Enchanted Kingdom: Fog of Rivershire rolls in on fantasy tropes, skin conditions, and collection

While it’s possible that “Enchanted Kingdom: Fog of Rivershire” received its name from some Fantasy Title Generator, the title is quite accurate in describing the premise to the new Domini Games offer at Big Fish Games. Yes, the kingdom is enchanted and you, as a master healer must do something to save those afflicted with the “Fog”, but like it’s name, “Enchanted Kingdom: Fog of Rivershire” falls into some of the same worn out tropes of the genre, even while it stretches out with bits of interesting game play.

It is the Healer game mechanic that I appreciated the most. Given to you early on, you must find an assortment of ingredients to draft a potion to heal the afflicted person’s particular set of ailments. After the collection, you must discern how each ingredient is used in your Healer box and, while it’s not the most challenging puzzle I’ve come across, it is of a variety that I don’t see often enough.

This is the Healer box. I enjoyed this puzzle, though I could see it getting tiresome if used too frequently.

At the beginning of the game, when you meet Xander, Warrior of the Tar Empire, and he drops a ton of exposition on you, you may think that “Enchanted Kingdom: Fog of Rivershire” is not your usual adventure HOG, but after diagnosing and curing his sudden “spikiness,” you’ll find yourself falling back into familiar territory of hunt and place, find and collect. The most infuriating moment for me during the demo, is when Xander, grateful for being cured, hands you a daggar to help you along your journey. Guess what you will use once and leave behind?

I got a bottle of Excedrin and some cough drops if you think that will help, Xander.

The visual styling of “Enchanted Kingdom: Fog of Rivershire” is lovely, with over-saturation of greens and violets that emphasize the enchanted-ness of the game. The voice acting, as well, is above par, though the lip syncing, as with many in the genre, can bit a bit disconcerting. Unfortunately, and I’ll lean heavily that it is my own immersion in the genre at this point that informs this, most of the game contains elements that are pretty played out at this point and outside of some interesting characters and a few puzzle mechanics, “Enchanted Kingdom: Fog of Rivershire,” is merely a good example in an ever increasingly mediocre genre. I’m still searching for the game that will breath new life into the adventure HOG, but lately I’m more likely to have spikes growing from my head.

Brothers are nothing but trouble! Shadowplay: The Forsaken Island

Big Fish Games, in their wonderful game manager, informs me that Shadowplay: The Forsaken Island from Madhead Games is their number one hidden-object game (HOG) right now. I can understand why. “Shadowplay” sounds like a Hallmark Channel adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey and “The Forsaken Island” hearkens back to those glory days when Lost was still fresh and fans weren’t yet arguing over the internet how bad the ending was.1

Our character is on a mission to find out what happened on an island dominated by a research facility looking into ways to harness the energy of the atom. As a student of Western humanities, I can guarantee this has never happened before in history or has ever resulted in really bad times. Ambrose Island, a not so subtle call to ambrosia (the nectar of the gods), is home to Corptex, those scrappy pioneers of near limitless energy. Somehow our brother Mark got caught up in all their zany shenanigans. And, just like in middle school when he ran away from home, it’s our job to head out into the night and save his ass.

Course, this ain’t no walk to the Piggly-Wiggly.

I really do attempt to get into the story of a game, but I believe that language is B-Movie-Robot.

Shadowplay features the kind of multi-level hidden object games that alleviate some of the duller aspects of the typical HOG puzzle. Multiple items to find, manipulation of the environment, and the assembly of certain objects give the player a little more than the usual clip-art hunt that most HOGs rely upon. The game also features expositional HOGs, where the items needed to be found are in the narration itself. I appreciate those, as sometimes I find myself ready to take on the next challenge and flipping through the story line. However, it’s the story of Shadowplay: The Forsaken Island that is the most compelling.

There is so much going on in this screenshot. Who is Mark warning to “Go Away?” How was the energy crisis solved? Why are there cobwebs in a room that was only recently a functioning workshop? What’s with that half-assed map? How is that metal stripping reinforcing anything??

Not having a sibling of my own, I can still sympathize with the player-character’s need to save her brother from the ill effects of Corptex. Unfortunatly, in 2018, I think the evil corporation scheme has been played out as an archetype while it’s playing out in front of our eyes every day. The inevitable twist is less inevitable than ealier in the game than I would have predicted and the puzzles, while sometimes clever, often rely on the annoying movement back and forth between rooms to gather pieces of items that are single use only. Seriously, I just had a pocket knife a little while ago, why the hell am I wasting time putting together a garden scythe?

Zane is pretty adamant about us sitting down and watching Property Brothers. “There are two screens because they are twins!”

Yet those are complaints I have with the entire genre of hidden-object puzzle games. Far too often the adventure relies upon the need to get a bolt here, and a rag there, and then stumble back to the starting area to finally open a box that has the pliers…which I will immediately discard after one use. At least Shadowplay: The Forsaken Island has an interesting story line, attempts some jump scares, and contains a helpful map that makes all the backtracking less painful.

Rating: Try


Now we dance! Cadenza: The Eternal Dance

One thing I’ve come to expect, after years of playing and years of not-playing, the typical Hidden Object Game (HOG) is that you can pick two of the following: 1) intriguing storyline, 2) clever puzzles, 3) enchanting visuals. Cadenza: The Eternal Dance skips out on number three, as I see it, because I have no idea what is going on with Elaine’s neck in this picture.

Look at my fancy mask, Theo. You cannot deny its fanciosity.

The latest available on Big Fish from Madhead Games, Cadenza continues a narrative from an earlier game that I have not played. Yet, the notion of selling one’s soul for a particular talent permeates Western and non-Western stories that the karmic comeuppance is darn near universal. Unfortunately, Theo has apparently sold his soul to be the virtuoso of the local pizza parlor. Way to keep the bar low, Theo.

The game elements were enjoyable. The hidden object puzzles contained some nice side bits instead of just searching for clip-art. The narrative puzzles were not so tangential that one had to travel forever collecting a myriad of non-related items just to fall into a solution. We were given the elusive tire iron (a kissing-cousin of my beloved crowbar) and a map that made travel more bearable.  However, the logical peril of most of these games is why the character would chose to keep an empty paint can over the much more useful axe.

Yes, it is a narrative necessity, but it is currently 2018, we have moved beyond this, no?

Cadenza: The Eternal Dance is another HOG in the classic style and doesn’t necessarily stand apart from genre. It is inoffensive, mildly challenging and at moments, entertaining.

Rating: Try