After going hands on with their ghostly pirate and steampunk themed recent offerings, Artifex Mundi have quickly become the go-to developers for my Hidden Object needs. Now they are back again with another Hidden Object puzzle game, titled Enigmatis: The Ghosts of Maple Creek which first released on PC in 2011. Can they continue the successful formula of previous games whilst adding something fresh along the way, or could it actually end up becoming a repetitive experience?
The story follows a character who awakes during a crazy storm with little to no memory of who she is and why she’s in this predicament. Slowly but surely with the help of various visual triggers, she begins to remember that whatever she’s doing there, it isn’t anything good. Without going into any major spoilers, she’s a detective in search of a missing girl and it soon becomes apparent that all is not as it seems in the quaint little town; something weird is going on in Maple Creek. You need to find this girl and save yourself.
Just like the other puzzle adventures from Artifex Mundi, you’ll be expected to scour various areas within Maple Creek using the large circular cursor, in order to find anything to interact with and initiate mini-games or Hidden Object scenes. The Hidden Object parts are brilliantly cluttered, meaning you have to be on the ball to spot all the items needed on the list. I’ve come to realise how creatively these items can be placed, with them sometimes being a part of other items – for example, if you’re looking for a leaf then it may be integrated into a lampshade.
As much as I truly enjoy the art of seeking items off a list, I really don’t appreciate the inconsistent cursor which can deny you a perfect round of Hidden Object searching. When I click on an apple, I don’t expect it to suggest it’s not the item on the list… and it’s even more frustrating when a minor adjustment to the cursor placement will then cross it off the list with no problem.
The mini-games are always being taken up a notch, not just from game to game, but also as you progress through Enigmatis. They really test the mental attributes of the player, whether it wants you to complete a jigsaw or re-organise a whole cabinet via the sliding tile puzzle method. Chances are you’ll come unstuck at some point and that’s where the ‘Skip’ option comes in handy. The last thing you want is to spend hours and hours on a mini-game which you cannot get your head around, bringing the entire experience to a halt. If it wasn’t for that I’d have been stuck forever – or would’ve had to restart – after a piece of a mini-game bugged out, rendering it unsolvable.
Usually that’d be all there is to do however, being a detective means that any items of interest picked up can end up as vital clues to the ongoing mystery. Therefore, Enigmatis requires you to sort the clues on an evidence board, which can create new leads to follow and can occasionally hold the solutions to certain problems. This really added an extra layer of storytelling, to be able to find out more about Maple Creek, its history and its people.
Visually, Enigmatis can fluctuate in quality from the smooth and perfectly creepy environments within Maple Creek that set the tone of the piece, to the cutscenes which have moments where the effects are great but the character animations are pretty bad. The voice acting isn’t too great either due to its unbelievable delivery.
Once you’ve finished the main story, you can always replay it in Expert mode with little extra help to get through it. Alternatively, the bonus chapter will offer an additional hour or so of puzzles in the same location but in an earlier time period, playing the part of a different detective looking into this eerie town. There aren’t many areas to visit and it’s over a little too quickly for my liking; it’s a good job the main story does such a great job. It does offer more insight into the events of the modern day detective though.
On the whole, Enigmatis: The Ghosts of Maple Creek just edges it as the best Hidden Object puzzle game on the Xbox One market at the moment and quite easily the longest adventure of the lot too. That’s mainly because of the interesting story and the evidence gathering which engages the player into taking more notice of the narrative. There may have been a potentially game ending bug, but the game’s own features helped me to overcome it with little hassle and the mini-games are highly enjoyable affairs. As far as the Hidden Object scenes are concerned, despite my usual cursor issue, it’s great fun to not only locate the items, but also learn what some of the items listed look like. Games can be educational too you know!
If you’ve ever wanted to try a Hidden Object game then why not start with the best – Enigmatis: The Ghosts of Maple Creek. For those experienced in this genre then it’s a no brainer.