After a truly magical journey in The Forsaken Bride, where the expectations have been set pretty high for all future Artifex Mundi games, the Grim Legends series returns for a second outing. Grim Legends 2: Song of the Dark Swan looks to venture into the world of fairy tales once more, but will it be as magical as that which has gone before it, or are the ideas for the hidden object focused point and click genre becoming stale?

The latest adventure from Artifex Mundi takes place in the Eagle Kingdom, where the main character – a healer – has been sent to help the Queen recover from a mysterious illness. Everything spirals out of control rather quickly due to the influence of dark magic and what appears to be a dark swan, before the Prince, a baby, gets kidnapped. It’s your job to piece together any and all clues in order to figure out what’s going on, thus saving the day.

The story itself is actually based on the Brothers Grimm tale “The Six Swans” and expands upon this fairytale greatly, delivering the key points of the plot in little snippets as a reward for acquiring golden feathers throughout the game. There’s a slight element of predictability to the identity of the main antagonist behind it all, but nevertheless the source material has been put to good use.

Things are not so positive however in terms of the voice acting. I’ve found the voice acting to be a serial problem throughout the majority of these Artifex games, and it’s no different here. Not only is it poorly delivered, but the accents are so erratic that the characters become a laughing stock; which isn’t ideal when trying to set a more dramatic tone to proceedings. The only real saving grace are the Forest Spirits, who sound like a hyperactive Mario (you know, the plumber guy) if he was talking gibberish and they come across as very cute, suiting their design really well.

Onto the gameplay of the adventure itself, and you must collect all sorts of items to aid you along the way. These are garnered via various means; these could be handouts from characters, rewards for solving a mini-game or hidden object scene, or just general pickups of objects laying about the place.

Starting with the mini-games, and although the aesthetics are varied once again, some of the core mechanics return and are actually repeated a few too many times in Grim Legends 2. It’s the slider puzzles that do my head in, having to move incorrectly placed tiles and such around until they are in the required placement; one is too many, so to have more is a little boring and irritating. On the flip side, the interactive storyboard types can be really enjoyable, helping a short story along by choosing to put the correct props where they are needed.  The rest of the mini-games are solid enough, without ever surprising me in terms of creativity.

Then there are the hidden object scenes, with these tasking you with either finding a varied list of obscure items or multiples of the same items. The hiding places the developers come up with are incredibly crafty, but there are occasions where some things blend into the environment a bit too well for my liking, leading to a click fest in the hope of getting lucky. The usual cursor inaccuracies arise too, with the cursor circle often containing an item which isn’t picked up. In the grand scheme though, the scenes are pretty decent overall.

To try and set Grim Legends 2 apart, a trio of sidekicks – a swallow, an otter and a forest spirit – have been included to help access those hard to reach places. The forest spirit has the most personality, despite talking gobbledygook, but all three are useful and it’s always nice and obvious as to which scenes they are needed.

It’ll take you a minimum of around three hours to finish off the main story, with a bit of length added to that when attempting the Expert difficulty. Collectable sigils are dotted around within each area and so trying to obtain all these could force a second playthrough, therefore extending the time further. After the story is complete, a bonus tale is available which involves the forest spirits and their main objective of warding off a dragon. This just brings more of the same solid ideas, lasting a good hour or so and bringing the cute factor to the forefront.

I can never really do justice to the sheer greatness of all the locations being hand-drawn; they are lovely to see. If I am to be a tad picky, there’s too much greenery going on and not enough of a magical feel to the environments. The animations have come an awful long way since my first experience with these games, looking less wooden for sure and more flowing.

Solely judging it on its own merits, there’s no doubt Grim Legends 2: Song of the Dark Swan provides a good overall experience. Putting it in perspective though, it’s one that never exceeds expectations set by those gone before it. The basis of the story is really interesting and there’s never a shortage of puzzles or hidden object scenes. It’s just a shame that the voice acting is so bad and the aura of the setting doesn’t do enough to truly captivate me.

Both experienced players and newcomers to the genre will still get some fun and enjoyment out of Grim Legends 2, but be aware that this isn’t the greatest Artifex Mundi title on offer.

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