Developer Artifex Mundi is back with another PS4 "Hidden Object/Puzzle" game, continuing their recent streak of bringing over their PC titles to consoles. This time, we are looking at Eventide: Slavic Fable, which promises even more puzzles with a Slavic-twist. However, is this a worthy entry to this puzzle series... or a fable that should stop being told?
In Eventide, you are a renowned botanist visiting your Grandmother at "Heritage Park", a museum and tourist destination for Slavic Folklore curated by good old Granny. Your happy reunion is not to be, however, as a giant moth-like creature attacks and ends up whisking your Grandmother away, leaving you to figure out what is going on.
As you can tell, the story is primarily driven toward finding your kidnapped Grandmother and eventually evolves into stopping the "forces of evil" from carrying out their sinister plot. Pretty standard stuff with a basic "good vs. evil" vibe. I was more interested in the "Slavic Folklore" aspect of the story, and while you can check out the museum and read a few (short) fable-like stories while you play through the game, there are no actual fables to be had here. You are surrounded by Slavic Folklore and creatures, but you aren't directly told or shown any fables as the story is much more focused on your current predicament which again, turns out to be a fairly standard "stop the bad guy" story.
Standard story aside, if you are looking for a wealth of puzzles, Eventide definitely has your back. There is a wide variety of puzzles to be found here, ranging from "Hidden Object" scenes to various logic puzzles. Almost every puzzle you solve gives you an item as well, which you'll need to either complete more puzzles ("We have puzzles in our puzzles!") or to interact with the environment to advance the story.
Eventide has the "quality of life" touches that other games in the series have introduced. This includes a map function, which lets you fast-travel between locations, as well as an entirely optional hint system that will help you out in case you ever get stuck. The hint system in particular is well designed and can show you where to go as well as how to solve puzzles. It's very helpful when one missed item can halt your progress entirely.
Having played quite a few of these puzzle games from this same developer now (since they have all been coming to the PlayStation 4...), I would be remiss if I didn't point out that the game play does indeed take a step back with this game. For starters, almost every puzzle you see in this game is recycled from a previous title. Not a problem if you are picking up this game on its own, but overwhelmingly obvious if you have been playing these games in a row. Also, the "Hidden Puzzle" scenes in this title have no optional mini-game to play. Previous titles in this series let you forgo these hidden puzzle scenes to play Mahjong or Dominoes, but there's just NO other option here (which hurts the replayability a bit as well). Overall, it just feels like the developer "phoned-in" the puzzles this time, which is a bit disappointing.
For a puzzle game, Eventide has great graphics overall. Granted, the locations you'll explore are static scenes but are drawn with plenty of detail and are typically colorful and attractive. The various creatures you encounter are also... usually... well drawn. I say "usually" so awkwardly since while I did enjoy the foreign creatures (my wife and I spent a few minutes looking at each one and dissecting them...), I found a few of them to be unsettling. The animations are a bit underwhelming and come off a bit too mechanical -- creepy even, like watching the animatronics at a dilapidated Chuck E Cheese...
The audio throughout the game is solid. The game has great "easy listening" harp and piano pieces to relax to as you solve its various puzzles, with the occasional dramatic piece when the story calls for it. The tracks do get rather repetitive over time, and none of them will stay with you long after beating the game, but they do their job well. I especially enjoyed the ambient nature sounds. The voice acting throughout the title is also solid, but really nothing special or noteworthy. If anything the voices here are rather stereotypical throughout and lack any sense of agency, but again, they match the standard "good vs. evil" story that is portrayed.
Unfortunately, this is one of the shorter games of the series so far. There is a "Bonus Chapter" that serves as something of a prequel that you can play through once you beat the game, but your average puzzle gamer can still play through this title and the bonus chapter in a good afternoon (6-8 hours, I would guess). The lack of alternate game modes hurts the replayability a bit, but also makes this the easiest Artifex Mundi game to date (and another very easy trophy list).
While the puzzles (both hidden object and logic-based) are still great if you enjoy the genre, they will be massively underwhelming if you've played previous Artifex Mundi games before. This alone was the single most disappointing thing about the game for me... I really do want (and rather expect) developers to come up with new puzzles game to game. Combined with the standard story and the step back in replayability, I'm rather unimpressed.
As a stand-alone title, there are plenty of puzzles to enjoy here, and the game is very user-friendly as well (not to mention an easy target for trophy hunters). If you enjoy the genre and those things are a plus for you, this can still be a title worth picking up.
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