Friday, 22 April 2016
Christmas Adventure: Candy Storm
Christmas Adventure: Candy Storm has the honor of being the smallest hidden object game I've ever played. Not that it's especially short - at around 2 hours, it takes a normal amount of time to complete the game, it's just that the whole thing takes place in just four different locations. Now, to be fair, each one of those screens has a couple of different places to zoom in on, and multiple HOSs, but still, it's oddly claustrophobic for a genre whose normal MO is to pride itself on variety of screens.
The game starts with a truly bizarre premise - the main character, who may or may not be some kind of Santa, is driving a red pickup truck with a bed full of toys down a forest road when he passes in front of a witches' house and finds his car suddenly transformed into candy. Turns out the whole thing was just a misunderstanding, but if he's going to get the witches' help in transforming it back to normal so he can be on his way, he's going to have to help each of the witches with a task. Those tasks? Cleaning dishes, fixing a hydroponic growing operation, and knitting sweaters for birds.
So yeah, as games go, it's deeply into the crazy side of things.
Criteria 1: To what degree do the puzzle screens look like a thrift store vomited on my monitor?
It's a full-on disaster. Every screen starts with a basically Christmas-friendly premise - tree, hearth, a feast set out on a table - then throws layer after layer of random, occasionally yule-themed garbage on top of it. No thought is given to gravity, logical placement, honest sizing. These aren't as bad as the Civil War screens were, but they're not a whole lot better either. Just a mess.
Criteria 2: Are the searches justified by the premise/story?
Not in the least. While occasionally the item that the player is looking for is somewhere in the mess, more often than not the game offers the rare 12:0 type of HOS, in which the player must grab twelve items for no reason before the game will just hand them the thing they were actually looking for. It's just awful. Even worse, the game commits the cardinal sin of sending the player to the same HOS multiple times in rapid succession. This is excusable when the player is allowed to gradually clean up a screen, but Christmas Adventures makes the insane choice of not just restoring the items which were previously removed, but actually adding new ones to the already-cluttered screens. It's so awkward that I was actually able to solve a few screens without looking at the list of items, simply because the new additions were so jarringly out-of-place, and I'd seen the clean version of the screen just minutes earlier.
Criteria 3: How well do the various puzzles and object searches meld together to form a coherent whole?
Within the world of the game, the crazy things that the witches want do make a kind of sense, but the lack of effort put into making the HOSs feel like a part of the world really does the game a disservice. Also problematic is the small detail of the way the game's screens don't change as the player works on them. At one point there's a crack in a chimney - zoom in on it and clay can be placed to fix it, but zoom back out, and the crack is still there. Roll up a bit of carpet in a zoom-in screen and a locked cellar door appears. Zoom back out and the basement is clearly viewable, because the developers didn't bother to draw a version of the room where the carpet was up but the door was closed. This is nitpicking, I'm sure, but the developers were working with just four locations - a little consistency isn't that much to ask for, is it?
Christmas Adventures: Candy Storm isn't the worst HOG I've ever played. Its daffy plot had me baffled and at least mildly entertained all the way through. The HOG fundamentals just aren't there, however, which means it's far more frustrating than it ought to be. It's only a two dollars game, but look around, and when good games go on sale that two dollars could go a lot farther. I can recommend the game only to those curious about the craziest HOG premise I've yet encountered plays out.
Want to see my playthrough of the baffling game? Check out this YouTube Playlist!
Christmas Adventures: Candy Storm is available on Steam!