Hidden object puzzle adventure games are all the rage these days, and with one popping up seemingly every 4 seconds on PC and mobile platforms, they must be doing pretty well for themselves to be viable. This isn’t a slight on the genre from me; I actually appreciate what they offer to hardcore and casual gamers alike. However, if you don’t really mess around with mobile or PC gaming, you may not have dabbled in these kinds of games too often, or even at all. Well, if you’ve got an Xbox One, developer and publisher Artifex Mundi are bringing their preferred game type to the platform as often as they can, and next up, is Grim Legends: The Forsaken Bride.
Grim Legends: The Forsaken Bride is the 4th game in the genre Artifex Mundi has ported over to Xbox One, and like the previous 3 games (Nightmares from the Deep: The Cursed Heart, Clockwork Tales: Of Glass and Ink, and Enigmatis: The Ghosts of Maple Creek), it brings hidden object puzzles, point and click adventure tactics, and a streamlined user interface for controllers among others to potential new fans and a familiar game-style they know and love to current ones. The developers have carved out a nice little space for themselves in a niche market (at least on a home console), and it seems they don’t want to give up what they’ve worked towards, which is good news for us. They have a decently sized catalog to choose from and work with, so there’s a good chance this won’t be the last game they pluck from the archives to bring over.
The story of Grim Legends: The Forsaken Bride opens up with a scene showcasing a sad and angry woman shouting into the abyss, damning the man who hurt her so horribly. Little does she know this would set up grave consequences, and change the lives of many for years to come. Once we gain control, the story takes us to the village of Ravenbrook, where we’re invited to our twin sister Lilly’s wedding. When we finally arrive, just before the ceremony takes place, the village is attacked by a bear and Lilly is taken away with the animal, deep into the forest. Edward, Lilly’s soon-to-be husband, and a group of townsfolk set off to rescue her, and of course you tag along to help. It is your sister, after all!! As we make our way into the forest, the adventure opens up (in more ways than one) and we stumble into having not only to save our sister, but a long superstitious village as well.
As in the devs previous games, the main attraction here is a combination of point and click adventure puzzles mixed with hidden object mini games throughout, as well as a fully voice acted story, interwoven with still images and full-motion video pieces where necessary. We also get the same beautiful hand painted style backgrounds to wander through and visually enjoy. You won’t be moving your character directly, rather just pointing to a location and interacting with what is on-screen, be it a puzzle or the environment to help move you forward one way or another.
The artwork is definitely a highlight to this series of games, and what we’re treated with here is no exception. Bright colors, appropriate atmosphere, and detailed items all help bring this “moving painting” to life in a satisfying way. You may find yourself just staring at the scenery for a bit before moving forward with each new scene you step into, and no one would blame you. This style also allows for nice looking animals, and we come across a cute little kitten early on in the game, which, lucky for us, sticks around to help us out in tough situations as only a kitty can do. I always appreciate a cute kitten, and I don’t think I’m alone in that.
While the game does feature some nice visuals while stationary, it’s not all balloons and rainbows in motion, sadly. This isn’t to say when the painted backgrounds turn into a kind of motion comic they look awful, but there is definitely a roughness to it, especially when the transition initially happens. It doesn’t totally ruin the experience, but it’s definitely noticeable in practice. Which is a shame, because when still, the artwork is such a wonderful thing to look at. I wonder if that’s an inevitability when taking the stills and turning them into motion, that you lose quality no matter what, in every sense of the phrase, and there may be nothing that can be done. Who knows, but again, it’s not game breaking by any means, so I wouldn’t expect any more “backlash” than this kind of pointing it out.
The sound design here isn’t anything too special. The obvious sound effects rattle off when something magical happens and the music throughout is stylized to fit the environments, but nothing stands out as a ground-breaking experience. This isn’t to say what we have here isn’t good, because it is, but it’s not going to make you think anything above that. The voice acting is pretty decently done, however sometimes the inflection or tone of what is being said over shoots or undermines the situation a bit. Nothing major, but certainly something to recognize. Add to that the subtitles and dialogue a few times had poor grammar or spelling, and you start to see some of the rough edges. Nothing that can’t be overcome, mind, but it’s still something you’ll probably pick up on if you’re paying attention.
The main puzzle-type attraction is the hidden object puzzles that we frequent. There isn’t an overabundance of them, and even though we go through the same picture a couple of times each, the items needed are different each time, so it doesn’t hurt the experience. There are a few times where what you’re looking for may be really tough to see on-screen, but I wager that’s a combo of the nature of the beast as well as a conscious decision to make them a bit harder, since the overall game itself isn’t too difficult to begin with. These quick distractions are definitely fun to partake in, and I certainly looked forward to seeing the sparkling areas pop up that indicated it was time to use my eyeballs more aggressively.
Aside from the normal adventure game puzzles like fitting items together, mixing ingredients, or swapping pieces back and forth, we also have the opportunity to play a version of dominoes. If hidden object searching isn’t your thing, you can forgo that and swap out to play a game of dominoes, where you need to cover up certain squares on the board by placing like-tiled game pieces over them. You don’t have to choose one over the other for the entire game, either, so if you want a change of pace every now and then, you can do that. A nice touch.
Once you complete the main game, to get the full story you’ll want to play the Bonus episode as well. Aside from there being an Achievement for beating it, the episode picks up where the main story ends and furthers the end thread along while looking to close up one that’s left open. I definitely recommend it, though I don’t know why anyone would skip it to begin with. Although, I do know people personally who routinely do on things like this, so, don’t be that guy. You owe it to yourself!!
There are plenty of things to enjoy about GL: TFB, as I’ve covered, but there are issues that I take with it, too. Some are just nitpicks, others are more serious, as you’ve seen so far. Here are some more for your eyes to look over. The kitten, while a fun little addition (and cute), isn’t used as often as I thought it should be. Some scenarios seemed perfect to have him use his talents, but alas, he spends a lot of his time hanging out, cleaning himself and looking adorable. On the default difficulty, the game is very easy. If you ever get stuck, just wait a few seconds and the screen will point you to where you need to be. The same goes with the map and fast travel system (yes, there is that mechanic in this game, and it’s useful, I promise). It will tell you where you need to be if you ever get stuck. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, you’ll want to start on the hard mode. I guess this isn’t really a good or bad thing, it just is what it is, so take that info into account so you can play how you want to play initially. The last point I want to put out there in the negative space is that the ending left me unsatisfied. I don’t really want to get too in-depth with it because it would spoil what happens throughout and plot points, etc., but what we end the main game on isn’t to my liking, and by the end of the Bonus episode, I still felt underwhelmed. Certain characters just act so oddly in certain situations that it felt weird to me.
I know many people pick these kinds of games up for the Achievements, and I don’t think you’ll be too dissatisfied here. As I explained, the game is pretty easy, and once you know what you need to do, getting the hard difficulty points won’t be a major chore. There are multiple play throughs needed to complete the set, but it shouldn’t stop you from trying, because the game isn’t going to suck up your life like a major release would do. So, the loop is enjoyable enough to aim high here.
As I explained throughout, there are some good points and some not so good points (pun not intended) to this game. Overall, I had plenty of fun with my time searching for Lilly and uncovering the mysteries of the village. This game does enough right to be worthy of playing. It’s not too long to outstay its welcome, even if you decide to 100% it, and there’s value to be had should you decide to take the plunge and find out the oddities of the land for yourself. I haven’t had the pleasure of playing the 3 other games I mentioned above yet, but they are now on my radar for sometime in the future, and if you enjoy this (or have played one of the others and enjoyed that), I can’t imagine not at least being interested in the rest of the “series” we have on Xbox One. Besides, did you not hear that there’s a kitten with you, and he helps you out? Because there is. And he’s cute.
Grim Legends: The Forsaken Bride is available now on Steam and Xbox One for $9.99 It’s also available on all of the major mobile stores should you prefer to play that way. A code was provided by Artifex Mundi for the purpose of this review.