The nameless female detective from Artifex Mundi's Enigmatis series is back. She has tracked her nemesis, an evil preacher, to Himalayan mountains. She first encountered this seemingly immortal adversary in a small town of Maple Creek in Vermont where the preacher had committed a series of murders over decades. Escaping the authorities, his killing spree continued in a remote Ravenwood heritage park. Now, at the edge of the world, it’s time for the final confrontation between the protagonist and the preacher, who’s about to summon an ancient evil to subjugate the world.
Out of over a dozen of casual adventure games by Artifex Mundi I have played, Enigmatis: The Ghosts of Maple Creek remains the best. It combined a quiet small-town ambience into a mystery rooted in decades before events of the game. In comparison, I felt that the sequel Engimatis 2: The Mists of Ravenwood was somewhat forced both in puzzles and in the story. At first, Enigmatis 3: The Shadow of Karkhala seems quite remote when it takes the player out of commonplace Northern America to the freezing cold Himalayan mountains. After all, two previous games played with comforts and clichés of their settings. However, Enigmatis 3 finds familiar ground in how it paves the way to conclude the trilogy. The detective isn’t alone in her journey as she’s joined by private eye Richard Hamilton who she befriended back in Maple Creek.
The usual casual adventure tropes of hidden object scenes, minigames and puzzle solving are all present, but Enigmatis 3 takes a step closer to more traditional adventure games. Unlike in most Artifex Mundi titles, some inventory objects (marked with a plus sign next to them) can be manipulated; opened, twisted or combined with other items. This alone gives more depth to the puzzle solving. Minigames, on the other hand, are a far and few between and they are quite easy. Many of them have added quality of life features, like tracing back steps without need to restart. Clearly the focus is in item-based puzzle solving, and there are many devious obstacles laid against our protagonist, some created by the nature and chance, and some by evil-doers along the path to the final confrontation.
Anyone who has played an Artifxl Mundi adventure will agree that hidden object scenes are fast and fun item tracking. In Enigmatis 3, however, they are more challenging than before. Only few items in them are hidden in plain sight, while most need to be exposed or created with other objects. This leads to multi-layered item spotting. For example, you need to find a purple sphere. There’s a half of wooden ball lying around, which you attach to a broken decorative object to create the full sphere. Then you make a plate of purple paint by pouring blue and red paint cans into it. Then you grab a brush, dip it into the purple paint and daub the wooden ball with it. Given the cluttered view of the hidden object scenes, it’s not clear at the first glance how to create the needed objects. This raises the challenge bar for trophies, especially for the usual one of solving hidden object scene in under a minute. I clocked it only in the bonus chapter where the hidden objects scenes are considerably simpler than in the main story.
It’s a good thing that the level of challenge has been raised, as the game is a tad shorter than its previous entries. Then again, it makes Enigmatis 3 a tight experience. It doesn’t deviate from its well-planned path. The game is segmented, so you’re always making progress and backtracking is kept only within a few screens at a time. It results in focused gaming, constantly catching the player’s attention. Not to mention that twists and turns of the story will add motivation to see the mystery through. The familiar deduction board from Enigmatis series is back and will have to be consulted time to time to open the story progress. The post-game bonus chapter can be seen even tragic in the light of events of the main story.
Visually, Engimatis 3 follows the tried-and-tested Artifex Mundi style. The scenes are rich and detailed, but this time the color tones are more somber and digital paint strokes a bit coarser around the edges, creating a suitably desolate feeling. Unfortunately, the regular voice actress sounds, if possible, even more uninspired than usually, making some scenes unintentionally comical. A small gripe in otherwise satisfying finale to the series. No matter how seasoned hardcore adventure game veteran you think you are (like me), you have to admit that Artifex Mundi’s casual adventures are welcome break to daily activities. Even though their premises are often dark, their classic attitude of good eventually conquering evil can liven up the dreariest of days. There’s no trendy “grey area” of the contemporary fiction in Enigmatis 3 and once in a while, that’s only a good thing.
Video game nerd & artist. I've been playing computer and video games since the early 80's so I dare say I have some perspective to them. When I'm not playing, I'm usually at my art board.