplay, and a solid audio component make this a standout title in the category. And Big Fish is running a huge sale right now and you can get the full game for $0.99.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 5 - Great, high resolution graphics complete with subtly animated features to bring them to life.
Sound: - 5 - Great soundtrack/voice/effects contribute to what is a very relaxing and peaceful game to sit quietly and play.
Controls: - 5 - Solid interface complete with an in-game map; a unique feature in hidden-object games.
Gameplay: - 5 - A cleverly designed and challenging hidden object adventure game. The Tinkerbell-like assistant adds an entirely new layer to the environmental puzzles.
Playing Hints and Tips:
The in-game map will keep track of the rooms that have been cleared and those that have not. If you are stuck, return to an uncleared room and access the hint feature. It is there for a reason so don't be shy about using it. Also, keep in mind that there are items in the rooms that can be interacted with that do NOT sparkle/glow/twinkle, etc. so experiment!
Developer: Big Fish Games
Release Date: May 3, 2011
Price: $6.99 (on sale for $0.99 for a limited time)
Buy App: A Witch?s Curse: Princess Isabella HD
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