Of late, hidden object games are in a bit of slump. As bandwagon-jumpers flooded the genre with mediocre offerings, gamers lost interest, publishers lost money, and analysts said the genre was on its way out. Well, not if Big Fish Games can help it. A hidden object pioneer, Big Fish has made amazing hidden object games in years past, and its latest, Awakening: Redleaf Forest, proves there's life in the ol' genre yet.
Redleaf Forest is the most recent entry in the Awakening series and stars the beautiful but troubled Queen Sophia. The girl's parents have been put into an enchanted sleep by the evil wizard Dreadmyre, and unless Sophia locates a magic sword, their souls will be forever kept prisoner. This kind of fantasy fare is pretty typical for hidden object games, since it remains perennially popular. Big Fish obviously didn't prioritize breaking new ground story-wise, but when it comes to puzzles and hidden object scenes--that's a whole 'nother story.
Granted, at the beginning Redleaf Forest feels much like other item-driven adventure games. You go from place to place picking up items for no apparent reason, assuming they'll come in useful somewhere down the line. You're also given a mini-dragon sidekick to light things on fire, and an owl buddy to give you hints. It's all pretty typical, and then you run into a hidden object scene.
Although you're still given a list of things to find, the way you go about it makes searching much more interesting. You might use a metal detector to locate things or turn on different-colored lamps to make different items show up. These ideas add some much-needed visual interest and spice up what's become a fairly stale game mechanic. They even make their way into a cool boss fight. The game's puzzles also manage to surprise, offering fun reworkings of familiar brainteasers and things many of us have probably never seen.
Along with the good gameplay, Redleaf Forest's story also satisfies. It's well-constructed, has good pacing, wraps up well and includes a standalone bonus chapter that uses the same context from a different perspective. Aside from a couple of inexplicable puzzles, this chapter is light-hearted and wholly entertaining. In addition to the bonus chapter, the Collector's Edition comes with cutscenes, wallpapers, a soundtrack, a concept art gallery, a strategy guide and a garden. This last gives players some additional minigames that reward them with seeds which can be turned into a garden full of cute, anthropomorphic lilies.
Awakening: Redleaf Forest is a thoughtful, successful, and highly worthwhile hidden object game. It's beautiful, creative, fun, and whimsical. By mixing established fantasy ideas with all-new gameplay concepts, it's done what critics said couldn't be done - reinvigorate the hidden object genre.
To download Awakening: Redleaf Forest, visit the game's official Big Fish page.