Review: Shadows: Price for Our Sins (PC)
by Aaron Sirois on February 21, 2013

shadowscover

Shadows: Price for Our Sins
Publisher: Big Fish Games
Developer: 8 Floor Games
Genre: Hidden Object/Adventure
Release Date: 02/17/2013

The worlds of hidden object games are fraught with many dangers. You never know when a seemingly innocuous invitation to a party or abandoned mansion will result in you being trapped in a magical game of life or death. Usually when I say “game”, I mean figuratively speaking, but Shadows: Price for Our Sins takes a more literal route with that word.

You play as Dylan, a young woman out to celebrate Halloween with her friends at an old farm manor. There, you find an old creepy board game that you just have to play. Sadly, said board game turns out to be the tool of a demon, who traps the souls of your friends and unleashes a bunch of lost souls on the manor. The only way to save your friends is to help these ghosts and find the missing pieces of the game.

shadows1The setup might seem a little too much like Jumanji, but it actually sticks more to traditional HOG rules. It follows the typical tales of unrequited love, evil witches, and ghosts trapped for all eternity until some inconspicuous character comes along and helps them. The writing gets a bit hokey at times, but the story actually gets more interesting as you go. This is because there are two storylines. There’s Dylan’s tale, and also the story of the people who first played the board game many years ago. The latter tale is told through personal account by the ghosts, and also through some beautifully drawn animated sequences. There are also the requisite journal entries that you find throughout the property. The full sum of these parts ends up creating a story that is better than the average HOG game. It may not be truly great or even all that good, but it’s more than enough to justify the time spent on it.

Apart from those beautifully drawn animated sequences, the game plays it pretty safe in the graphical department. Humans tend to look a little off, but at least there are occasional moments where lip movements actually match the words being spoken. The art is also typical, with tons of detail added to make things spooky, and some nifty lighting here an there. It’s not ground breaking stuff by any means, but it lends to the atmosphere well enough to be enjoyable.

The audio is a bit less helpful though. The voice acting is barely serviceable, even when the dialogue isn’t hokey. The music is some of the least interesting stuff I’ve heard in the genre in quite some time. There’s just not much to it, it fails to be creepy in any way, and it cuts out awkwardly when switching screens. The effects are nice when they actually work, such as a dog’s bark growing louder in the distance as you get closer, but there were many times when effects simply didn’t play. This was annoying to say the least.

When it comes to hidden object games, the controls are incredibly easy to use. Everything is done with the mouse, and you only ever need to left click on something to interact with it. The most complicated controls you’ll use is clicking and dragging, and that’s very rarely at that.

shadows2The game is split pretty evenly into three different gameplay mechanics. First up is the traditional adventure game sections. In these, you explore locations to find items you can use to progress. For example, a door may be locked at the front of the house, so you may need to travel elsewhere to find the key. This portion of the game can be the most tedious for some people, as it often leads to you clicking random things on the screen until something happens. This part of the game is mitigated somewhat by the map system. The map allows you to travel instantly to any area you’ve unlocked. In addition, it highlights areas where there are actions you can take. This saves a lot of time and is a nifty feature. Some purists might not like it though.

Secondly are the actual hidden object sequences. Initially, these appear to be quite typical. You have a list of items to find on the screen, and as you cross them off, new ones appear until you clear the entire list. Some items require a trick to find. They could be hidden in a box you have to open, or you may need to put them back together. More involved are the rare items that require a small mini-game to complete. For example, I had to find a rose. This involved completing a quick jigsaw puzzle in order to put the picture of said rose back together. These instances are rare, but interesting. There is a hangup though. Some of the especially well hidden items are in locations that make no sense to click on. For example, one item was behind a wall panel. There was nothing to distinguish this panel from any of the other purely decorative panels on the wall. I only found the thing by clicking like a madman. You’re likely going to have to use hints in order to complete some of these.

The third mechanic is the mini-game. These come in the form of a variety of puzzles. There are slide puzzles, balance puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, and pretty much every other standard puzzle type. Most of these are incredibly easy, and even easier thanks to the help box. The help box is meant to give you clearer instructions, but in several cases in outright gives the answer, even though you can simply skip the puzzle after a while as well. There were a couple of tricky puzzles in the game, but those can be skipped as well, even on the hardest difficulty setting. Still, these kinds of puzzles are a fun change of pace when they show up. Unless you get a puzzle you’re particularly bad at, chances are you’ll try to complete them without skipping anyway simply because it’s more fun.

shadows3Completing the game will take somewhere around four to five hours. Despite being the average completion time for this kind of game, that’s actually a good deal thanks to incredibly time saving function of the map. Without it, the game would probably add another hour or two of time spent wandering out looking for the next thing to click on. However, there’s nothing to go back for after the initial completion of the game. There’s no bonus chapter, extras to go through, or even achievements to unlock. Once you’ve beaten the game, you’ve done all there is to do.

In the end, this ends up being a slightly above average entry in the genre. It might not have all of the bells and whistles of various collector’s editions, but it does enough with its story and gameplay to be worth the time of any HOG lover. Ten minutes in, and I was expecting a hokey, boring ride. I am glad I was proven mostly wrong. After all, there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of hokiness.

Short Attention Span Summary

Shadows: Price for Our Sins is an above average HOG for a couple of reasons. The story, though it starts off slow, picks up as the game goes on and tells two tales that mirror each other in a nice way. The gameplay, though mostly typical, adds in some spice with the hidden object sequences. Having puzzles within puzzles is just nifty, and something more games should attempt to do. If you’re in the market for a good HOG to kill some time, this is a solid option.




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