Review Date: August 31, 2010
Developer: Amaranth Games
Publisher: Amaranth Games
Genre: Hidden Object
The most common complaint when it comes to hidden object games is they're all so similar. Aside from story and visuals, it's often hard to tell one from the next since they feature nearly identical gameplay. And that's A Gypsy's Tale's biggest strength. While most of the game is fairly generic, it puts a new twist on the way you actually find objects. It also doesn't hurt that it's just plain gorgeous to look at.
A New Take On Finding Objects
In A Gypsy's Tale, you take on the role of a gypsy who has been hired by a monk to remove a curse from a seemingly haunted tower. To do so you'll have to make your way through an intricate maze filled with all sorts of obstacles. Even though the game comes from a developer best known for its role playing games, it's surprisingly light when it comes to the story. There aren't really any cut scenes and your interaction with characters is minimal. In fact, many of the characters won't speak more than a line or two of dialog, if they even talk at all. This might be disappointing for some, but it does create an interesting and lonely atmosphere. It really feels like you're exploring a magical maze all by yourself.
For the most part the fantasy setting feels fairly generic, with gnomes and other creatures and plenty of magic potions to brew. But there are a few unique touches, like weather machines, that give the game a somewhat distinctive personality. But most of what makes up the game's setting is stuff you've probably already seen many times before.
What is fresh and unique, though, is how the game tackles the HOG formula. As you progress you'll need to pick up many different objects that are necessary for solving puzzles, but doing so will require you to find a number of other objects first. Once you click on the item you need a pop-up window will appear over it that reveals what items you'll need to find in order to use it. You'll still be scouring scenes for items like in all HOGs, but the subtle change makes it feel fresh.
A Beautiful Challenge
All of these items that you'll be picking up will be used in some sort of puzzle. Sometimes it's something simple like using a key to unlock a door or a pair of shears to clear away some vines, while other times the puzzles are much more complex and require the use of multiple items. To keep you on the right track the game features both a rechargeable hint system and a list that displays all of your current tasks. But even with that help there are still times when it's not entirely clear what it is you're supposed to do next.
There's quite a bit of backtracking in the game, as you'll be constantly be moving back and forth from scene to scene in order to collect items and solve puzzles. Thankfully, the game features a map that lets you quickly jump from one location to the next. But in order to do so you'll first need to collect crystals. Each scene features a number of crystals to find, and once you collect them all that particular location will be available on the map. You'll also come across a number of skippable mini-games, which consist of traditional HOG fair like memory and sliding block puzzles.
It also needs to be said that A Gypsy's Tale is one of the best looking HOGs out there. It features incredibly lush and detailed, hand-painted art that makes exploring each location very enjoyable. There are lots of subtle animations in most scenes, like trees blowing in the wind or adorable deer nibbling on leaves. The only problem with the visuals is that the art sometimes makes it difficult to pick out objects, as they blend in very well with the background.
The Bottom Line
At first glance A Gypsy's Tale doesn't look all that different from most hidden object games. And for the most part, it isn't. From the mini-games to the story, it's mostly gameplay you've seen before. But the new take on actually finding objects coupled with some beautiful visuals makes this a game that's well worth a look. It may be lacking in a few areas, but the rest of the experience definitely makes up for any shortcomings.