We’ve all been there…
…You’re enjoying a romantic candle-lit dinner with your boyfriend. The mood feels right. He’s acting skittish, fumbling for the right words. You just know he’s about to pop the question. Your heart’s in your mouth; the anticipation is palpable. Everything is perfect. At the worst possible moment the phone rings and, for the brief moment that you’re away from the table, your new fiancé is kidnapped by a highly sexualised demon who drags him to an alternate dimension; a place of unimaginable misery where couples are kept apart for eternity. You resolve then and there to dive into the void and win back your true love…
Okay, maybe we haven’t all been there. But in Alawar Entertainment’s Sacra Terra: Kiss of Death, you can at least get a feeling of how the above scenario would play out. In this hidden object puzzle game you play the role of Tiffany, a brave young girl who sets out on a journey of discovery to rescue Mark from the clutches of the Lilith, a scantily clad devil intent on causing mischief. In the process, Tiffany will also reunite other lost couples throughout the game’s varying locations.
There’s only so many things to be said about Sacra Terra. By their very nature, hidden object puzzle games have to keep things relatively simple to allow players to progress. In that respect, Sacra Terra achieves its remit. The game does exactly what it says on the tin.
The aesthetics, whilst basic, are eerily gothic and succeed in creating an appropriate atmosphere. The hand drawn static backgrounds are well-presented and look great a large TV screen. Even with some rather risqué cut-scenes, the overall story arc is largely forgettable, so it’s a good thing that the puzzles themselves are rewarding enough to warrant completion.
As you progress through the game you are presented with various backdrops over which you need to hover your cursor in search of elusive clues and markers. You navigate from screen to screen by opening doors and passageways. The gameplay is fast paced and very fluid; there are even times when it feels like the game is playing itself, as you blindly click through a number of gestures or pick up items you didn’t even know you were looking for.
Hidden object games have flooded PC and mobile platforms in recent years, with mouse and touch based interfaces being the perfect medium for pixel hunting items on an overly cluttered screen. Developed for the PS3, Sacra Terra allows for the use of PlayStation Move controllers for a more intuitive experience than the standard Dualshock analog sticks. However, I would have much preferred to be able to plug in a mouse, as the there are occasions when accuracy can become a problem, especially when trying to manoeuvre your cursor over smaller objects.
I also ran into some minor issues with Sacra Terra’s use of object names. A hidden object game needs to be as specific as possible, but on more then one occasion it was quite ambiguous. At one point I was asked to find a ‘tube’ and spent a good deal of time looking around the room to no avail. Eventually, I discovered that the tube in question was a tube of toothpaste.
However, things do begin to get interesting once you have cleared the first few rooms and opened up the map, building an inventory of items and objectives. There’s never a time when you feel overwhelmed by the puzzles or the amount of items you’re carrying. Mostly you will pick up a specific object and know instantly where it belongs.
If you do struggle with any of puzzles, there’s a handy hint button at the bottom of the screen with an appropriate cool-down timer, however I found that I was rarely stuck on anything more than a few moments. Like any hidden object game, its Achilles heel is the fact that you can effectively sweep your cursor across the screen in a grid like pattern and eventually find what you’re looking for.
Total play time to completion was no more than a couple of hours, but I remained engaged throughout and there was definitely a sense of smug satisfaction in completing the game‘s later stages.
It’s hard to gauge Sacra Terra’s target demographic on PS3. As a hidden object game, this will definitely appeal to casual gamers and puzzle enthusiasts, although the story and overall premise may turn off a hard-core audience. Whether a title historically suited to touch based devices can find success on a home console platform remains to be seen.