Review: The Tudors (PC)

The Tudors
Genre: Hidden Object/Adventure
Developer: Merscom
Publisher: Merscom
Release Date: 02/02/2010

Showtime’s series The Tudors has everything a gamer could hope for when it comes to adapting such a property to his favourite medium: deep stories of power, struggles and treason, interesting characters, fights… there’s even a healthy dose of naked people for those who enjoy DOA volleyball games. It might come as a surprise, then, that the video game version of the successful TV series ended up being a classic hidden object game mixed with some very casual adventure elements.

At first glance, The Tudors appears to focus on its source material’s atmosphere and historical period in order to differentiate itself from the crowd of hidden object games released to the casual market. Does the video game version make good use of the television series’ intrigues and storylines? Is the final product good enough to put itself ahead of the pack?

Let’s find out.

STORY/MODES

The Tudors TV series follows a somewhat fictional version of King Henry VIII as he makes his way through various wives and England’s history all at the same time. This video game instead focuses on a young lady named Elena Sedgraves, daughter of William Sedgraves, who is himself an adviser to the King. While passing near the castle one night, Elena hears the noise of glass shattering and makes her way inside, where she finds a wounded man and saves his life, thanks to her studies as a nurse. The King, thankful for her services and recognizing her perceptive talents, makes her a spy and sends her undercover as she follows her father through Europe. While traveling through France, Spain and England, Elena eventually learns about a threat to King Henry VIII’s rule and must do everything she can to stop it.

The story itself is nothing revolutionary, and as a matter of fact, seems to be nothing more than an excuse to put your “perceptive talents” to good use. Elena does meet some interesting characters along the way, but the dialogue, conveyed by simple text over static pictures of the characters, is mostly uninteresting. In case you ever want to go back and read the dialogue again, every written line of speech in the game is available in the journal, which is always only a click away. Thankfully, this means that some of the game’s bland parts can be skipped over to get to the actual gameplay, but are still available to check back in case something you missed was important after all.

The game’s premise (i.e. looking at still scenery and clicking on stuff) is actually explained well because of what the King describes as Elena’s “gift for perception”. Everybody wants to exploit the girl’s talent, so if you do care about the storyline, at least you are not just looking at pictures for the sake of looking at pictures. Your clicks do have a meaning in the overall scheme of things.

In the end though, the dull dialogue kill any interest in what could have been a decent story of political treason. The premise alone cannot save the poor storytelling.

Story Rating: Poor

GRAPHICS

Everything in the game is still pictures: the characters, the cut-scenes, the backgrounds, even the introduction screen. On a side note, it actually took me a while to realize that King Henry VII’s throne in the intro is made of naked people.

The static pictures of the characters are all in high resolution, which makes them pretty to look at, but leaves the game lifeless. Cut-scenes are nothing more than these character’s pictures with words on them. Worse, every character has only one picture, no matter what’s the situation. As you can imagine, it’s hard to convey surprise or deception when Jonathan Rhys-Meyers’ only facial expression is subtle anger.

The backgrounds are also very good looking, even though they are a bit blurrier than the rest of the game. This might be in order to better hide some of the objects in plain sight, and at least, they are not blurry to the point of being painful. On the bright side, every scene fits well with the medieval theme of the game, and some of the clickable elements are cleverly disguised into the background.

As long as you don’t expect your mind to be blown by incredible next-gen graphics, you will hardly notice any of the visual shortcomings here.

Graphics Rating: Decent

SOUND

No matter what you are doing in this game, be it looking at the introduction screen, looking for hidden objects, or going through the menus, you will always hear moody, ominous music. It is very faint, almost absent, but it is always there. I didn’t see a lot of variety in the different pieces, and quite frankly, I don’t see why someone wouldn’t turn the music off in the options menu and just put on his own playlist. Even with the sound off, you will not miss a single line of dialogue, or even any kind of musical clue that could be helpful in a puzzle. The music and sounds here are very underwhelming.

Sound Rating: Bad

CONTROL AND GAMEPLAY

The vast majority of the game consists of looking at different pictures and trying to find the objects listed on the left side of the screen. Sometimes, you will be tasked with spotting the differences between two pictures, but it will always boil down to training your sense of observation. To be honest, I thought that by definition a medieval version of Where’s Waldo? would be boring, but in the end, I truly enjoyed myself. This is a type of game that is very relaxing, which can be played when you simply want something that lacks any type of stress. Your reflexes are not needed here, and as a casual diversion, it is incredibly effective.

The game does try to mix things up from the usual hidden object genre experience by including some very light adventure elements. For example, you may be tasked with mixing potions to create an antidote, which requires coming up with the correct colour combinations. There are also cube puzzles where you need to assemble a picture, and even some beginner’s fetch quest. All of these can be skipped though if you just intend to buy this game for the hidden-object portion.

The Tudors can be played in two ways. One mode scores you depending on the time you took and the number of hints you used to clear a chapter. The second one is the very definition of “casual”, as there is no time limit and no score. Still, don’t be afraid if you decide to play the scored version: you simply cannot fail in this game. There is no game over screen and absolutely no way to die. Even if you take a lot of time, or if you use ten hints when there are ten objects to find, you will simply score fewer points.

As a hidden object game, it is remarkable. As an adventure game, it is underwhelming. As a mix of both though, it is entirely satisfying.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Good

REPLAYABILITY

No matter how many times you play this game, the objects will always be hidden in the same place. The puzzles will always be the same. There is nothing to unlock at all here, and everything you do is necessary to advance the story in a linear path. In short, this game is a one-shot deal. After you beat it once, the challenge of it all is completely stripped, unless you absolutely want to get a high score by just finding the objects faster than on your first time. I wouldn’t call that a huge motivation to play again.

Replayability Rating: Bad

BALANCE

Most of the puzzles are of similar difficulty, which is to say pretty easy. The game still tries to make things harder by cleverly hiding the objects in spots that makes it hard to distinguish anything, but also in places you wouldn’t think of when looking for certain things. For example, some of the objects you are required to look for are floating in mid air, just for the fact that they blend in well with the sky. It’s not that big of a deal when you simply think of The Tudors as nothing more than a video game version of “hide and seek”, but it does cut into the very small feeling of immersion the game had.

This game definitely falls into the “easy” category, but at least it is constant in its amount of challenge. Perfect for the casual crowd it is aiming for.

Balance Rating: Above Average

ORIGINALITY

Hidden object games have been around for a long time, and it becomes harder to revolutionize the genre as each new game tries to put its own spin on it. The Tudors still tries to make things a little bit different by mixing other sorts of puzzles with all the picture-looking involved, but also by sticking to its source material’s theme. These efforts are admirable, but in the end, it’s still very similar to any other game in that genre which you may have played.




Originality Rating: Mediocre

ADDICTIVENESS

I was surprised to see that I nearly went through the entire game in a single sitting. The tasks required to finish the game are not very stressful or exhaustive, so it’s easy to lose a lot of time in this game without even noticing. I won’t try to pretend that this game’s addictiveness is anywhere near the level of something like Tetris, but the experience was pleasant enough to warrant extended periods of play.

Addictiveness Rating: Very Good

APPEAL FACTOR

The game has a built-in audience with the fans of the television series. The game will appeal to those who might not be considered the traditional gaming public, because the way the source subject is treated makes it approachable even to people who are not experts in this medium. Of course, diehard gamers might be turned off by the simplicity of the gameplay, but for anybody who is simply looking for a nice, relaxing diversion, there could be worse places to put your seven dollars.

Appeal Factor Rating: Above Average

MISCELLANEOUS

The game is split in different chapters, all of which can be played in about 15 to 20 minutes. Your game is also saved automatically, which makes it a perfect game to play in short bursts if you don’t have a lot of time to spare.

The Tudors‘ ridiculously low cost of $6.99 makes it a pretty good value for any fan of the show looking to extend his experience past the television screen. Depending on how good your observational skills are, you will be able to get about 4 to 6 hours of gameplay from it, which is a pretty good ratio of dollar-to-play time when you consider how expensive and criminally short some of the bigger releases are these days.

My only real complaint here concerns the cutscenes. The still pictures make it hard to care about the storyline, as hardly any emotion can be carried by the “characters”. Anything would have been an improvement over this: a bigger set of picture for each character, stylized cartoon illustrating what’s going on, even relevant scenes from the TV show.

Miscellaneous Rating: Above Average

THE RATINGS

Story: Poor
Graphics: Decent
Sound: Bad
Control/Gameplay: Good
Replayability: Bad
Balance: Above Average
Originality: Mediocre
Addictiveness: Very Good
Appeal: Above Average
Miscellaneous: Above Average

Final Score: Decent Game!

Short Attention Span Summary
The Tudors is the very definition of “casual gaming”, but it’s a fun diversion that is also a nice change of pace from some of the more stressful games out there. It’s a short game, but for the small price, you still get a respectable of gameplay. The good far outweighs the bad here, so if hidden object games are your thing, then The Tudors is an easy “thumbs up”.



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