I. Game Overview
Otherworld: Spring of Shadows is a point and click, hidden object/puzzle adventure game developed by BoomZap Entertainment and released on Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, and iOS. Players embark on a quest through a fantasy world using a mystical locket to solve inventive puzzles, discover secrets, and save a young girl.
Here is an impressive game with stunning graphics and an engaging story. An appreciation of ambiance and entertaining tale-telling is well met here, with every detail of the game intricately designed to create a specific atmosphere. Navigation is extremely user friendly, but not overtly simplistic to the point that learning controls becomes tediously annoying.
The game is ranked a strong 4.5/5 stars on almost every site it has ever been rated on, has won several awards including "Game of the Year".
Platform: Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, iPhone, iPad
Release Date: January 23 2014
iTunes Rating: 4.5 stars
Genre: Casual games(Hidden Object Puzzle Adventure Game)
Game System Requirements: OS: Windows XP/Windows Vista/Windows 7/8
Estimated Gameplay Time: 8 - 10 hours
#3 Best Visuals (All About Casual Game 2012)
Best-Selling Games finalist (All About Casual Game 2012)
Editor's Picks finalist (All About Casual Game 2012)
Greatest Games of All Time (All About Casual Game)
II. Game Narrative
As with other Boomzap games, the story of Otherworld: Spring of Shadows has a highly immersive story line with stunning visuals. The game begins with you, the player, purchasing a seemingly quaint and lovely house in the country. It isn't long after before you discover the place is haunted.
You quickly learn of a couple and their daughter who were all missing. The daughter, Fiona, was taken by an evil entity called the "Shade", bent on plunging the world into eternal winter. Your mission is to stop the Shade and rescue the girl -- but in doing so, allow yourself to be pulled into a land of the unknown that players will soon discover the beautiful land is not without its danger.
Players search the fantasy world, across all terrains, for the magical charms that will activate Fiona's magical locket. The Shade will not make this an easy feat...
III. Game Structure and Replayability
Players will explore six chapters, encountering mini-games, puzzles and hidden object scenes. Players will earn new achievements and uncover an optional side-quest. None of these tasks are particularly difficult, so you won't be pulled away from the enjoyment of adventuring and simply taking in the beautifully elaborate scenery. "Casual" mode still provides plenty of hints, the option to skip puzzles and on request guided help. "Expert" mode is a less affable but choose "Hard Core" to truly go it alone (you'll also earn a badge of honour for completing it).
The game is divided into six chapters, each taking between 1 - 1.5 hours to finish:
The entire game will likely take between 6 - 9 hours to complete. Those with the Collector's edition can play a bonus chapter upon completion. Players can quit the game and continue whenever they'd like as progress is automatically saved throughout gameplay.
Usability of Main Navigation
Overall, the game has an intuitive navigational system with easy to use functionalities. Gamers and new gamers alike will find it easy to familiarize themselves with controls within the first 20 minutes of playing the game. Certain aspects/functionalities which facilitate the overall experience include:
IV. Game Analysis and Mechanics
Otherworld: Spring of Shadows isn't your typical hidden object game. Players move from location to location solving hidden object hunts, mini-puzzles and picking up items to use in order to progress and work towards an end result. As objectives are met, players unlock new areas and progress towards completion of the quest.
The goal of each chapter is to find a piece of Fiona's locket by completing a series of puzzles, mini and hidden object games. Once all the pieces are collected, players will face off in a final battle with the game's villain.
This game skillfully blends the hidden object and puzzle sequences into the story which gives all aspects purpose and manages to totally eliminate that plodding, “first one of this, then one of that” alternation from which many hidden object games suffer. There are new and creative takes on familiar formats with unusual objectives.
Players on Beginner or Expert modes are unable to fail a chapter due to hint-mechanics. A hint button visible at all times throughout the gameplay reloads within one minute of activation, ready and available for infinite use. Inability to fail can also be seen as guaranteed progressions, which leaves a player with a sense of accomplishment after each session.
However, the game rewards players who progress through the game without the use -- or with minimal use -- of hints through 'achievements', each with a name and point value.
This game has many puzzles, usually with the traditional task of putting together shapes in gaps; but on occasion the reassembly of maps, turning of tiles, alteration of patterns, etc. Pieces are usually scattered throughout the level and players much first complete a series of 'investigative'/gameplay progression tasks to collect them prior to solving the puzzles themselves.
Once the player completes a puzzle, they are usually rewarded with a brief but lovely animation whereby they are able to see their 'creation' come to life. This is an incredibly satisfying feature that further engrosses the player and gives them a sense of accomplishment. Even if on a minute level, it's rather addicting.
Hidden Object Games (HOG)
There aren't any randomly-strewn anachronisms in this game -- All hidden object scenes fit the settings perfectly. Objects are hidden 'fairly' -- they aren't too easy to find so as to make the game boring and aren't too difficult to find such that it would make the game frustrating to play. Players only need to locate the amount of objects required for progression throughout the game, and object counters display exactly how many more items remain undiscovered. The end goal is always in view for the player.
Elements of interactivity - Many scenes have interactive functionalities. For example, you must first open a box to look inside it.
Areas Needing Improvement
Loading Time: Although the game is visually stunning, scene loading times are made noticeable due to all the back and fourth moving required from the player.
Voice Acting: Personally, I felt the performance of the voice actress posing as you, the player, needs to be more powerful. The visuals, interactivity and sounds were powerful; but her voice seems flat and devoid of emotion which is especially questionable considering the streak of dramatic events she was meant to journal.
Sheep "Glitch": Although this isn't a 'glitch' per-say, I still found the sheep shearing to be a little jarring in relation to the realism and believability of other game functions. Don't know if this is worth fixing, but it's definitely a moment that makes you remember you're playing a game and takes you out of fantasy-land for a moment or two.
Puzzle level Inconsistency: Some puzzles are engaging and challenging which makes the more simplistic ones seem tedious in comparison.
V. Game Aesthetics
This true 16x19 widescreen game is visually stunning with dozens of gorgeous hand painted scenes. Every square inch of the screen displays an artistic piece that screams for attention. It's impossible to play this game without pausing every so often to appreciate the beautiful work of these game makers.
The game has a number of short but well crafted cutscenes in between chapters and after major checkpoints that help to advance the story line and fill in some mysterious historical gaps. These scenes are fascinating to watch because so much is happening at one time, and players have an opportunity to see the stunning drawings come to life in a Disney-like fairytale.
The larger computer versions of the game allow for a full experience, and it's not surprising that the majority of the game's downloads have been for PC/Mac.
The mobile version is rather problematic because so many of the hidden objects are diminutive. You wouldn't clearly be able to see what you were looking for, even if you owned a larger tablet phone. Graphics would still be fantastic, but the detailing would not be appreciated. Not to mention, tapping in random areas of the screen would allow for cheating. I think the game should be exclusively for computers for players to get the full experience.
The Shade and other dark creatures are portrayed as grotesque and often startling while the powers that oppose them are unbelievably lovely. Scenes are incredibly detailed and burst with radiating flowers, glistening streams, waterfalls and radiant sunlight. Even the darker scenes are just as appealing with magical components and artistic renditions that will leave you breathless.
Bonus content allows users to play through an additional chapter, download wallpaper, view concept art, listen to the soundtrack, replay cutscenes and even read strategy guides.
The music is nostalgic and seemingly reminiscent of a 1960s British horror tune, with eerie, echoed notes with soft etheral vocals. Apart from the cutscenes, there are no voice-overs that deter from playable moments within the game, so the player is able to dedicate their attention almost entirely on the adventure.
Sound effects are triggered when the player either accomplishes or fails at completing a certain puzzle/mini-game. Sounds are strategically synchronized to play with the game's animations (i.e. sparkling noises appear with glistening graphics). These effects are either extremely satisfying or surprisingly jarring, which adds to the fairytale-like mysitque of the game.
The story itself is meant to be reminiscent of a fairy tale, and the colours are a direct reflection of such a fantasy. Dreamy colours, soft blends, shadows and extreme detail are used to further enhance the experience and legitimacy of the overall story line. As the game play progresses, scenes change drastically and become interactive in new ways.
VI. Replayability and Retention
Level design is a huge bottleneck in hidden object games. To counter this, Otherworld: Spring of Shadows has players playing the game again with three varying (i) difficulty levels, (ii)unlockable achievements, (iii) collectables and a (iv) bonus chapter.
(i) Difficulty Levels:
Casual mode has more hints and guided help. Click on the checkmark above the journal to get guidance on what to do next.
Expert mode has fewer hints and guided help.
Hardcore mode has no hints nor guided help and you cannot skip puzzles.
(ii) Unlockable Achievements: There are a lot of achievements in the game; in order to obtain them all in one playthrough you must play in Hardcore Mode and you must find all the 'Easter eggs'.
(iii) Collectibles: There are 60 Collectibles (fairies) to gather in the game. They can be found in quest scenes, and in close-ups. Once found, the player can view them from the main menu and appreciate some great detailing and even more stunning art work.
(iv) Bonus Chapter: Upon completion of the game, owners of the Otherworld: Spring of Shadows Collector Edition will be able to play an Epilogue with new puzzles and cutscenes called "That Fateful Day".
The game can be enjoyed time and time again, however apart from a slightly different player experience, the final outcome will always be the same.
VII. Game Audience and Design
Intended Audience: Women aged 17+ (Although the game is intended to cater to women ages 17+, I wouldn't be surprised if male players got hooked)
Rating: E for Everyone
Elements of Targeted Design:
Design: The game is visually stunning with vivid colours. Music is magical and the characters are beautiful with extreme detail. As a female, you feel like you're not only witnessing a fairytale, but becoming a part of it. The music and sound effect work well to create a mystical world that many girls would consider to be enchanting. 'Feminine' items such as fairy sculptures, flowers and decals can be found copiously throughout gameplay.
Voice Narration: The player's character is voiced by a woman -- the intended demographic of the game.
Story: The story itself has a sense of adventure, romanticism, mystique and suspense. It provides an escape from the real world through an enchanting and engaging story.
Progression: Hints provide the player with a sense of power knowing they cannot fail. There is always a chance for progression, which is simultaneously both comforting and encouraging.
VIII. Monetization strategy - Freemium
Otherworld: Spring of Shadows, like most Boomzap games, uses a freemium model. Players have an opportunity to try the game for 60 minutes prior to purchasing it. The marketing strategy is to spark enough interest by 'hooking' them in with a fast moving and enticing game. Personally, I was a 'victim'; after playing for only an hour I had an attachment to the main chapters and storyline with an irrepressible desire to continue my progress which I'd worked hard to achieve for the hour. Needless to say, I purchased the game and intend on finishing it as soon as my schedule allows for it.
Since I was a new customer with a new account, I was offered a promocode on Big Fish games (game distributor site) which allowed me to cut the cost of the game in half. The $2.99 I paid for this work of art was more than reasonable. The discount linked to my new account was the company's way of welcoming me, establishing a relationship, and also an attempt at 'hooking' me. They offer the first game at a discounted price to reel you in so that you purchase multiple games on their platform -- no wonder their company is called "Big Fish". Their hope is that players will enjoy the first game so much they will want to purchase more from the company and this time be more confident in making the purchase, feeling the value warrants the cost. Quite clever, if you ask me.
Although this is marked as a Hidden Object Game, the puzzles and adventure aspects make this more of an RPG simulation. The enchanted fairy tale is a refreshing escape from all the horror titles in the market, but still maintains its allure with certain aspects of darkness. Some of the puzzles are a bit too easy to solve and inconspicuous, but their unique and entertaining qualities allow you to progress. Apart from this, the game has some incredible merit. With stunning/highly detailed visuals, well-crafted atmospheric music, interactive scenes, engaging visuals and a fair price point, this is a game I would highly recommend.
Graphics: 5/5 Stars
Sound: 4/5 Stars
Story: 4/5 Stars
Originality: 4/5 Stars
Gameplay: 3.5/5 Stars
Puzzles: 3.5/5 Stars
Control and Navigation: 4/5 Stars
Ability to Maintain Interest: 4.5/5
Fun Factor: 3.5/5 Stars
Extras: 3.5/5 Stars