Review Date: August 4, 2010
Developer: Alawar Stargaze
Publisher: Alawar Entertainment
Genre: Hidden Object
If there's one setting that's woefully underused in gaming, it's steampunk. And this is especially true for hidden object games. But Snark Busters: Welcome to the Club, the latest HOG from Alawar, bucks this trend, presenting a world filled with steam engines and airships. Not to mention a little bit of magic. It also happens to be an excellent game, with challenging puzzles and a lengthy campaign.
What's a Snark?
Kira is a rebellious young lady. How rebellious? She keeps a collection of stolen police hats in her bedroom. And her father also just so happens to be the richest man in town and more than a little strict. After learning of her latest bout of head wear thievery, Kira's dad puts her on lock down. Literally: he locks her up in the house. Naturally Kira attempts an escape and while doing so, she's presented with an intriguing offer: to hunt a creature known as a snark.
It seems that no one really knows much about this mysterious creature and because it's so fast, no one has ever caught it either. And the hunt is also unique in that you must travel through a series of magical mirrors. It's all a bit strange, but over the course of the game's seven chapters it's hard not to get sucked in. Kira is constantly delving further and further into the mirror world, and as she does, things just keep getting stranger.
Bits and Pieces
The game plays out much like a traditional HOG, though it also includes many point-and-click adventure game elements as well. Much of your time will be spent searching for objects, and the game uses the fractured object method. So instead of searching for random items, you'll be looking for bits of objects in order to complete them. Then, once an object has been completed, you'll have to figure out how to use it. Every single object found in a scene will be used in some way. So if you find a light bulb, chances are there's a lamp somewhere that is in need of it.
These puzzle like scenarios are where most of the challenge comes from. Actually finding the objects isn't that hard for the most part, but figuring out how to use them is much trickier. To make things even more interesting, often an action in one scene will have an effect in another. So, if you pull a lever or push a button, something will probably happen somewhere else. It's a lot like the classic game Myst in that regard. However, it's nowhere near as obtuse as Myst, as when something happens on another screen the game actually tells you, instead of making you search.
Snark Busters is also a wonderful game to look at. The visuals, while stylized and slightly cartoonish, are still full of detail. And it's hard to deny the refreshing change of pace brought on by the steampunk aesthetic. The floating airships, steam powered machinery, and leather heavy clothing all look great. And unlike most HOGs, where the soundtrack is relegated to soothing background noise, the music in this game is upbeat, jazzy, and very fun.
The Bottom Line
Snark Busters is a perfect example of a game that doesn't necessarily do anything new or innovative, but is excellent nonetheless. A charming story, solid production values, and a challenging and lengthy campaign make this one of the best HOGs in recent memory. And besides, who doesn't like airships?