I must confess I have never before played a hidden object game, and it was with some interest that I approached this latest offering from Big Fish. The genre is a strange one, dividing gamers equally into adoring fans and rabid haters, so I was unsure exactly how I would react to my first experience. Now that I have played The Red Riding Hood Sisters I must say I am something of a convert and will be keen to try further similar games, if they meet the same high standards that are to be found here.
The tale being spun here is a grim one, with the player swiftly thrust into the role of a young detective exploring a dark fairy tale world, where hordes of vicious wolves have been unleashed by the evil Wolf Queen as part of her nefarious plan to conquer the world. It is your task to seek out the Red Riding Hood Sisters, a shadowy order of orphaned women who have sworn to protect the land from the Mist Wolves, and aid them in their age-old duty. The gripping story unfolds quickly, instantly drawing the player into a fully realised world that is populated by well-crafted characters and brims with beautifully designed environments. This combination of elements really captures the brooding menace of the classic fairy tales and marks the game out as something original. Walt Disney this isn’t.
The main focus of the gameplay is the traditional hidden object sections, which are reached as the player explores the game-world. Here you must locate a number of articles positioned at random within a static screen and when all have been discovered, they combine to form an item which allows the player to proceed and complete one of the game’s many puzzles. These sections can be highly challenging, truly testing the player’s skills of observation, but are rarely frustrating and instead create a great sense of satisfaction upon completion. If this was all there was to the game, then I would likely be less than impressed, but fortunately there are also a number of equally testing puzzles thrown regularly into the game, which provide variety and maintain interest. These range from simple matching exercises designed to test the memory, to more complex and inventive brainteasers which can be highly challenging to solve.
There is also a genuine feeling of exploration, with a number of locations to discover and which do not simply follow on from each other in a linear fashion, adding further to the game’s appeal, and creating the feeling that the player is embarking on a genuine adventure. While this creates some necessary backtracking, it never feels tedious as movement between areas is swift and painless and thus the motivation to find the next puzzle and unravel the next plot twist is easily maintained. This is truly a testament to the skill and thought which has gone into the game’s design.
The graphics are striking, with original character designs and lush, detailed environments which create an appropriately unsettling mood. Cutscenes are nicely animated and directed with confidence to propel the story along at an exciting pace, and are supported by a strong script which is both original and imaginative and which is acted with some flair. Sound effects and music are generally quite limited but this minimalist approach actually adds to the atmosphere and creates a strong feeling of isolation in the player, matching the experience of the main character. The game’s interface is also simple and intuitive, with map screens, hints, tasks and items all laid out in a logical, easily accessible fashion.
For fans of hidden object games, Red Riding Hood Sisters is a must-play, and while it is unlikely to convert anyone who is not keen on the genre, newcomers who are curious to try something a little unusual should find much of interest here. The combination of high production values, enthralling story, great graphics and well designed puzzles creates a thoroughly rewarding adventure that entertains and challenges in equal measure.
Red Riding Hood Sisters: Dark Parable is available now on the App Store.
Final rating: 8.3