December 24, 2009

Review: The Return Of Monte Cristo

game format: hidden object

puzzles: jigsaws, match two, pipes, gears, shapes, logicals, sliders

playtime: 3 hours | difficulty: easy

developer: Lazy Turtle Games | publisher: Big Fish Games

links: Official site | Buy this game | Strategy Guide

The Return Of Monte Cristo
game brief: Hero Edmond Dantes is on a quest to discover Mercedes’ killers, and bring them to justice, in The Return of Monte Cristo, a beautiful hidden object game. Explore gorgeous scenes as you piece together valuable clues and solve the murder. Travel to Paris while figuring out perplexing puzzles and experiencing an immersive plot, in this sequel to Alexandre Dumas’ classic tale. (Official website)

review:

The Return of Monte Cristo is the sequel to the hidden object adventure, The Count of Monte Cristo, based on the novel by renowned French author Alexandre Dumas.

the story:

It's 1854, and the Count of Monte Cristo, Edmond Dantès, is settled in Spain. He receives a letter informing him that the investigation of his fiancee Mercédès' murder in 1814 has been closed without resolution. Unable to accept the conclusion, Dantès returns to Paris to solve the case himself.

A search of Mercédès' mansion leads Dantès to private investigator Louis Decart, hired by Mercédès, who suspected that her life was in danger. Decart tells Dantès to search for her diary to access possible leads.

While Dantès doesn't find the diary, he does find a page from it that mentions a ring with three snakes, and a gendarme, Rudy Villefort, who was spying on Mercédès. Following the lead to the Bastille, Dantès discovers evidence that Villefort was paid illegally for 'unsavory businesses'. The trail leads him to Manu Dangler's corrupt bank in Notre Dame, and from there to the abbey of the evil Father Jean, a friend of Dantès' arch enemies, the Mondegos.

The game follows Dantès' search for the murder weapon - a dagger - and other clues that eventually lead to the imprisonment of the guilty. There are no surprises in terms of a whodunit despite the absence of a backstory linking this game either to its predecessor or the original novel. The culprits are revealed during the course of Dantès' journey, and remain mere names and images without motives unless the player is already familiar with the story (wiki).

Thus, unfortunately, an extremely powerful story is reduced to an uninteresting sequence of events, and it's impossible to empathise with, or even relate to, tragic hero Dantès.

game-play:

The story is broken up into broad chapters based on significant milestones of Dante's investigation. There are 20 unique locations, some visited more than once, all littered with objects that are generally unrelated to their settings - in nature, and position. The locations are standard - rooms, cemeteries, churches, cells - nothing that hasn't been seen many, many times before.

Objects to be searched are boring and irrelevant - wrenches and hammers and pineapples and safety pins and such. The same clipart is repeated screen after screen, and eventually, it's just tedious.

When scenes are revisited, previously located objects reappear in searches, making the game even more repetitive.

Some screens have 'interactive items' that are revealed using one or more onscreen objects with each other. The technology is in place, but few items integrate into the storyline, thus wasting the concept.

The game is interspersed with puzzles including jigsaws, mini-logicals, sliders, pipes, gears, and shape recognition. The difficulty veers from extremely easy (shape recognition, safe combination), to challenging (sun & moon grid, gem rotation). The puzzles are interesting and effectively break the monotony of the object searches.

In another positive, the game is short and the pace is crisp - Dantès doesn't waste either time or words. Interrogations and evidence discovery proceed logically, and bring the game to a satisfying conclusion in a procedural sense.

art & graphics:

The screens are average in design and graphics, compared to the quality on offer at the moment. The clipart is dull and uninspired, which is truly a regret because this game is about the objects, and had enormous potential given the period it's set in. The rudimentary animation fails to enhance the visual experience. The puzzles, in contrast, are well-designed and vibrant, as are the comic-book transition screens.

sound & music:

The sound effects are routine - crows cawing, bells clanging, clocks ticking, ghosts sighing, and so on. The music is suited to the morbid ambience, but is borderline annoying, and never rises beyond functional.

bottomline:

Though I hadn't played the original title, I started this game with a lot of expectation, because the story itself provides ample scope to make an in-depth, captivating game. I was disappointed with both, the cursory inclusion of the story, as well as the production quality. It's an ambitious project that seems hastily executed, and that's a pity.

Hopefully the developers will step up their game with their next offering!


g@mrgrl rating: 2/5
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Prospuzzles, crisp pace, ideal length
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Consclipart, music, wasted potential
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Bugsno bugs noted


This is an original review written by me. Please do not distribute / adapt the text and images in any way without my written consent.

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