For what feels like decades, the hidden object genre has been dominated by the publisher Artifex Mundi. They’ve been churning out so many titles that there are dozens of storylines running concurrently, and some of those storylines have as many as eight games to their name. Artifex Mundi are averaging a new game every month on the Xbox and, as the primary reviewer of them, I’m confident that I am getting hiddenobject-itis. I can’t walk past a mess in our house without rooting around in it to find an ancient key, a spyglass and some cogs for a future puzzle.
So, when a hidden object game turns up that isn’t from Artifex Mundi, well, I get curious. What does it do differently? How have they disrupted the template that Artifex has been religiously abiding by? Just what does a non-Artifex hidden object feel like?
The answer, in Dracula’s Legacy Remastered’s case, is that it feels like a B-rate, poor person’s version of an Artifex game. It doesn’t do much differently, but what it does change is almost uniformly for the worse.
Dracula’s Legacy Remastered is an optimised, Xbox Series X|S version of a game that originally came out on PC seven years ago. It does admittedly look quite sharp, and you can see the 4K optimisation in the backgrounds (as painterly and effective as an Artifex title) and on the crispness of the character models. But those models are lifeless blow-up dolls who barely animate. So, you’re getting high fidelity, extremely uncanny models, which is a dubious plus.
There’s a story here, but Dracula’s Legacy Remastered takes the bold step of not actually telling you it. Your main character, Isabella, has everyone’s favourite plot device – a bout of amnesia – and some nightmares that brings her to a ghost town. But within the first few seconds of the scene-setting, she gets attacked by a ‘daylight guard’ (basically the dog from Ghostbusters, walking upright) and is immediately dunked into a dungeon. The mix of amnesia and a lack of introduction means that Dracula’s Legacy Remastered doesn’t really start with something that you’d call a plot.
So, you’re told to have at it. This is where the eyebrows raised, as Dracula’s Legacy Remastered is extremely sluggish and clumsy to play. Like Artifex Mundi hidden object games, the scenes are explored with a cursor, but this one is hopelessly slow. Moving between scenes is also a ballache: we’re used to holding B to move back a scene, but here you have to wrestle the cursor to the bottom-right of the screen. Even cancelling out of puzzles and zoomed-in scenes was more laborious, as you have to walk the cursor out of the frame, rather than just press B like we’re used to.
Dracula’s Legacy Remastered leans too heavily on the cursor, which would have been fine on the PC, but is a thundering mistake here. And the frustrations keep piling on top of each other. Click on an item in the inventory, and it will be a coin-flip whether it will be ‘carried’ for use in the scene or not. For whatever reason, it fails fifty percent of the time. Should you use it unsuccessfully on the scene, the item will drop back into your inventory, meaning you have to crawl back and pick it up again (with a strong chance that you will fail). It felt like we were playing as a giant, cumbersome oaf.
Away from the controls, there’s a fair amount to like. Hidden object games tend to be an even mix of point-and-click-style scenes, minigame-like puzzles, and the hidden object scenes that the genre is known for. In Dracula’s Legacy Remastered, there’s a slightly lower proportion of minigame puzzles, but the ones that are here are pretty good. They handle well, are a nice mix of easy and fiendish, and are all faintly familiar. A couple even stood out: we got the paper and pens out for a logic problem involving the positioning of dragons, and we had to doff our cap to it.
The hidden object scenes are a tad experimental, as you’re only given a list of four items to find at a time. It focuses you and feels more rewarding: every item found means a new one added to the list. It’s a different flavour to Artifex’s more sprawling offerings, but it’s absolutely not worse. Some may find the smaller list less daunting, and we can see people preferring Dracula’s Legacy Remastered’s approach.
But where Dracula’s Legacy Remastered falters is in the point-and-click stuff. It made us realise how much we took Artifex Mundi for granted. The problem is it’s too patterned, too linear, and too obvious. Open up a new area, and there might be a ‘dragon’ door that needs a key. Go to another room, and on a table is a box with a sun shape missing, and a dragon key. Use the dragon key on the dragon door, and you will find some drawers with a sun shape in (named ‘sun box crest’ in case you were still lost), and another lock for a key. This to and fro quickly gets limited and tiresome.
We’re being a bit reductive here, and it’s not always like this, but the pattern is often repeated, and we would have welcomed using our brains. Give us an Artifex sprawling environment, plenty of items, and some logical leaps to make and we would have been much happier. But there’s a dumbing down on display here that takes away the fun.
It does make for an easier, more frictionless experience, however. We found ourselves zooming through Dracula’s Legacy Remastered like we were on a flume, only occasionally needing its hint system on the highest difficulty setting. It’s certainly longer than your average hidden object game, albeit without any collectibles or bonus episodes to grapple with.
But our history of playing Artifex Mundi games left us cold. Dracula’s Legacy Remastered is a clumsy half-cousin to those games, delivering controls that are cumbersome and a story that barely even registers as one. The lack of anything approaching challenge means the clumsiness hurts less than it might have, but it also means that nothing sticks in the memory and even less gets you reaching for a pencil and notebook.
If you are a hidden object addict who has – somehow – reached the end of their backlog, then Dracula’s Legacy Remastered feels familiar and satisfying enough to generate enjoyment. For anyone else, may we point you to the hundreds of Artifex Mundi games that do a far superior job.
You can buy Dracula’s Legacy Remastered from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S