Review Date: October 12, 2010
Developer: Prime Games, Daedalic Entertainment
Publisher: Legacy Games
Genre: Hidden Object
Despite all the potential for intrigue and mystery that the setting provides, Column of the Maya is as straightforward a hidden object game as you're likely to find. The gameplay is simple, the story short and cliche, and the puzzles are dull. And with a muddled visual style and some frustrating lack of direction, this makes it a hard game to recommend, even for serious HOG fans.
Digging For Answers
The game stars Sarah who quickly discovers that her archaeologist uncle has gone missing. She decides to set off in search of him, using his research as a way to guide her along. Her search for her uncle eventually gets tied up with a treasure hunt, where she'll have to deal with a double crossing relic hunter named Miguel. Interestingly, the story starts out at the end, as Sarah recounts her adventures while Miguel holds her at gunpoint. It's an interesting storytelling mechanic, unfortunately it's wrapped around a rather banal story.
It's not just that the setting has been visited so many times before, especially by hidden object games, but also that the game seems more focused on pithy dialog then actually telling a story. And while there's some good back and forth between Sarah and Miguel, it's not enough to overcome the lacking narrative. The way the story is set-up also makes it seem like the game is destined for a sequel, so it's likely that this won't be the last you see of these two.
A Not So Exciting Adventure
Unfortunately, the actual game isn't much more creative. It's a relatively straight forward HOG with a few puzzles and mini-games tossed into the mix. The hidden object sections go the traditional route, giving you a list of objects you need to find before moving on to the next screen. There's a hint system, though it can be somewhat vague at times, not necessarily making it clear where the object is. There's also a healthy dose of spot the difference games, which display two images and task you with finding a certain number of differences between the two. There are a few other mini-games as well, including memory and some logic games. And while they're mostly pretty straightforward, unlike most HOGs Column of the Maya doesn't feature a skip option, so if you get stuck you'll simply need to power through it. On occasion the game is also unclear with what exactly you need to do to solve the puzzles, especially during the final epilogue sequence.
Visually, Column of the Maya is definitely a mixed bag. It'\s art style is so inconsistent that at times it looks great, while at others the art actually interferes with the gameplay, making it difficult to find objects. Some objects have a dark outline, giving them a nice stylized look, while others simply don't, for no apparent reason. The art style also makes it difficult to determine what certain objects are. Sometimes they're too small, sometimes they simply look nothing like what they're supposed to be. Naturally, this can be quite frustrating when you need to find them.
The Bottom Line
With so many HOGs being released on a regular basis, a game like Column of the Maya is a tough sell. Neither the story nor the gameplay nor the visuals will grab you, meaning that the game has little to offer. Aside from a few flashes of fun dialog, the game is mediocre at best and frustrating at worst, and simply not up to the standards that most HOG players are used to.