9 Clues 2: The Ward HD is a new Hidden Object Adventure Game from G5. While there doesn't seem to be any strident call to reinvent the genre or even shake things up a bit (don't fix what ain't broke), it's always refreshing to find a entry into this crowded field that seems to work a bit harder than the competition at giving players a unique experience. 9 Clues 2 is that game.
You play the part of hard-boiled 1950's detective who, along with her partner, are investigating strange goings-on at a local insane asylum. While the plot isn't particularly original, the gameplay, thankfully, is. Rest assured, you will find all the tried and true trappings of the genre here: hidden object games, mini-games, puzzles, 3 difficulty levels, achievements, hints, Game Center support, auto-mapping, retina display support, and a plethora of creepy locations to explore. What sets 9 Clues apart, however, is its story, and a few original twists on the hidden object formula. In particular, I particularly enjoyed the job of finding clues when you arrive at a new crime scene. Instead of a list of objects (although this type of hidden object game is also a big part of the game) you must examine everything in the room and select things that appear to be out of place, or look like evidence, then attempt to construct a timeline of events to figure out what happened. When you succeed, you are treated to a small, narrated clip that describes in your characters voice the sequence of events that transpired. It's original, fun, and satisfying; and reminds me a bit of the recent Sherlock Holmes movies where the main character does exactly the same thing.
The mini-games/puzzles were also quite enjoyable, and served to break up the adventure nicely. Some felt original, some felt like I had played something similar before. However, all were cleverly implemented and well balanced so they never crossed the line into frustrating or tedious. In fact, I played every single one without ever feeling tempted to hit the skip button.
The graphics and sound were G5's typical top-notch fare. Enhanced graphics for supported devices, and a wonderfully creepy soundtrack. The sound effects were also satisfying, and it seemed that they were used a bit more liberally than other games in the genre. The voice acting was also good, although it didn't particularly stand out in any way.
If you enjoy hidden object adventure games, 9 Clues 2 is definitely going to meet your expectations, and probably exceed them. Even someone like me, who only plays these games occasionally, will find themselves pulled along by the story and losing track of time the way one does with a good mystery novel. It's production values are high, and the developers worked hard to introduce some new types of gameplay without disturbing the core components that have come to feel so comfortable and accessible. Highly recommended.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 4 - Excellent graphics Sound: - 5 - Great music and sound, and very good voice-acting. Controls: - 5 - Everything you want in a touchscreen adventure game. Gameplay: - 4.5 - If you enjoy the genre, you're going to enjoy 9 Clues 2.
Playing Hints and Tips:
If you don't like timers, play on the lower difficulty levels. Also, if you aren't sure where to go, tapping the hint button won't consume a hint unless you're on a screen where there's something to do, so use it to navigate to the next hot spot. Don't forget you can zoom the hidden object screens!