Adventure games on the iPad and iPhone are an easy way to escape from reality just for a few minutes (or an hour or two). The games range from platformers, hidden objects, to the traditional third-person point-and-click (or should it be called point-and-touch?). Adventure games are growing on these portable platforms, and we managed to snag Brightstone Mysteries: Paranormal Hotel by G5 Entertainment.
Brightstone Mysteries: Paranormal Hotel (here on out referred to as Brightstone Mysteries) starts out with Bridget Brightstone trying to enjoy her vacation when she is suddenly and rudely interrupted by her boss to check out a necklace robbery at a French castle-turned-hotel. After receiving a rather cold introduction to Detective Matisse, Bridget finally settles in to get to the bottom of things. After a short period of time, it’s apparent that the missing necklace case is no longer the main subject of the story as Bridget begins to uncover clues that involve ghosts, resurrecting the dead, the Knights Templar, and crazy Egyptian cultists. It’s this kind of storyline that can keep you hooked but it does end up getting fantastical.
The general gameplay is your typical point-and-click affair: using objects you find throughout the game you either unlock new passages, information, and so on. While there are some laughable objects to keep in your inventory (no idea how Bridget is lugging around a forklift or a ladder), it’s part of the adventure game trope that we’ve pretty much grown to accept and love. There are times where you’ll have to also combine items in your inventory, and it is very easy to do so without the need to inspect items closely.
There are quite a few minigames that are used to further your exploration of the castle and surrounding land, all which are challenging and fun. These can be skipped if you’re having trouble figuring them out, but I suggest keeping at it as they’re not incredibly annoying to play.
On your adventure if you ever become stuck, there is a handy diary you can check out to see what your current objectives are, with helpful hints as to what to do. These hints are never too revealing, allowing you to still have a genuine “aha!” moment, and if you’re truly stuck, there is an even more helpful hint system that will assist you even further. There is a time period where you can’t use the hint system after using it, so make sure you’ll be using it when it counts. I myself had to resort to this hint button a few times as Brightstone Mysteries can get confusing as to where to go next, even with the diary.
The touch screen interactivity works really well in Brightstone Mysteries. There’s always the worry about how precise you have to really be in some adventure games in searching for clues and items, but it’s pretty lenient in this game. There was only one time where I found the item menu getting in the way of finding a clue, but aside from that, no other issues. While selectable items aren’t exactly highlighted, they do stand out enough or are made obvious enough to know that they’re an item you’ll need. Kudos to that, because randomly tapping about on a screen is not a fun way to extend gameplay.
Depending on how you like your adventure games, Brightstone Mysteries’ length can be an issue. While an experienced player can see themselves beating this within two hours if kept at it actively, with less experienced players seeing possibly between 3-5 hours. There are in-game achievements to reward additional replays, but once you’ve beaten Brightstone Mysteries, you’ve seen it all. The length is perfect if you’re looking for something to change up your iOS game line up or you’re on a flight or road trip, but for the longer run it feels shorter than it should be. The story really quickens up near the end to get your adrenaline pumping though, and I found it pretty engrossing.
The graphics are pleasant and sharp enough to pick out details for clues. An added feature that helped out a lot was the ability to pinch and zoom in on the scenery to aid in finding items. This feature is something that all developers should take note, because it is incredibly helpful and useful. There are a few animations between characters and with objects on the screen, but it’s nothing too extravagant. Pre-rendered movies do intersperse from time to time to aid in the storyline and the situation and add a nice touch.
Sound does feel a bit subdued, but functional. Since you’ll mainly be inspecting scenes for clues and items, sound isn’t a necessary feature. Although there are times where sound might be important, but on-screen text will indicate what’s been heard. An example would be the puzzle with unlocking a safe using a stethoscope. While you can listen in for when the tumblers click, there are prompts that indicate when it happened. This is great for players that need to play on silent since sometimes having sound isn’t a possibility.
Overall Brightstone Mysteries is a fun little adventure game to play. The gameplay is fun and challenging, the storyline is a bit fantastical, and there are options and difficulties to cater to all kinds of adventure gamers. However the shadow over its head is the length of the gameplay itself. There is a free play option for those that want to feel it out, but a full purchase is $6.99 which may be a bit steep for such short gameplay. Newcomers to the genre may find themselves playing a bit longer, but it might be tough to come back once you’ve beaten it.