When you think about it, carnivals make ideal locations for a variety of games. You could go with a cute and cuddly platformer, track & field style events or even capture a more mysterious side of carnie life. G5 Entertainment’s latest hidden-object-me-do title, Dark Arcana: The Carnival has plumped for the later option to pretty good effect.
Developers Artifex Mundi’s previous release, Nightmares from the Deep scored a highly recommended 4/5 from our good selves. Dark Arcana continues with the same high quality graphics and atmospheric settings, along with a very similar style of game play.
The story begins with Susan taking her daughter to the carnival. Things take a turn for the worse when Susan disappears into the mirror world having been captured by the carnival owner and knife thrower. Playing as a detective, you follow Susan into the mirror world and attempt to uncover why she has been abducted and save her.
The locations capture the mysterious carnival atmosphere brilliantly, and become even creepier looking when you explore the mirror world version of the carnival. You’ll visit locations such as the house of mirrors and solve puzzles at stalls such as a shooting gallery and a mechanical claw toy grabbing machine. Early on in the adventure you will help out a trapped monkey who proceeds to accompany you on the journey. Miles the monkey can then be used to climb and grab out of reach objects.
Alongside the hidden object screens, you’ll have to solve a number of puzzles. Some of these puzzles are nicely thought out and well presented. Whilst none of them should really trouble your grey matter, it’s nice to see a little bit of thought has gone into them, rather than just sticking to the tried and tested.
Quite early in the game, you should find a map that details each area of the carnival as you traverse them. The map handily points out both where you currently are and more importantly, where you can perform an action. This helps out immensely to avoid traipsing around aimlessly looking for the one item you might require to progress. The only real criticism I found whilst playing, is that on maybe two or three occasions I missed an exit into a new area purely because the exit spot isn’t immediately obvious. But that is such a mild issue, it’s almost not worth mentioning.
There is a fair amount of travelling involved, but the scenes are nice to look at, even after repeat visits. At key moments in the story, fully animated cut scenes take over with full voice acting. These blend nicely back into the regular action and keep you interested in the increasingly sinister storyline.
As hidden object adventure games go, this is easily up there with the best of them. The storyline is engaging, the graphics are highly detailed even when fully zoomed in (in fact, I hardly ever had to zoom in 100% during the hidden object screens), and the puzzles are pretty creative. The fact that this is an adventure game with hidden object screens means that those turned off by the HOG genre might still get something out of this too.
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If she liked this Quint, buy her the other two Artifex Mundi games (Abyss: The Wraiths of Eden and Nightmares from the Deep) that have been released recently as a Valentines gift and you should get some brownie points. Although if she got so absorbed in them, you might not get much else ;)