I have never understood hidden object games, and when I installed the lite version of Vampire Saga : Pandora’s Box I expected some kind of action game. Come on, vampires usually have a lot of blood and garlic surrounding them, and gameplay is usually frantic. Instead I got immersed into finding hidden objects, and I could not stop myself. The game has more in common with point and click adventure games than the classic hidden object game. This is due to a great integration of problem solving beyond merely finding stuff.
The story in Vampire Saga is somewhat predictable, even though it plays out in two different eras and locations. You start outside Grandpa’s house, and have to get inside to help him out. To turn on the lights you have to find a stone to break a window. To find the stone you have to play a hidden object scene. This is as in all hidden object games. You can zoom in, and simply tap on the object asked for. There is no penalty for tapping like a madman. When you zoom in the text of the objects within range are highlighted making the game somewhat easy. Furthermore there is a help button that you can press to get help finding an object. This button is also available when walking around. It recharges over time, and there is no penalty in using it. Once all objects are found you get what you need. In the opening scene you get the stone, and when you move closer to the window you can touch the stone in the inventory at the bottom, and the game shows action areas. Simply touching the action area lets you use the stone to break the window.
The hidden object aspect of the game is seamlessly woven into an adventure where you have to find objects to proceed. At times the game got almost compulsive to play, and I walked around trying to find bolts for an underwater staircase for example. Just one more bolt to fix it, and I walked around a ship looking for clues. The hint button found in the hidden object scenes is also available, and when touched it can confirm that an area is clear from usable objects. All scenes are static, and footstep/stair icons show possible exits.
The presentation is ok, but having played Nick Chase: A Detective Story I know how well a hidden object game can look and sound. The characters in Vampire Saga are quite badly drawn, and poorly animated. The slow text still image cut scenes are quite annoying as they are slow, and the game doesn’t always respond to my taps to continue. These can be skipped completely, and as the story gets more and more predictable that became my choice. The music is atmospheric suitable to the game, but at times it grows stale listening to the same loops over and over. The game music can be turned off allowing your own music to play.
Vampire Saga: Pandora’s Box takes about three hours to play through. Once done there is no reason to replay it at all. There are no achievements, no awards and not even an acknowledgement that you have completed it. The continue button disappears, and you get the choice to start a new game all over. There is no feedback to whether you have used the hint button, making the game a bit easy. My wife called it a children’s game as you will finish it no matter how poorly you play due to the hints, and possibility to tap frantically.
Despite the lack of challenge Vampire Saga surprised me, and it is the first hidden object game that I have ever played from start to finish with an urge to proceed. It is highly entertaining, and if you are a fan of the genre it gets my complete recommendation. If you are new, or like me somewhat hesitant, definitely give the lite version a go. I would like a sequel with a higher level of challenge, and more polished presentation. If this is how hidden object games evolve I have definitely found a new favourite genre on the iPhone.