Release Date: May 7, 2009
While I conceded the fall of sprawling adventure games to first-person shooters and the more economically sound casual game market, one concept I've had difficulty wrapping my head around is the hidden-object game. The whole concept (here's some objects, click on them) is on par with word-finds for intellectual and emotional stimulation. My first experience with such games was Escape the Museum. It was so nauseatingly boring that I quit after ten minutes and went outside to watch boxelder bugs procreate. Then I discovered there are hundreds upon hundreds of games much like this, with no challenge, a threadbare plot, and selling like hotcakes.
In 2009, I came across a good one, all by accident. Chris Jones and Aaron Conners are relatively big names in the industry, for they were responsible for the immensely popular Tex Murphy series. Jones starred as Tex Murphy in one of the few positive uses of full-motion video, blending film noir and adult themes with solid adventuring. So when I found out they had started their own company, Big Finish Games, I knew I would buy whatever game they produced. It wasn't until after I ordered their first game, 3 Cards to Midnight, that I realized it was a hidden-object game. [redacted!]
But I was pleasantly surprised. Rather than simply finding lists of objects on screen, the games requires you to think. For example, the game might give you a word like "Shark." Instead of looking for Jaws, you may need to look for the ace of clubs. Ergo, card shark. Or click on a tiger. Tiger shark. Or an aquarium. Shark tank.
Not only does the game require thinking, there is actually a fleshed out plot, cut scenes, and voice acting. It's nothing to write home about, but at least it tries. There is also a sequel, 3 Cards to Dead Time, that is even stronger in the puzzle department if weaker in the story and acting.
I still prefer just about any other genre to hidden object. But Stefanie loves such games, and if we're going to play them together, I need to find some that don't immediately make me catatonic. If anyone has recommendations, I'd love to hear them.