The developers over at Artifex Mundi have provided gamers on Xbox One with a whole load of Hidden Object puzzle adventures in recent times, which have had us exploring a land full of Slavic mythology, uncovering nightmarish curses needing to be broken and much more. Now, their latest game looks set to bring Alchemy to the forefront of the tale in Lost Grimoires: Stolen Kingdom. Have they conjured up another success, or could it turn out to be a failing formula?
Lost Grimoires places you in the role of an orphaned young alchemist, who’s returned home to live with her uncle and alchemist teacher after five years at an Academy, only to discover that things aren’t as they seem. There are strange mechanical guards – Golems – patrolling the streets and a wanted man, known only as Kestrel, appears to be searching for a special amulet belonging to the main protagonist. Working out why, and then figuring a way to solve these mysteries, will go a long way to uncovering the truth of the kingdom and her family.
The story itself doesn’t blow me away, but it’s intriguing enough to give a sense of purpose to the goings on. There are a few neat, if somewhat predictable, twists throughout the tale, and when the villain of the piece is revealed, the build up is good enough for you to feel negativity towards them. As an additional touch to the usual cutscenes playing out, you can choose from a limited amount of dialogue topics to converse with some characters – which offer an illusion of being in control. Sadly, the voice acting leaves a lot to be desired, however, the worst crime is in fact committed by the writers who let potential emotional moments pass by without capitalising on them.
With a heavy focus on alchemy, there are a whole load of mixtures you can create as you find the recipes and these help to overcome puzzling obstacles. For example, the need to break open a safe is aided by finding spicy sauce and a cocoon, turning them into an erosive matter via transmutation. Each transmutation works as a mini-game whereby you must rotate rune circles to line up coloured molecules into the positions stated in the recipes. Progression leads to a steady increase in difficulty, although it never gets tough to the point of frustration.
In regards to the general mini-games, I’m impressed with the puzzle variety. Being an Artifex veteran, you’d think I’d be sick of the mini-games and that they’d all become samey at this point. Instead, it’s rather testing and certainly enjoyable still; whether the task is piecing a jigsaw of sorts together, deciphering a picture using various filters, or simply replacing gears to make sure they all connect to provide motion, I’m always fully engaged. Should you find them overly difficult – which in my opinion they aren’t – then the handy skip option ensures you’re never stuck in limbo, tearing your hair out.
What about the Hidden Object scenes? Well, you’ll be searching a whole load of greatly designed areas for lists of items, occasionally interacting with objects to create the items you want. Where Lost Grimoires does something completely different, is in the way it introduces a new kind of Hidden Object scene involving riddles, albeit only for one section. Deciphering the riddle is the first part, then it requires you to find the item it’s describing – it’s brilliant for getting the old gears turning.
After almost three hours, the experience is all over, leaving you two options; to replay the game in Expert mode, or to go through it again in Casual difficulty. There’s no bonus chapter whatsoever and the only legitimate reason to give it another playthrough is for the collectibles. You see, within most of the vibrant hand-drawn scenes, small Kestrel symbols are hiding amongst the background, waiting to be found. These are quite tricky to find, thus keeping your attention in-between the many puzzles to solve.
Lost Grimoires: Stolen Kingdom delivers an interesting adventure involving alchemy, transmutation recipes, mini-games and a new take on Hidden Object scenes. Although it’s all thoroughly enjoyable, I can’t help but be disappointed by the length, the lack of a bonus chapter and some not so great acting and writing. As an achievement hunter though, I did appreciate the fairly straightforward GamerScore haul, with most of it easily unlockable in one run through.
When all is said and done, Lost Grimoires: Stolen Kingdom has impressed me with an influx of cool ideas and therefore it’s still worth grabbing.