Artifex Mundi hidden object games are largely immune to criticism. They’re a comfort food for their fans, and the repetition and lack of innovation is kind of the point. If one of their games launched without a female investigator hunting down a kidnapped woman, who is on her way to being sacrificed in a blood-ritual by a dude in a sheet (discovering some hidden nugget about her own past on the way, of course), well – there would be rioting on the streets, punctuated by people searching for a spanner and some spectacles in rubbish bins.
It’s got us wondering what it would take for an Artifex Mundi hidden object game to tickle the upper echelons of our scoring, and it’s not because we have a hidden (object) agenda against them – in fact, we get the warm fuzzies from going through the motions with each release, as many others do. For a hidden object game to reach those 4s and 5s, though, it would have to break from the norms that have defined it. It would have to tell a story that made sense, that got us emotionally involved, and probably didn’t whack out the cookie cutters to create the same batch of occult treats that we’re used to. It would have puzzles that feel new, rather than re-heats. It might even dabble with the whole hidden object formula, you know, a bit.
Does Demon Hunter: Revelation do any of these things? Of course not. In fact, if you wanted the textbook example of an Artifex Mundi game, this is it. You are Dawn Harlock, a paranormal investigator (check!), brought in to investigate the murder of a woman and the kidnapping of her daughter (check!), who was whisked away by a demon spirit (checkity-check!) for nefarious purposes, probably a ritual of some kind (checkmate!). On the way, you learn something about your origins, and complete the usual mix of minigame and hidden object puzzles, affectionately called HOPs by the hidden object community.
As with all Artifex Mundi games, there is a slight leaning in one direction more than the rest, which is as close to differentiation as you’ll get. Persian Nights 2: The Moonlight Veil, February 2021’s other release, leaned into recipes for example, and dialled down the hidden object finding. In Demon Hunter: Revelation, the emphasis is absolutely back on hidden object puzzles. There’s barely a room without a green twinkle to signify a mess of objects, waiting to be sifted through. Every variety is on offer, from searching for lots of one thing (gems, cogs); a range of items shown as a text list; a range of items shown as silhouettes, and chains of ‘use-on’ interactions, where you use rocks to bash pots, which reveals keys to open drawers, which reveals a rock to bash pots, and so on.
It may not be innovative, and – let’s be honest – it’s a full-blown regression to what started this whole, weird fad, but it felt oddly welcome. Hidden object puzzles are the bread and butter of these games, but it’s high-class, artisanal bread (probably with sun-dried tomatoes and olives). Recent Artifex games have put the emphasis elsewhere, but Demon Hunter: Revelation takes it back to basics, in so many different ways, and in terms of the hidden objecting it gets it right.
Brownie points for exploration, too. Demon Hunter: Revelation is notable for giving you more scenes and rooms than most. It’s common to enter a new area and have five or six rooms spoking off it to scan with your cursor. That’s not a given in a modern Artifex: they can feel linear, with only a couple of rooms at a time to work through. Demon Hunter: Revelation captures the joy of a full inventory and dozens of feasible places to use them, so the sky is your proverbial oyster.
Less successful are the graphics. While the backgrounds are detailed (and looking sharp, optimised for the Xbox Series X|S), the characters and their associated animations are the stuff of nightmares. Characters have locked-in syndrome, unable to move their bodies, while their facial features go walkabout as they talk, tectonically shifting to their ears. Occasionally, you come across imps who seem directly ported in from an ‘80s episode of Knightmare, with barely a pixel to share between them. Generally, there’s a mustiness to the graphics that makes Demon Hunter: Revelation feel prematurely old, when it’s only passed the fourth anniversary of its release on PC. Not exactly the showpiece Xbox Series X|S game, then.
The puzzle minigames in an Artifex title are always repeated and familiar, but they tend to differ in overall difficulty. Demon Hunter opts for easiness, and we didn’t have to break out a Hint at any point. It even tried out some interesting variations on old classics: the Bonus Episode has two that stick in our memory, with a spot-the-difference interpretation of a hidden object scene, and a neat ‘count the charges on each transistor’ puzzle that we can’t remember encountering before. It’s not precisely innovation, but it’s not a turn-the-ring puzzle, or a reorganise-this-bookshelf puzzle, so we’re positively jubilant.
A quick note, too, on Demon Hunter being the third in a series, taking place after Dawn’s dismantling of Archdemon Ragnar in the terribly titled Demon Hunter 2: The Next Chapter. As with most of Artifex’s output, it really doesn’t matter. Hop on in: the cliches are warm. You’ll immediately understand what Demon Hunter: Revelation is trying to do, and no back-history will improve or diminish it.
Altogether, Demon Hunter: Revelation on Xbox is a greatest hits mixtape (or playlist, damn you Zoomers) of hidden objecting. It does virtually nothing new, and revels in all the eye-rolling cliches that you may be used to. But in the exploration, hidden object puzzling and minigames, it has all the hits: there’s not a duffer on here, and – for a lot of hidden object fans who are crying out for precisely that – Demon Hunter is something of a revelation. Still not tickling those 4s or 5s yet, though.