Since time began inventors have played a major role in the advancement of society, ensuring we’re always striving towards the next big technological breakthrough, finding the most efficient way of leading our lives, or simply by designing things that look cool. Developers Orchid Games have conjured up a new invention themed point-and-click adventure, Modern Tales: Age of Invention, to expand upon Artifex Mundi’s ever-growing publishing catalogue of this genre. Is it an inventive addition on Xbox One though, or is it an experience that’s essentially been done many times already before?
Modern Tales: Age of Invention takes place way back in Paris, 1900 after a spate of rather suspicious ‘accidents’ see some of the leading scientists meet an early demise. Those left unscathed vow to fight back against whoever’s behind these sinister actions, but in the middle of testing their latest invention, they are kidnapped. You’ll need to step into the shoes of a captured scientist’s daughter, Emily Patterson, in order to investigate the mysterious goings on and thwart whatever evil plans are in place, before it’s too late.
Whilst the story itself is a little convoluted, given how many famous innovators and pioneers in their chosen field feature – the likes of Albert Einstein, Ferdinand Porsche and Coco Chanel – it’s really interesting and informative on the whole. For anyone previously unaware of the famous folk of yesteryear, there’s a chance to learn about such people here. The teachable moments aren’t simply restricted to the narrative either; a favourite part of mine is a mini-game dedicated to organising various important inventions into their correct order on a timeline. This activity leaves you to decipher what the creation actually is and where its place lies in history, all of which could potentially lead to a desire for learning about the foundations of our past.
Where there is less praise to be found though is in voice acting, and specifically the awful lack of genuine emotion during moments involving high stakes. Whilst the speeches and conversations are clear enough to understand what’s occurring, it always concerns me just how ‘unbothered’ the characters appear to be in the midst of a crisis. There’s barely a fear-induced quiver or spot of aggression heard in their voices as lives are threatened and things are stolen. It’s a familiar issue when it comes to Artifex Mundi titles.
As far as gameplay is concerned, Modern Tales: Age of Invention sees you venturing through areas and collecting a load of items that’ll be useful for overcoming the point-and-click type problems that lie ahead. Every solution is fairly logical too, with bolt cutters required to ‘borrow’ a well-secured telescope or sausages needed to distract a devious dog. Many of the items in your inventory can also be used to instigate mini-games and completion of these garners rewards that’ll enable further progress.
There’s nothing much to complain about in regards the mini-games as you’ll be presented with many tried and tested puzzles on the whole. Expect to re-order tiles and rotate mosaic pieces to create pictures, untangle a load of inter-twined ropes, and even use mathematics at times to solve the problems ahead. It isn’t re-inventing the wheel with anything here, but the variety and quality of the mini-games is decent enough to provide an enjoyable adventure.
And the same can be said for the hidden object scenes really. Whilst it’s a fun challenge to scour these cluttered sheds and such places for the items listed – or to identify which items are needed by their shadowy outline alone – there’s very little innovation in the execution. The best scenes are those in which an object is required to access another part of the area e.g. finding a key to unlock a box and then that box contains something else that’s useful for a different interaction. Just watch out for the pesky cursor accuracy as it’s often hit and miss, leading to you believe you’ve highlighted the wrong item when you haven’t.
Once you’ve completed the main story, along with all of the logical conundrums, mini-games, and hidden object scenes, there’s a bonus chapter to delve into. I’m not entirely sure the chapter has to be tacked on at the end though, as the tale would’ve benefited more from it being all rolled into one. It’s just a really short experience after the few hours you’ve already spent adventuring, but there’s still a decent standard of puzzling. Aside from mopping up some sneakily hidden atom symbols, the replayability is non-existent and that’s your lot.
On the visual front, Modern Tales: Age of Invention is full of wonderfully hand-drawn locations, including Paris under the moonlight and the stone-cold environment of Siberia. The scenes in Switzerland are the most delightful though, with gorgeously vivid colours used to bring life to a little town. Sadly, the cutscenes do look very dated and I wouldn’t come into this expecting top drawer character models either.
Overall and Modern Tales: Age of Invention does a good job of supplying a point-and-click hidden object adventure that provides an interesting narrative, plenty of puzzles to get stuck into and a decent selection of scenes to scour for items within. The only real problem is that it doesn’t deliver anything innovative and instead lacks in fresh ideas, ensuring you’ll probably have a fun time, but not necessarily a memorable one. So if you don’t mind a run-of-the-mill Artifex game, then I’d say give it a go as it ticks all of the usual boxes!