Review: ‘Dark Manor’ app fuses two game styles into one

This game for iPad and iPhone takes place in New Orleans during the Roaring 1920s.

Marc Saltzman, Special to USA TODAY 1373314552001-Dark-Manor---e-1307081617_4_3[1]

Not sure whether you feel like playing a “hidden object” game or a building simulation? With Big Fish Games’ Dark Manor: A Hidden Object Mystery, you can have best of both (under)worlds.

While this hybrid concept works for the most part, this new ghost-filled game — for iPad and iPhone, but not iPod touch — isn’t a hands-down winner. Also, be aware this app employs a “freemium” pay model. So you can expect to be hit up for micropayments to get the most out of the game.

Taking place in New Orleans during the Roaring ’20s, the story is about your character inheriting a haunted mansion from a long-lost relative. You must rebuild the estate on the bayou and uncover an epic mystery in the process.

Similar to other “hidden object games” — or “HOGs,” as they’re often and affectionately known — you have a list of objects you need to find in a busy scene and must use your fingertip to tap them. You can zoom in and out of the indoor or outdoor scene, and scroll side to side, in order to find all the listed items at the bottom of the screen. Most objects aren’t relevant to the story — like being asked to find a hotdog, bee’s nest or bra in the mansion’s foyer — so it takes away from the spooky tale somewhat; this is common for most HOGs, however.

You’ll need to comb over the same scene multiple times. And because most objects are always in the exact same spot, it gets easier as you play, thanks to your memory.

Dark Manor also folds in a building simulation not unlike a Farmville, Clash of Clans or The Simpsons: Tapped Out. By building up the mansion’s estate, you’ll lay down dozens of objects, create ghosts and ghouls who roam around the palace, and clear trees and other objects to expand the grounds. Like many other games of this kind, you’re also encouraged to visit another gamer’s world over your iPad or iPhone’s Internet connection. You can help each other advance by exchanging gifts to speed up the game.

This building sim component features various quests to accomplish and unique day and night modes.

Because this game is a freemium title, you’ll face a number of “time gates” and other roadblocks that will prevent you from moving forward — unless you wait or pay money. In fact, there are so many virtual “currencies” in the game, it can be confusing and cluttered. Along with building up blue JuJu points (by placing items on your mansion grounds) and green XP points (by solving hidden object scenes and completing quests), you can also earn silver, gold and energy to unlock new quests. Need 30 more energy points? It’ll cost you two gold bars. Want more silver? You’ll have to pay with gold, too. Run out of gold? You can buy some with real money, ranging from a $0.99 “bucket” to a $9.99 “chest” to a $99.99 “mountain.”

Having five different kinds of points or currencies in one game is simply too much. And I don’t think I’m alone in wishing more mobile game publishers would give you the option to play everything for a flat, one-time fee instead of nickel-and-diming you.

Another shortcoming is a mandatory Internet connection: Don’t expect to play this game while passing the time on a long flight.

Despite its issues, Dark Manor: A Hidden Object Mystery is an entertaining and engaging game that tries to do something different by fusing object hunting with a building sim. If you can get past the assorted niggles, you’ll likely enjoy tapping through this ghoulish adventure.

Thank you, TiA


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This entry was posted on July 14, 2013 by in GAMING and tagged , , , , , , , .

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