Artifex Mundi have a wide range of puzzling hidden object adventures under their publishing wing, delivering a multitude of relaxing, often fantastical experiences to take in. The Queen’s Quest series in particular, developed by Brave Giant, has been going since 2015 and although the inaugural instalment seemingly got passed over for an Xbox One release, Queen’s Quest 2: Stories of Forgotten Past is now here. Does it matter that we’ve skipped the first one though, or can Queen’s Quest 2 thrive on its own?
The short answer is that you’ll soon forget about any worries regarding other titles when you’re knee-deep in this idyllic fairytale kingdom.
After the king loses one of his trusted security guards, he calls upon a master alchemist – that’s your character – who’s also apparently a keen detective, to solve the whodunit style mystery. Little does our heroine know that there’s more going on than meets the eye, and this seemingly straightforward case soon progresses into a narrative full of twists and turns. Along the way, you’ll meet a selection of instantly recognisable folklore and fairytale characters such as Robin Hood, Little Red Riding Hood and even Hansel & Gretel.
The story as a whole is a decent all-rounder, with a couple of unexpected occurrences that cause intrigue and some great moments that see the alchemist use a number of potions to transmorph in order to obtain what’s needed. Character-wise, the humans are a little bland in truth and the voices aren’t great, but fortunately for Queen’s Quest 2, the animals of this world are rather quirky in personality terms and it’s these that deliver the best, and most believable, interactions. Yep, that’s right, I found more joy in chatting to a snail than the legendary Robin Hood.
Like any good point-and-click adventure, there’s a hefty amount of obstacles and problems to overcome by collecting all manner of items in your inventory for use at some point. Need to get something from a pond? Simply attach a net to the end of that pole you picked up earlier and then interact with it. Want to hack away at vines that are obstructing you from reaching a lever? Find a sickle and start swinging. Most of the solutions are pretty logical, so as long as you’ve scoured each location for items to grab, progression is just about working out what’s suitable from the inventory. Often, items picked up can be important for initiating one of the many mini-games too.
If you’ve played any of Artifex Mundi’s other titles, there will be a handful of familiar mini-game puzzles to tackle, like matching similar pairs of symbols or connecting coloured cogs together without any of them overlapping. Making potions by following recipes is another regular and recognisable activity, but where the freshness comes in is the form of spot the difference type problems and a cool boss encounter in which you must rotate various hexagons to ensure the lines match up with those surrounding it.
Whilst the mini-games are fun, the real standout aspect of the gameplay is in regards the hidden object scenes. There’s a cracking variety here, with you doing things like finding items from a list of words, or scouring the screen for a number of specific items like sweets or sharp objects. A couple of the objects also transform into something else, meaning a keen eye is a must to catch them before they change again. The only minor let down is with the darn cursor; there doesn’t seem to be the best accuracy when clicking on things that are on your list.
The main story shouldn’t take much more than a few hours to complete, but they’ll be very enjoyable hours and to try and cap it off there’s a bonus adventure included. It tells another tale involving Hansel & Gretel, but I really don’t know if it was worth the effort on the developer’s part; especially given that you’ll whizz through it in around 15 minutes. Any replayability comes about by way of the really well-hidden collectables which take on the forms of jigsaw pieces and figurines in each area.
Aesthetically, the hand-drawn environments are nothing short of lovely, with forestry in the daylight looking just as great as the woodlands in the dark of night. The majority of the locations really give off that fairytale vibe that suits the goings on of the story and the non-human characters are rather cute – the humans do come across a tad odd in the visual department, sadly. Moving onto the audio and the soundtrack does exactly as it’s supposed to; ensuring a melancholic atmosphere for you to concentrate in.
Overall, and even though in an ideal world it would’ve been better to release the first title in the series beforehand, don’t let that detract from the fact that Queen’s Quest 2: Stories of Forgotten Past on Xbox One is a worthy addition to the Artifex Mundi catalogue of games. The hidden object scenes are a major highlight, whilst the story itself is quite interesting and the mini-games do a decent job of keeping you entertained – despite having too many matching style puzzles. It’s a shame the bonus adventure is too damn short and the reoccurring cursor accuracy issue that is present in multiple Artifex games persists.
All in all though, Queen’s Quest 2 is one of the better options out there if you’re after a puzzling adventure!