“Nightmares from the Deep: The Siren’s Call” is a title developed by the company Artifex Mundi and published by the company G5 Games. The game is a sequel to the previously released “Nightmares from the Deep: The Cursed Heart.” It is a graphic adventure set in a pirate themed world. The player controls Sarah Black, who is the curator of the Caribbean Naval Museum. She is a veteran with dealing with the various supernatural events in the Caribbean, and this game pulls her into her second adventure.
Story: The story begins with a courier delivering a package to Sarah Black. This package turns out to be a mythical artifact. Unfortunately the artifact is stolen by strange fish-like humanoids as soon as she opens the artifact’s container. Sarah falls unconscious during the battle, and she is forced to chase the artifact when the courier takes her with him.
Sarah’s adventure takes place in the town of Kingsmouth, a port town that appears to be stuck in time. It turns out that all of its denizens resemble the fish men that attacked the museum. Upon arrival, Sarah learns that the man that delivered the artifact is a citizen of Kingsmouth, and he came to her for help to lift the curse that is transforming the townspeople. He is attempting to save a siren named Caliope, who in turn can rescue the town from the curse. Since the story is the primary drive behind adventure titles like this, no further story details will be detailed here.
Please note that players who have not played the first title in the series, “Nightmares from the Deep: The Cursed Heart,” may be slightly confused by some of the conversations at the beginning and end of the story. These conversations reference events that took place in that title. However, this reviewer has not played the first title in the series, so the confusion is minimal. Players wishing to get the full experience from this series should purchase the original game first however.
Gameplay: As stated earlier, this title is a graphic adventure (or more commonly referred to as a point-and-click adventure) title. Players who have played games like “Secret of Monkey Island” and “Myst” will know about what to expect. For those who haven’t, a point-and-click adventure is played pretty much how it sounds: by clicking on things in the environment. Players are tasked with clicking on important things to find new items and new paths that will allow them to progress in their adventure.
Other than locating items, the primary gameplay in this title involves a number of different types of puzzles. Most of these fall into one of three categories: sliding panel puzzles, panel swapping puzzles, and hidden object puzzles. There are a number of other types of puzzles, but a majority of them fall into the aforementioned categories. The most common type of puzzle is the hidden object puzzle, which tasks the player with locating various objects in a still background. These objects seem random, but the player must find the same set (or a very similar set) of items on each playthrough. Usually, one of these items will end up being the item needed to progress in the story.
Players also have the ability to play mahjong in lieu of doing the hidden object puzzles. This is a nice option for some of the puzzles that are more difficult to see. Mahjong involves the player tapping on pairs of identical tiles to remove them from the board. Once all the tiles are gone, the player will complete the puzzle.
While the gameplay may seem quite simple, the puzzles can actually be quite difficult. A number of the puzzles do require a significant amount of thinking, rather than simply recognizing a pattern like many puzzle games. The gameplay, overall, is very satisfying, giving the player a real feeling of accomplishment when they complete a difficult puzzle.
Players also have three options for difficulty, and they can choose one based on how familiar/comfortable they are with puzzle games. The lowest difficulty has important items marked and the hidden objects have no penalty for tapping the wrong place on the screen. The highest difficulty does not mark anything, and there is a sharp penalty for tapping the wrong spot on a hidden object puzzle. The game also allows the player to use a hint, which will point to where the player needs to tap on the screen. If the player needs to do something in a different area, the hint button will tell the player which direction they need to go. This hint button has a cooldown, which is longer on the higher difficulties.
That being said though, the gameplay does have some issues. Sometimes the puzzles require the player to perform an action or tap an object that they would likely not have found without simply randomly tapping on the screen. Also, the objects in the hidden objects puzzles can sometimes be very difficult to see, especially on an iPod or iPhone screen (this is likely not as much of an issue on an iPad). Despite these issues, however, the gameplay is very solid, especially amongst all the other hidden object puzzle titles that are on the iTunes App Store.
Presentation: For the purposes of this review, graphics and sound will be lumped into Presentation. “Nightmares from the Deep: The Siren’s Call” has very impressive graphics, especially for an iOS/Android game. All the backgrounds are well animated, with a good mix of pre-rendered backgrounds and moving backgrounds (these are often mixed together on the same screen). The animations on the characters and items are also very fluid most of the time. Sometimes the character and item movements can be a bit choppy, but most players won’t notice it unless they are specifically looking for it. Overall, this game is one example that proves that even a game on the iOS/Android can have graphics that can rival home consoles or dedicated gaming handheld devices.
The sound/music in this title is also quite impressive. The sound effects are generally generic sounds, such as doors opening, wrenches turning bolts, electrical shocks, etc. What makes them good, however, is that the designers took care into making sure that the sounds match up with the animations, making all of the sound effects seem very natural. The background music is generally just ambient music effects that one would expect from a port town, such as flowing water. However, the background music during the cutscenes does a good job of conveying the situation at hand. Desperate situations have faster, more “powerful” music, while conversation and the gentler scenes have slower, “nicer” music. Overall, the music doesn’t add much to the game most of the time, but when it is there it fits the game very well.
Special mention should be given to the voice acting. The voice acting in this title is, in a word, superb. Every talking character has a voice that fits them to a tee. The voice actors also made it a point to add emotion to their characters, rather than simply reading from a script. The game has an impressive amount of voice work too, much more than most iOS/Android titles. The voice acting and script compliment the game and its story extremely well.
Value: “Nightmares from the Deep: The Siren’s Call” is a freemium title. A player can download the game straight from the iTunes App Store for free to play a demo of the game. However, to unlock the full game they must purchase an in-app purchase, which costs $4.99. The price is not bad considering how well made the game is. The story alone is worth almost the whole purchase.
However, the game does not offer terribly much in the way of replay value. Like most graphic adventure titles, the puzzles are the same on each playthrough of the game. However, gamers who are wishing to experience the story a second time will be able to complete the puzzles quickly in order to do so. The game does, however, have a number of achievements and hidden collectibles that the player can collect. It’s possible to collect most (if not all) of these on the first playthrough if the player is diligent however. Overall, this author would say that this title is well worth the $4.99 entry fee.
Final Score: “Nightmares from the Deep: The Siren’s Call” is an excellent graphic adventure title that has very good production values as well. While the game does have good gameplay, story, and presentation, there are a few issues in each category that prevent it from being a perfect title. Also, the lack of replay value does hurt the title somewhat.
“Nightmares from the Deep: The Siren’s Call” receives an 8.8/10 from this reviewer.
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