April 12, 2009
When we first met our intrepid heroine, she was traveling the world in search of the legendary Hidden Roses of Athena. Pursued by the evil Ravena Stryker, she had to use her keen eye, resourceful compatriots and an assortment of tools to find her way out of trouble and to recover the roses for the Museum of Secrets Lost. Apparently undeterred by this dangerous mission, Samantha Swift returns again in a new casual adventure that has her in search of Alexander Great’s Scroll of Wealth. Unfortunately, there is a mysterious brotherhood who wants it, too – and they also want King Midas’ Golden Touch. Now Samantha has to use the scroll to stop this mystical power from becoming an agent of evil, while the trail of her missing father continues to heat up....
Gamers who played the first Samantha Swift adventure will recognize the interface and gameplay format right away, and newcomers to the series will have no trouble diving headfirst into the mystery. The series plays like a search-and-find casual game, but with clever twists. As Samantha is employed by the Museum of Secrets Lost, she must obtain relics for the museum during the course of her adventure. In each new location you visit, there is a list of items for you to find. Some of them are priceless objects, some are tools, and some are just random objects hidden in the scene – though all, thankfully, are at least appropriate; there are no anachronisms (i.e. a cell phone in an ancient city) or anything to detract from the mood. If you have trouble finding something, there is a PDA that can help you out. Just click on the item in question, and the PDA will show you a silhouette of what the item looks like. If you then move your cursor around the scene, the silhouette will grow redder as you get closer to finding the object. If you are still having trouble, you can use the thunderbolts you collect along the way to ‘zap’ the item and give away its hiding place.
In this particular installment, there are usually two lists of items to look for, as opposed to just one list in the previous game. Items in blue have to be found using tools. The cursor turns blue with a gear icon in a place where a tool is needed. For example, you may have to use a shovel on a patch of dirt in order to dig up a new artifact. There is always an artifact at the end of each level that has to be revealed using a tool. These challenges get more difficult as the game progresses and often require some creative problem-solving. My only issue with this part of the game is that there are no visual clues to help you figure out where a tool is needed, so you have to wave your cursor around wildly to find the right spot. Even then, some of these situations are a little unintuitive, and you have to try every tool at your disposal before finding the right one.
This time around, there are also more mini-games to play in order to progress to new levels. Especially difficult (and different) in this game was an Alexandrian knot puzzle. Again, these games are nice additions to the tired hunt-and-find formula and actually get you thinking outside of the box. Casual gamers may be somewhat daunted by these puzzles, which are not as easy as the simple object-hunting scenes, but they are solvable after some critical thinking and trial and error. The animations and cut-scenes, I have to say, are pretty cool, certainly a treat for a casual game, and do an admirable job of immersing you in the mystique of the adventure, along with the ominous music that plays unobtrusively in the background.
There are many levels, many things to find, and many puzzles to solve in this game, so while the price of $19.99 may at first appear steep for a casual game, I can assure you that it is actually appropriate given that this is a game that, if played at intervals (as it should be, I think), will be well worth every dollar, as it is even longer and more involved than its predecessor, with a layered plot worthy of an adventure game itself, never mind a casual game. MumboJumbo Games has delivered another winning Samantha Swift adventure. If you are a fan of casual games and have not tried this series, I highly recommend starting now.
Final Grade: A