The majority of blockbuster games these days are fast-paced, frenetic affairs that don’t give you a second to breath or think. That’s why it’s occasionally nice to find a more relaxing experience to settle down with, and that’s where the kind of Hidden Object puzzle games, published by Artifex Mundi, come into their own. Having already delved into the world of alchemy with Lost Grimoires: Stolen Kingdom, one must wonder if Lost Grimoires 2: Shard of Mystery is more of the same, just with a different narrative. Is that how it’s turned out, or have some fresh ideas been brought in to make for a better sequel?
A few years before the story of Lost Grimoires 2 begins, an evil witch named Drosera turned on her own people and kicked off a brutal war, which eventually saw her captured inside of a magical Chasm Mirror forevermore. Or so they thought. When the King at the time falls ill, she vows to return and through some wicked plot, manages to set the wheels in motion after tricking the young Prince, Fern. Your role is as the personal medic to Prince Fern and so when he gets kidnapped as part of the devious plan on the eve of his coronation, you must do everything in your power to get him back.
It’s not the most original concept – the antagonist seems trapped for all eternity – as similar stories have been told in games of the same ilk. There’s just about enough storytelling fed along the way to keep the player interested though. Less so can be said for the voice acting, which is generally a problem area for these types of games, because the sincerity and believability of the characters in times of danger or sadness is lacking. Fortunately for the makers, the success of puzzlers tends to live and die by the mini-games and Hidden Object areas.
And just like its predecessor, the Hidden Object games have received a freshening up, with them no longer being simply a list of items to find. Now, there are times where shapes are presented to you matching certain items within the scenery and once you’ve found those, it’ll then present a list of words regarding other things to find. You’d be surprised how much of a decent change, although minor, it is to have that little bit of variety. There aren’t as many Hidden Object scenes as usual, with a huge focus on the mini-games instead.
Having seen many mini-game ideas recycled time and time again, it’s great that a lot of nifty new designs and concepts are present in Lost Grimoires 2. Things like navigating a maze by moving statues in order to create a path for yourself to reach the exit, or using a special shard to locate animals in a seemingly desolate woodland. Most of the mini games are a whole lot of fun, but there’s a particular one that is action focused, seeing you steer a boat side to side to avoid smashing into obstacles. It’s clunky and irritating.
Additionally, being an alchemist by trade, recipes are often needed to be followed and these reward key items to progress through the different portions of the story. These are ‘transmutations’, and to mix the ingredients together you must complete a mini-game involving gems. A set amount of different coloured gems must be removed within a move limit to succeed. To do this, you must link three or more of the same coloured gems in a chain to make them disappear – much like the way it is done in the match-3 puzzler Azkend 2.
Once the main adventure is over, the opportunity for more puzzling is limited to replaying the same adventure in Expert mode, without indicators of where to go and less help offered overall. It’s only really worth doing this to scrape up an extra 100 Gamerscore. Or to pick up any of the collectible Rose symbols you may have missed on the first playthrough, which are very well hidden. Again, there’s no bonus chapter and that’s disappointing given it only brings a three hour experience.
From a visual standpoint, the magical world beyond the mirror and the kingdom in which Prince Fern resides are equally drawn to a high standard. The colouring is luxurious and vibrant, giving real character to the many areas featured. I’m not awfully keen on the facial animations, as they just look odd in truth, with less care and attention given to the faces it seems.
Lost Grimoires 2: Shard of Mystery is a magical adventure featuring beautiful hand drawn locations to traverse through and a smattering of clever puzzle ideas to keep the mind ticking over, without ever causing frustration. While I appreciate the Hidden Object variation taking my enjoyment levels up a notch, it’s clear that lessons haven’t been learned in storytelling as it’s nothing overly enthralling, the voiceovers aren’t convincing and the overall experience is just too short. I want more.
Lost Grimoires 2 could’ve been a cut above the rest, but it lets itself down in familiar ways. It’s a real credit to the puzzling then that it’s still a very good game to chill out and get stuck in to.