Review Date: March 17, 2010
Developer: Boomzap Entertainment
Publisher: Boomzap Entertainment
Genre: Hidden Object/Adventure
From the opening scene, it's pretty clear that Awakening: The Dreamless Castle is doing its best to evoke classic fairytales: and it succeeds. Though the tale it tells is fairly cliche, it's done well enough to keep you engaged, and it serves as great window dressing for the actual game. And with a gorgeous, story book style presentation and some solid puzzles, there's more than enough here to keep hidden object fans happy.
Once Upon a Time...
As many fairytale princesses tend to do, our unnamed heroine wakes up after a deep sleep only to find herself magically trapped in a goblin castle. By solving a myriad of different puzzles and collecting all of the necessary magical runes, she's slowly able to piece together the story of just who she is and how she wound up in the castle in the first place. The narrative is relayed via still cut-scenes, which appear after each of the game's 10 chapters, but you'll also learn about the mystery by talking to some of the helpful (and not so helpful) goblins around the castle. The story is fairly straightforward and predictable, but the writing is well done and it serves as a great set-up for the actual game.
Awakening is a combination of a hidden object game and a point-and-click adventure. It takes place from a first-person perspective, and lets you wander around the castle at your own pace. Along the way you'll encounter lots of different objects and lots of locked doors. For the most part, the objects you'll find will be used later in the game. You'll be collecting vegetables to make a stew, ingredients for a magic potion, and more keys than you can count.
Plenty of Puzzles Perchance, Princess?
But in addition to all the object finding you'll be doing, the game is also packed to the brim with mini-games. Some of them require memorization, forcing you to remember things like the order in which the strings on a harp were plucked, while others will have you reassembling a broken statue or rearranging the pieces of a painting until it looks right. These puzzles are generally pretty simple, and usually just require you to pay attention and have the right items in your inventory. The two exceptions are a gem puzzle where you have to eliminate every gem on the board and a goblin version of mahjong -- called goblinjong -- both of which can get a little tough.
A Helping (Fairy) Hand
If you do get stuck, the game provides plenty of ways to help you along. There's the requisite recharging system, which takes the form of a little fairy helper, and will point out any hidden object you just can't seem to find. The princess also keeps a journal that helps remember things for you, which comes in handy for a number of the game's puzzles, and you can also skip certain puzzles if need be. But in spite of all of this help, there are times where you may find yourself lost or unsure what to do next since the game isn't always clear when it comes to giving directions, though these moments are pretty rare.
Of course, this does give you an excuse to wander around the castle and enjoy the absolutely gorgeous visuals. The hand-painted style graphics are simply stunning, with an incredible attention to detail, whether it's the numerous background scenes or the actual characters themselves. And adding to the story book-like feel is the soundtrack, which features some soothing instrumental arrangements that are almost enough to lull you into a deep sleep.
The Bottom Line
With a great mixture of elements from two different genres, a strong variety of different puzzles and mini-games, and some of the most gorgeous production values around, Awakening: The Dreamless Castle is a superb example of a hidden object/adventure game. Though it may be short, clocking in at just under three hours (though you can play a few rounds of goblinjong after the main game is over), while it lasts the game is an incredibly engrossing, serene experience, and the perfect way to spend an afternoon or evening.