Welcome to the Wednesday Quick Bytes Reviews.
Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened HD
Frogwares has been developing Sherlock Holmes point and click style adventure games on the PC for quite a while now. They have ported one of their more popular games onto iPad, Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened HD. The game starts out with Sherlock investigating a simple missing person's case; soon though things escalate to murder. Sherlock learns that there is a cult behind it all. Not just any cult, but the cult of Cthulhu. Yup, Frogwares are mixing a touch of H. P. Lovecraft's horror classic with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's greatest detective. The resulting story is very good.
Unfortunately everything else is a bit spotty. The original game came out in 2006, though this is based on the remastered version that came out in 2008, and it's graphics are dated. For a 2006 game it would have been at the better end of realism; in 2013 though it's showing its age. What does hold up are the sound effects, voice acting, and music.
The controls can be swapped between the classic third person point and click or first person virtual controls. I ended up swapping between the two. I played most of the game in third person mode, but in some areas it was just easier to get around in first person. There is some good mini-game puzzles scattered about; these break up the story enough to give it a bit more challenge than just following the mystery.
I'm starting to like Frogwares' Sherlock Holmes series and may have to seek out some of their older PC titles. Their coming Sherlock Holmes title is being developed on Epic's Unreal Engine 3 which will improve a lot, particularly the graphics. As for Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened HD, I say give it a look. The story is good and gives Sherlock Holmes and Cthulhu fans both something new.
Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened HD is rated 9+ for Infrequent/Mild Horror/Fear Themes by the iTunes App Store.
For more information see the Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened HD iTunes page.
Anima: Ark of Sinners Advance
From one adventure game to another, Anima: Ark of Sinners Advance provides some different thrills and spills. First off, it is a 2D scroller in the Metroidvania style. Metroidvania style refers to two titles that pioneered a style of 2D scrolling adventure where you criss-cross through a map exploring new areas as well as retracing your steps through previously explored areas instead of traveling on a linear path. You will combat undead monsters, jump across platforms, upgrade and unlock attacks, and die. A lot.
Let quickly touch on the story first. You play as Celia, a woman who wakes up with a slight case of amnesia in Ark City. Your companion, Nemo, is also missing. You soon find Ark City is empty of life and the only clues as to what has happened are on monoliths inscribed with mysterious runes that you don't recognize, yet somehow can read. Celia pushes forward to find both Nemo and the answers to her why her memories are missing. The story isn't particular deep, but is compelling enough to keep you going.
Graphically this is a beautiful game. The Japanese style anime is well rendered, though the overall pallet is dark. I thought it could use a punch of color. The soundtrack sets the mood well enough, but isn't memorable beyond that. There is no voice acting beyond action sounds. All the cut scenes are done with subtitles over motion comics.
Anima: Ark of Sinners Advance controls are a letdown though. They are virtual controls that I thought might be the first set of virtual controls I could like. But soon the flaws reared their ugly head. Jumping is a very tricky maneuver that feels like you are on a frozen pond with vaseline covered shoes. Slipping off the edge of a platform happens more often than not. Coupled with the dark color pallet, some platforms you just don't see until it's too late. This is why you will die a lot. Luckily you have unlimited lives. On the plus side the enemy AI isn't particularly smart so mowing through them is pretty easy, especially after you start unlocking combos.
Anima: Ark of Sinners Advance isn't a great game, yet there is some compelling quirk about it that keeps me coming back. It is a spin-off story of the Japanese anime series, Anima, so hardcore fans may be interested. Others may want to wait and see if the controls get improved in a future update.
Anima: Ark of Sinners Advance is rated 9+ for Frequent/Intense Cartoon or Fantasy Violence by the iTunes App Store.
For more information see the Anima: Ark of Sinners Advance site.