HomeReviews3/5 ReviewYuletide Legends: Who Framed Santa Claus Review

Yuletide Legends: Who Framed Santa Claus Review

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Hilariously, the crime that Santa Claus is being accused of in Yuletide Legends: Who Framed Santa Claus is ‘stealing Christmas presents’. We’re no lawyers, but we think we could probably make that charge go away. If Santa Claus wants a few presents on the side, who are we to stop him?

Yuletide Legends: Who Framed Santa Claus also features one of our favourite jobs in video gaming. The main character, Brigitte Wolf, is a ‘Yuletide Detective’. Imagine the life of Brigitte for a moment: she’s dedicated to Christmas-themed crimes, and only works over the festive period. We’re not sure what she does for the rest of the year, but the job is cushty enough that she lives in a sizable flat in the centre of the city. Good work if you can get it, Brigitte. 

She still complains when a case rumbles through her door. Mrs Claus is in a fluster because Santa has been arrested for the aforementioned stealing of presents. He was seen pilfering them in a local mall, but was unable to make a case for himself as he had lost his ability to speak. So, you head to the local police station, and begin to unravel Who Framed Santa Claus. 

yuletide legends who framed santa claus review 1
All the Artifex Mundi presents?

A Christmas theme fits the Artifex Mundi hidden object formula perfectly. I’ve always thought of these games as lazy Sunday-afternoon kind of fare, so having one to play over the lazy Christmas days is a little treat. It makes a welcome departure from the usual necromancers and rituals that Artifex Mundi tend to overuse, and the hidden object scenes are perfect for spilt Santa sacks, Christmas tree decorations and festive buffets. They all go together like sausages and bacon. 

Not that it’s high quality roughage, mind. The stories in these Artifex Mundi hidden object games are often at best campy, and at worst nonsensical tosh. Yuletide Legends: Who Framed Santa Claus is terrible in its own way. It aims for a tone that is oddly serious, playing everything straight even when major characters are gangster teddy bears and demonic nutcrackers. There’s a wonderful example in the Bonus Episode, where you’re chasing a gingerbread man who is just looking to make a leg for his amputee wife. It’s like an episode of Eastenders where everyone is made out of frosting. 

The story also never flipping ends. Yuletide Legends: Who Framed Santa Claus takes a leaf out of The Return of the King’s book, and finishes roughly three times before finally saying, yep, we’re done. The game’s antagonist gets scuppered, then needs to be captured, and once he’s captured then the second, real antagonist turns up for a completely unnecessary victory lap. And then there’s the Bonus Episode that plays after that. We’ve never felt a yearning for an Artifex game to end as we did with Yuletide Legends: Who Framed Santa Claus. 

But still, it’s a Christmassy dressing to a game that – let’s face it – is more about finding shopping lists of items in messy rooms. Yuletide Legends: Who Framed Santa Claus is the usual mix of hidden object puzzles, minigames and low-challenge graphical adventuring. 

yuletide legends who framed santa claus review 2
Santa needs your help

On the hidden object front, it’s exactly the brand of puzzling that I don’t personally like, but I know a lot of people do. The hidden object scenes are full of items that you can’t spot quite yet. You need to hover your cursor over the environment, finding things to interact with: presents to open, keys to grab and use on locks, dusters to brush away spiderwebs. Only then will you see the item on your checklist and click on it. Which means you are rarely starting a hidden object scene by finding hidden objects. Instead, you’re fiddling with various knobs and levers before you can. Sometimes I just want to get on with it. 

In point-and-clicking terms, Yuletide Legends: Who Framed Santa Claus is also the brand of Artifex Mundi game that I dislike. It doesn’t overburden you with items, and you tend to only have three or four at once. That means you rarely get lost, but also combinations are slightly benign. Everything you need is in one scene, rather than being gathered over multiple. 

Yuletide Legends: Who Framed Santa Claus also loves the recipe-style of puzzle. Artifex Mundi fans will know what we mean here: you’re given a table full of tools and implements, and you need to follow a process that has been presented as a cooking recipe. Crush something in a mortar, add some honey, add it to a distillery, etc. Moving back and forth from a recipe to a worktop just isn’t interesting to me. It’s merely following a series of commands. But Yuletide Legends: Who Framed Santa Claus flipping loves it. 

If there’s something that Yuletide Legends: Who Framed Santa Claus gets right, it’s the minigames. There’s one that we haven’t seen before, and we rather like it. A character is represented on a hexagonal grid, and you have to place walls, one at a time, to hem that character in. But your opponent is constantly moving, trying to get off the sides of the board. You might have played similar games on squared paper, but it’s replicated well here. You can tell developers Brave Giant like it, because they use it twice. The rest are all borrowed from elsewhere in the Artifex library. There are memory games, sliding puzzles, pipe puzzles and spot-the-differences. 

yuletide legends who framed santa claus review 3
All the Xmas theming you could want

We used the hint system three times, which is a reasonably large number for a hidden object game. That puts it at the upper end of difficulty, we’d say, but – from memory – they were all used on the hidden object scenes. We just didn’t find these dioramas as clear and easy to comprehend as usual, which wasn’t helped with them being multi-staged. But make no mistake, when compared to other games on the Xbox Store, Yuletide Legends: Who Framed Santa Claus is still a piece of cake. 

Yuletide Legends: Who Framed Santa Claus gets something of a pass for being a laid-back holiday treat. We’re full of that mulled wine glow, so playing a challengeless puzzle game that embraces Christmas was always going to warm our festive cockles. 

But if we’re honest with ourselves, this is not one of Artifex Mundi’s best: it’s a meandering, weirdly earnest story, and the hidden object puzzles are more fiddly than they needed to be. We weren’t exactly ‘bah humbug’ while playing Yuletide Legends: Who Framed Santa Claus, but we were at least a little crotchety.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Christmas theme works a treat
  • Some new minigame types
  • Exactly the laid-back experience we hoped for
Cons:
  • Story never ends and lacks some charm
  • Hidden object games are too high-maintenance
  • Point-and-click stuff is very safe
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, TXH
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One
  • Release date and price - 15 December 2023 | £12.49
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Christmas theme works a treat</li> <li>Some new minigame types</li> <li>Exactly the laid-back experience we hoped for</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Story never ends and lacks some charm</li> <li>Hidden object games are too high-maintenance</li> <li>Point-and-click stuff is very safe</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, TXH</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One <li>Release date and price - 15 December 2023 | £12.49</li> </ul>Yuletide Legends: Who Framed Santa Claus Review
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