Review Date: April 23, 2010
Platform: PC & Mac
Genre: Hidden Object
With the success of films like the Twilight saga and TV series like True Blood, it seems that vampire/human romance stories are at an all time high in terms of popularity. Capitalizing on this trend is Love & Death: Bitten, a new hidden object game from PlayFirst. But instead of being simply yet another vampire love tale, Love & Death is actually a very solid and entertaining experience for the brief while it lasts.
Boy Meets Girl. Boy Turns Out To Be A Vampire
Set in a quaint 19th century village, Love & Death switches back and forth between two main characters. You'll start off playing as Damon, who is being chased by an angry mob of terrified villagers. He eventually escapes being lynched, but not before he lays eyes on Victoria. The two slowly move from seemingly hating one another to, naturally, falling in love. Across the game's seven chapters you'll alternate between playing as both Damon and Victoria, so you'll get to see the story unfold from both perspectives.
Unfortunately for both of them, Damon is being held prisoner by an evil witch named Celeste. The majority of the game will be spent in her castle, as the two lovers attempt to free Damon from Celeste's grasp; with Damon exploring the castle at night, and Victoria during the day. It's a bit on the cheesy side, but the story is well written and surprisingly engrossing, though it does move along a little too quickly, especially with regards to Victoria and Damon's relationship. When you complete the game you'll also be greeted with an abrupt and terribly unsatisfying ending.
Searching Day And Night
When it comes to the actual game, for the most part Love & Death plays out like a fairly traditional hidden object game. You'll be exploring various different scenes looking for all manner of different items. But the actual HOG sections won't kick in until a bird flies into the scene carrying a list of twelve objects you need to find. The number is a bit misleading though, as you'll often have to find the same object multiple times. The game also has the somewhat unique feature of forcing you to occasionally find objects in a specific order. This can range from the mundane -- making a sandwich by first buttering the bread, then finding the lettuce, etc. -- to the incredibly clever -- Damon's back story is revealed when you're forced to move puppets as they act out a play.
There are also a few sequences that take advantage of the game's undead theme, as Damon will occasionally need to find drops of blood to keep up his strength. Unfortunately, these are all too infrequent.
For the most part the hidden object portions of the game are not too difficult, though a couple of design issues do add the odd frustration. For one, many of the objects you'll have to find are terribly small. Things like matches, rings, and, at one point, even an ant. They're nearly impossible to find without resorting to the game's hint system. But you'll also come across unclear descriptions that make it hard to figure out just what you're looking for. Usually this is due to the game using words that aren't exactly common, such as proper plant names like anise or snapdragon.
Escape The Castle
As far as mini-games go, they're both frequent and varied. As you go about finding objects, you'll keep a number of them to use for solving puzzles. In most cases this amounts to simply collecting enough items and then bringing them back to the puzzle, but there are a couple of mini-games that help to break up the action. Most notable is the mirror themed puzzle that you'll have to complete at the end of most of the later chapters. It starts off challenging and also gets progressively more difficult as you move through the game.
You also have the option of collecting golden leaves, which are scattered throughout the game. If you collect 100 of these -- which is pretty easy to do as they are incredibly abundant -- the game will treat you to a "glimpse of the future." It's a brief glimpse that raises more questions than anything else, but it's a simple and easy task to complete and does provide some hints for a possible sequel.
The Bottom Line
Despite it's shortcomings, the overall experience that Love & Death provides is great. It features challenging and varied gameplay and some solid production values, including beautiful visuals and some great voice acting. It also weaves an engaging, albeit brief, tale and introduces a pair of characters that you'll eventually come to care about. And once it gets its fangs into you, you'll be trapped under Love & Death's spell for good.