iPad Game Review: The Magician's Handbook II: Blacklore Review
Reviewed by Tom Slayton
The Magician's Handbook II is a fairly standard hidden object game. Nothing groundbreaking or new here, but if you like hidden object games, you might enjoy this one.
The Magician's Handbook II: Blacklore is a hidden object game that tasks you with, well, finding hidden objects. At the start of each level, you are given a list of items and a fairly cluttered screen in which to find them. There are three different difficulty settings, including a novice setting that is untimed. Find the objects quickly, get a higher score. Find the objects without using hints, get a higher score. The seek and ye shall find mechanic is broken up by a series of mini games that run the gamut from entertaining to frustrating, and back again. Most of them are fairly enjoyable, in spite of the severe graphical limitations of the Magician's Handbook II (more on that later). Another way that this game attempts to set itself apart is with the use of spells, which are learned one-at-a-time throughout the game.
Now, there are a number of interesting ways that a spell mechanic could be implemented in a hidden object game. Unfortunately, The Magician's Handbook II didn't go with any of them. Instead, each "spell" is nothing more than another way to manipulate objects in each environment. For example, the first spell you learn is Wind, which allows you to blow dry leaves away or snuff torches to reveal needed objects underneath. Essentially, this is no different than opening a container to reveal an object inside, and really brings nothing new to the gameplay. To be fair, with the crushing number of hidden object games available on the app store, it must be extremely difficult to come up with a truly new twist so G5 gets some kudos for at least trying. The Magician's Handbook II features 16 locations with 21 mini-games sprinkled throughout.
Out of all the entertainment genres available on the app store, hidden object games are arguably the most reliant on graphic quality. While eye candy is always appreciated, games in this category must have crystal clear, high quality visuals to prevent the player from succumbing to headaches and eye strain. When I first read the game description of The Magician's Handbook II, I was quite pleased to see that it supports retina displays in the new iPads. Unfortunately, G5's idea of support is very different than mine. The search screens were decidedly low resolution and artificially reduced in size to fill about 60% of the screen (to make room for its needlessly large UI, no doubt). Worst of all, however, the game does not have any sort of zoom capability! This triumvirate of graphical suckyness combines to form a hidden object search experience that is tedious and headache-inducing. If you think I'm being overly harsh, just spend a few minutes with any of G5's Crystal Portal or Treasure Seeker games. And these games don't even claim to be retina-ready!
The music and sound effects of The Magician's Handbook II are both well-done. The music has a mysterious quality to it, and is pleasant enough that I left it on while playing. The sound effects feature the usual range of magical sounds, etc. They don't bring anything new to the table, but they work just fine.
In-App Purchases (IAPs)
While the Magician's Handbook II is free to download, The full game can only be unlocked via IAP for $6.99.
The Magician's Handbook II: Blacklore is not one of the better hidden object games available for iOS, mostly because of its lackluster graphics. If you're a fan of this genre, and need your fix, there is still plenty of fun to be had as long as your expectations aren't too high. Bring a pair of reading glasses though; you're going to need 'em.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 2 - Playable, but subpar for a hidden object game. Sound: - 3.5 - Very good music, so-so sound effects. Controls: - 5 - An accurate and responsive touch interface. Gameplay: - 3 - It's a fairly standard hidden object game.
Playing Hints and Tips:
When you are playing the mini-game to learn a spell, keep in mind that the objects are not to scale in relation to each other; this will help you find them in the example image. Quicker is better if you want a higher score so try to find several objects and then gather them in rapid succession. Don't forget to look for keys.