Enigmatis ended on something of a cliffhanger - the evil Preacher escaped, leaving the detective to chase him to another town, where he would doubtless to use his hypnotic church bell to restart his serial killing. To be honest, it wasn't a fantastic ending. Enigmatis had been primarily notable for a super solid and surprisingly dark narratives, but I didn't see any logic or value in playing the same story over again. So i was understandably delighted to discover that Enigmatis 2: The Mists of Ravenwood had something entirely different in store. Picking up two years after the first game, E2 offers a whole new setting, and entirely new villain, and the return of a familiar threat. More importantly, it explores and expands the mythology of the first game in some of the most interesting ways I've seen in a hidden object game.
Now, on to the hidden object criteria!
Criteria 1: To what degree do the puzzle screens look like a thrift store vomited on my monitor?
Almost not at all. The game is set in a long-abandoned tourist park (shades of Eventide!), a territory long-since reclaimed by nature. Every time a HOS pops up, it's in the ruins of a tableau or deep in a lost catacomb. The developers have strewn logical items in sane locations, and the result are beautifully crafted HOSs. There's a total of one questionable screen in the entire game - a single desk location near endgame that has a little bit of size and gravity cheating, but this one flaw is overwhelmed by how massively right the developers get the rest of the hidden object screens.
Criteria 2: Are the searches justified by the premise/story?
It's a solid mix here. There are some 12:1 screens, a number of assembly screens, and even a couple of mini-puzzles. There's a good balance between logical and illogical, and the assembly screens are some of the best I've ever encountered. By far the most impressive is one sequence in which the player is asked to use a black light to find invisible ink symbols on scattered pieces of paper, then use those glowing symbols as a guide to reassemble the code-sheet they're drawn on. I can easily overlook a couple of generic 12:1 screens if the rest are going to be this detailed and inspired.
Criteria 3: How well do the various puzzles and object searches meld together to form a coherent whole?
It's not just coherent - this is one of the strongest stories I've ever encountered in a hidden object game. The various elaborate locks and hidden codes make perfect sense in the context of a holiday park that has been redesigned by a murderous madman, and even the beyond objects that the player can seek out for an achievement make perfect sense as part of the narrative - instead of just looking for a bonus transforming item with no connection to the story, the player is tasked with catching glimpses of the illusions that the villain has been using to lure people to their deaths. It's rare to see a developer put this level of care into every aspect of gameplay, and Artifex Mundi should be lauded for their accomplishment.
Enigmatis' great addition to the traditional HOG structure makes a return appearance here, and the developers have outdone themselves in improving it. Digging out pieces of evidence and figuring out how they fit into the big picture of the case is always going to be a satisfying experience, and this is one of the best examples of that mechanic I've ever seen. Enigmatis 2 also swipes a key element from Nightmares From the Deep - a door that has to be unlocked by finding metal tokens, and a mysterious figure who offers a bit of backstory with every piece of the lock the player turns over.
This is one of the thematically darkest HOGs I've ever played. There's mass-murder, demon worship, psychological torture... It goes even further than the previous game in the series, and that was already a flat-out horror title. Really, Enigmatis 2 improves on the first game in every way - the graphics are gorgeous, the story has a number of big surprises, and the presentation is top-notch. This is the third Artifex Mundi hidden object game I've played on the Xbox One, and I'm still impressed by how natural it is to use a controller for what had previously been a mouse-focused genre. Navigation is a breeze, the inventory control is better, and puzzles have all been tweaked to ensure they take full advantage of the thumbsticks and buttons to create more natural interfaces. If a slight drop in hidden object scene precision is the price I have to pay for better controls in every other respect, that's a deal I'm happy to make.
I can't say enough good things about Enigmatis 2's story, though. From its creepy opening to the thrilling conclusion (and satisfying epilogue), it impressed me more than anything else out there in the HOG genre. There are horrific discoveries, dramatic battles, tense setpiece puzzles - basically everything anyone could want from a graphic adventure. I'd recommend this HOG to anyone, and I'm eagerly looking forward to playing the next game in the series.
Curious about the playthrough that led to this review? Check out the first part below!
A review copy of this game was provided by the developer!