It's been awhile since I've been able to find the time to sit down and enjoy a hidden object game lately, but, when I noticed the new offering from Blue Tea Games, Enchantia Wrath of the Phoenix Queen, I immediately carved out some much-needed me-time in my schedule, poured myself a glass of wine, and hit play.
I admit, I was a little nervous because I knew my expectations were extremely high. I was thoroughly enchanted with their last game, Dark Parables Red Riding Hood Sisters, and I've come to expect the same level of quality and creative flair in all of their games.
I am happy to say that I was not in the least disappointed.
From the very beginning, I was met with a symphony to my senses. Gorgeous music trilled through my speakers, an adventurous tune filled with thundering crescendos, as you were presented with your first glance of this dark Phoenix Queen, splendid in her gown of crackling flames. She appeared to be an evil elf queen worthy of my attempts at smiting her.
The Phoenix Queen has lain dormant for 500 years, sealed from the land, her dark rage contained. But all that changes the day you, an unknown pupil with the mark of the sky bird emblazoned on your hand, visit the site where she was defeated all those years ago. She makes her glorious appearance awash a sea of feverish flames, attempting to end your life with one blast of her fire... but your teacher intervenes. Now, with your teacher wounded and unable to aid you, you must take up the quest of defeating this evil creature that threatens all life in Enchantia.
How's that for epic?
The story is a fantasy lover's dream come true as you can almost believe Enchantia exists somewhere in the pages of Tolkien's Middle Earth, with its enchanting characters and inspiring locations. Surely Mirkwood Forest and the Lonely Mountain exist in the same world that the Midnight Forest, Hoarfrost Cavern, and Kraken's Swamp of Enchantia do...
The only thing that gave me even a moment's pause in the storyline was the unavoidable image of Jean Grey as the Dark Phoenix since the character's mannerisms and uncontrolled rage and passion bares more than a passing resemblance to my least favorite of all the X-men. Sorry, I can't help it. That girl fainted far too much for comfort... seriously stop swooning into Cyclops' arms... it's embarrassing.
The graphics of Enchantia: Wrath of the Phoenix Queen were dripping with color, all purple and pink, kissed with honeyed golden tones of phoenix fire and a slowly setting sun. The illustrations are in classic form for Blue Tea Games. Every scene is a work of art worthy of framing, beautifully detailed, and remarkable to behold.
It embodies this fantastical world of Enchantia, sticking to fantasy art rather then attempting a more realistic form that other games attempt, which would have felt false in the light of the overall spirit of the game.
Tiny detailed animation here and there added to the overall splendor of the game.
A flickering of fireflies in the brush, specks of pollen wafting from the wings of a butterfly, sparks of flame cast off from a fire... so many little things, so easy to overlook, and yet so important to the overall immersive qualities of the game.
The hidden object games were true to the Dark Parable style. You're given what each piece looks like, and you must find all the pieces in the scene in order to create one final object. I find these types of hidden object scenes to be extremely enjoyable, challenging, unique, and satisfying.
I'm not just picking through a pile of senseless junk finding random objects that have no bearing on the story whatsoever. Instead, I'm finding pieces of a water orb that I must then place on the water altar to open a gate. Awesome.
The puzzles were on the difficult side, but you won't find a more varied and unique set of puzzles anywhere else. If a puzzle takes longer than 2 minutes to solve, I'm usually out, but I found myself WANTING to beat these things. I was loath to give up and hit that skip button simply because I didn't want to miss any of the animations solving the puzzle would reveal.
Gameplay was smooth and the map was chunkified enough that I didn't feel as though I was wondering aimlessly through dozens of scenes fruitlessly searching for what to do next. Instead, each area was contained to just a few scenes, and you used your map to travel to different areas of Enchantia when you needed something.
While I'm not the voice-acting snob that my sister Liz is, I felt the voices were wonderfully executed... the Phoneix Queen in particular was amazingly sinister and righteous, with a touch of madness in her tone befitting an evil out-of-control queen... very Queen of Hearts. The other voices were equally as good, although the tutorial in the beginning was a bit much, but now I'm just trying to find stray threads to pick at since I can't offer much in the way of negatives for this game.
Ok... well that's a lie... there is one thing that I don't understand why Blue Tea Games persists in... and that's the clip clop of high heels through every scene. No matter what surface we're on... cobbled streets or soft mud, we're haunted by the clip clop clip clop of what surely must be 3-inch stilettos.
Liz went on a rant about this particular sound in her recent article about how women are portrayed in games so I won't go into it too much. I don't even know if the main character is supposed to be a woman... but please... Blue Tea Games... we love you... but, when you make my character click clack around when I'm clearly on an adventure and not at some fancy ball or stripper pole... you make me a bit peeved.
However, besides the faulty footware acoustics, I can't find another bad thing to say about Enchantia: Wrath of the Phoenix Queen. It's an amazing hidden object adventure game that completely immerses me in its fantasy world and exhibits all the necessary qualities of a five-star game.