Review: Phenomenon: Meteorite (PC)

phenomenon-meteorite_featurePhenomenon: Meteorite
Publisher: Big Fish Games
Developer: Puzzle Lab
Genre: Hidden Object/Adventure
Release Date: 04/29/2013
Get It Here: BigFishGames.com

It’s time once again to step into a world where the key to that locked door can only be acquired by sifting through a pile of seemingly random and often anachronistic junk. That’s right, I’m back with another hidden object game review. The genre really is perfect for killing a few hours with some light puzzle solving. I’m not always in the mood for a fast paced shooter or an evil, challenging golf game. Sometimes I needs something a bit more laid back. This time, I gave Phenomenon: Meteorite a shot.

The story goes that a young boy named Daniel was abandoned on a stranger’s doorstep as a child. Now an adult, Danny finds that his parents left him a note to travel to a mysterious island before his twenty-fifth birthday. Seeking answers, he heads out.

screen1What he finds is an island where the inhabitants have used fallen meteorites to obtain control over the elements. They’ve also formed a rigid society that would have severely punished him and his parents if his existence were discovered. Now it’s time to explore the island and discover what powers he has.

The story really could have been something cool, and the setup is there. However, the plot goes nowhere. All the burning questions remain unanswered, the cool powers are never given screen time, and there are more unresolved issues than I can count. There are only four characters in the game, and only two of them really shine any light on anything. There’s some hackneyed plot twist about saving the world tossed in at the last second, and the whole thing feels rushed and unfinished. Perhaps the bonus chapter in the collector’s edition explains more, but there’s no excuse for the main game feeling like such an afterthought. I was genuinely intrigued at first, but left bitterly disappointed by the way everything developed.

Visually, the game is a hit for the most part. The environments are colorful and full of detail. More importantly, there was solid attention paid to the lighting for each area. A room with no windows is kept significantly darker than the rest, which a lot of games don’t bother to do. I was a little freaked out by the humans though. They look like art off of a cheap romance novel. That’s fine I suppose, but the animations are nothing more than mouths moving and eyes blinking. The rest of the character remains a stoic portrait, which is really creepy to watch. Still, the game is very solid overall in the looks department.

screen2With only a few characters in the game, each voice takes a more prominent role. As such, two of the four voices are pretty bad. The kid I can understand. It can be tough to get a solid performance out of a child who can’t memorize lines and has to read them off a piece of paper. However, the worst performance is one of the adults. His actor can’t seem to figure how to play confusion, so everything comes out muddled and nonsensical. It was terrible to listen to. The other two actors are run of the mill in their performances, meaning the overall level is below average. The music and effects are par for the course, so they fit, but aren’t necessary for the full game experience.

I’m always intrigued when one of these games does something a little different with its hidden object sequences. Phenomenon does a couple of things that most games don’t. For starters, each scene is actually two different sequences tied together. You start in a room with a list of items to find. One of these items is hidden in the past. You have to find a time piece on the screen to go back in time and see the room as it was years ago. In the past, you’ll have a whole new slew of items to find. Find all of them, and you return to the present with the red item now available to find. I found this interesting, because it meant fewer, longer hidden object sequences in the game. It’s neither better or worse, but it is interesting.

The other change they made to the hidden object side of things is to allow you to actually forgo finding the item at all. I’m not talking about burning a hint to clear one off. You can do that, but the hints recharge slowly. It’s not an effective tactic. Instead, you can click on any word in your list and bring up a word scramble. You’ll have a visual clue and a bunch of letters. Once you correctly unscramble the word associated with the clue, the item on your list is revealed. I often found myself using this to target specific list items that were giving me trouble. For example, the game wanted me to find a bow. Did they mean the weapon, the tie, or the thing you use to play the violin? I didn’t know, so I used the word scramble. I always enjoy when developers give players options like this.

screen3The basic point and click stuff is pretty much what you’d expect. You can travel to various parts on the map to find items to add to your inventory. You’ll need to use that item somewhere else. It could be as simple as a key to a lock, or as complicated as carving off pieces of meteorites scattered all over the island to use as a power source for a machine. The controls work fine, and most of the interactions follow a bit of logic. There’s also a recurring mechanic in the shape of a mystical amulet that you power up as you go. This amulet is used to unlock doors, but only if you have it powered with enough crystals. You need to explore the world in order to get crystals, and you also have to find controllers that scan your amulet to make sure you have enough of them. The map system is also quite helpful, as it lets you see which areas you can interact with, and lets you warp there instantly. I rarely used the hint system because of this.

As per usual, this game also has some puzzles in the form of mini-games. However, there aren’t that many of them. Instead, the tended to be longer. For example, one puzzle had me manipulating various objects on a panel in order to match the scene to various clues I was given. It was pretty nifty to be honest. These can be skipped after a bit, like in most games, but I rarely found that to be necessary. The only time I did it was to save myself time when I realized a puzzle was going to take me a lot of clicking to actually complete.

It will only take a few hours to complete the game. Since this is the regular version, not the CE, there’s nothing to come back to after the main campaign is complete. It’s a one and done experience. However, that’s the norm for the genre, so I can’t really hold it against this game.

Short Attention Span Summary

While it plays fine and offers some alternatives to those pesky hidden object sequences, Phenomenon: Meteorite is not an ideal choice for those looking for some point and click fun. The main thing going against is the story. It’s just an incoherent and unfinished mess. It’s sad. The premise was actually pretty cool, and could have made for a heck of a narrative. The execution just wasn’t there. Still, the game is decent enough to give a try if you’re looking for something just a little bit different. Based on this though, I’d recommend the collector’s edition if you can get it.

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