One of the first hidden object games I covered was House of 1000 Doors: Family Secrets. It was the game that gave me hope that I would enjoy this new endeavor. At the time, I mentioned how well set up for a sequel, and it appears that Alawar either read my review, or were planning to make a follow up the entire time. For my ego, I’m going with the former.
Anyway, it’s only been a few months since the first game came out. That’s a quick turn around. While these games aren’t too overly complex, one still has to wonder if perhaps it was a little too soon. Will the quality hold up? Will I still hold decent opinions of the game? What the hell is a Zoroaster? These are the questions I asked myself when I went to play this game.
It’s time to find out what the answers are.
Kate Reed, the heroine from the first game, is back in action. After reading an article that hints that the House of 1000 Doors is back, she heads off to investigate. However, this time her experience isn’t nearly so pleasant. It seems the house and its inhabitants are under attack from sentient fiery orbs. It turns out that a demon encased in a cursed gem is trying to break free, and the results are catastrophic. Kate is tasked with using the doors to travel to four different locales and collect the necessary items needed to end the threat once and for all.
The setup is interesting, but the follow through isn’t quite what I’d hoped. For starters, only two of the four inhabitants Kate meets in the first game bother to show up here. Although a new character of sorts is introduced later on, he comes too late. The amount of interaction with these characters is very little. You speak to them once at the beginning and then never again. Most of the game follows Kate as she moves through each location. Each location has a character or two of their own, but they are shallow cogs in the machine with a line or two before they disappear for good.
That being said, there is still a fairly decent narrative here. Each location has a history to it, and you discover clues through texts, journal entries, and conversation. These stories also tie into the cursed gem, allowing you to see first hand the devastation it can bring. These small attentions to detail help rescue the story, and leave the player with an overall positive feeling.
The backgrounds and environments are quite nice. There is plenty of detail, so much that you’ll be dead certain an item is something you need because it looks useful, even if it’s just decoration. The variety between locales is also nice. Between Tibet, Jerusalem, India, and Madagascar, there is plenty to see. The art isn’t fantastic or anything, but it’s pleasant enough to look at.
The humans, much like last time. That is to say, they look mildly OK until they start talking. The animation of the mouths is absolutely hideous, and will likely haunt my nightmares for quite some time. Beyond that, the animations are stiff and ungainly. I appreciate the effort, but perhaps stills would have been a superior choice.
There is plenty of voice acting in the game, and it’s fine for what it is. It’s on the lower end of the scale to be sure, but it does the job. Basically, it’s not quite Resident Evil levels of bad, but it certainly feels like it would have been at home during the PSX era. I’ve heard worse though.
The music is what I’ve come to expect from the genre. It’s brooding, yet light. It’s pure background stuff. There is a strong theme throughout, and the music ties together well. Though there aren’t too many tunes, they’re nice enough that they add positively to the experience.
Effects are also what you’d expect. Familiars sound such as a hammer on wood, the crackling of fire, and the hissing of a snake show up where the need to and sound appropriate. It certainly lends to the atmosphere, and combines nicely with the music.
Palm of Zoroaster plays like every other hidden object/adventure game out there. Most of your time will be spent gathering items and using them to find more objects that are used in a different location to find yet more objects. This chain of events continues until you’ve found the final item and put it its place. In between, there are some hidden object sections and a few traditional puzzles. Though it should be noted that the hidden object sections always give you an item and that the traditional puzzles either open a door or a chest that leads to the gathering of items.
If it sounds tedious, you’d be surprised. The framework, as per usual, is quite solid. All of this item gathering and using is part of an endless series of puzzles. You’ll need that knife to open a package, which gives you the puzzle pieces needed to open a chest, which holds a shovel that you needed to dig up a hammer. This chain of events is fun to discover, and there are plenty of clever uses to keep things interesting.
Hidden object sections are as you’d expect. You have a list of items to find, a screen to look through. Some items are hidden quite well. In addition, some of the items require you to manipulate the screen. For example, you may need to find a star. That star is partially obscured by a layer of grime. By grabbing a nearby sponge, you can wipe away the grime and reveal the star so you can cross it off your list. A simpler example is lifting the lid of a toy chest to look inside. Fans of this mechanic will find this game hits all the right notes.
The traditional puzzles aren’t anything special. There is a slide puzzle, a few picture puzzles, and others that have a unique mechanism you have to work around. These are amusing distractions, and not so hard as to cause headaches. If you’ve ever played played a Professor Layton game, you’ll know what to expect. These can also be skipped after a minute or two, so you can’t really get stuck.
Basically, the gameplay is just what you’d expect. There have been no significant changes, but that’s OK. You’d be surprised how little genre fatigue there is with this kind of thing.
This isn’t exactly a long game. It took me all of four or five hours to clear everything, including the bonus chapter. It certainly felt shorter than the first game, but I can’t say that it was for a certainty.
As for replay value, the game has none. The puzzles, story, and gameplay will be the same on a subsequent playthrough. You can change the difficulty, but that just affects how often you can use hints. For the CE, this is especially non-problematic, as you can use the in game strategy guide to get you out of any tough spots. There aren’t any rewards for completing the game on a higher difficulty either. You get all of the bonus content as long as you beat the game.
This version gets a couple of points though, because the regular edition wouldn’t have the bonus chapter. A full hour’s worth of extra gameplay gives you a leg up over the competition, even if it’s a very small leg.
The hint system in this game is pretty forgiving, though there is an annoying glitch. Basically, you have a meter that fills up over time. When it’s full, you can use a hint to see where to go or what to do. If you’re in the wrong spot, you can use the hints indefinitely until you’re where you need to be. The glitch I mentioned is odd. If you go into a hidden object section, your hint meter will empty when you finish it, regardless of whether or not you used a hint. I found this all kinds of annoying, and it happens every time.
Beyond that, the game is pretty easy to work your way through. Between the hints, skips, and strategy guide, getting stuck for more than a moment or two is all but impossible. Only stubborn pride can keep you from moving forward. This game is designed to be accessible to all people. That being said, there is still a bit of challenge provided, you put the game on hard and don’t use the guide. Personally, if I can skip a slide puzzle, I’ll do it every time. There’s something about them that gets me every time.
This being a game where the level of challenge depends on the player’s willpower, it’s hard to give it a proper score. I’ll take the safe road and throw it an average score. After all, what I find easy, others may find difficult, and vice versa.
The hidden object genre is loathe to produce original games as a rule. This being a sequel, the level of originality is even less. That being said, I didn’t award any points for originality to the first game, and I can’t possibly go any lower than I have. I think it’s just worth mentioning that if I could, I would.
There’s nothing new here, which is no surprise. The game is a sequel, and lives off of the successes of the first game. Even still, it offers a similar if not identical experience to any other hidden object game you’ll find on a site like Alawar or Big Fish. If you are into that genre, you’re likely to get what you want out of this game.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. There’s something inherently addictive about the style of gameplay. I really can’t tell you what it is. All I know is that I have no problems playing for hours at a time. I can’t say the same about every game. I kind of get into the zone, where I I quickly move forward and pause only when some outside variable forces me too.
That being said, this game sets itself well for breaks. Locations close after you complete them, and there are no puzzles to solve until you open the next door. It’s pretty easy to decide to stop for a while and do something else.
To start with, the game is easily accessible, fun to play, and is available for a cheap. It’s a casual game, and thus has a large potential audience. Anyone can play it and get something out of the experience.
Now, this is a sequel. That kind of curbs the appeal factor a bit. While knowledge of the events of the first game certainly aren’t required to get enjoyment out of the game, you’d be doing yourself a disservice. A lot of stuff is left unexplained, and would only make sense to those who played the first game.
If you’re simply looking for a decent hidden object game to to pass the time, this will do, but I’d easily suggest the first game or a stand alone title first.
The Collector’s Edition contains a few goodies, but less than I’m used to.
Firstly, there is the bonus chapter. The chapter is separate from the main game, and is a small story in and of itself. This means players who don’t buy the CE will still get the full story, and those that do buy the CE get something that actually counts as a extra. I appreciate that.
Secondly, the game contains a host of concept art and wallpapers. These are standard, but they’re nothing special. I really wish there were more to it than that. If not for the bonus chapter, the extras would be a complete wash. If you’re willing to spend the extra cash for an hour of extra gameplay, that is your choice.
Replayability: Very Bad
Appeal Factor: Mediocre
Final Score: Mediocre Game!
Short Attention Span Summary
House of 1000 Doors: The Palm of Zoroaster is about a half a step down from its predecessor. This stems from a couple of facts. For starters, the story isn’t quite as interesting. Also, there have been no attempts to improve the formula. If you liked the first game, you’re sure to like this one. However, if you had misgivings before, they’re likely to grow stronger. Still, it’s a solid experience that will satisfy your hidden object game fix. I honestly hope the series continues, but that it grows stronger.