Review Date: April 21, 2010
Publisher: Alawar Entertainment
Genre: Hidden Object
It's often hard to find a hidden object game that manages to do something different, as the genre seems to be plagued by me-too copycats and clones. That's what makes the third entry in the Magic Encyclopedia series so great. Not only is it a gorgeous, well made HOG, it also introduces a new, very compelling new gameplay feature that helps make the game one of the best the genre has seen in quite some time.
Everything Is Not What It Seems
In Magic Encyclopedia 3: Illusions you play as Catherine, a student at a magic academy. When her professor tells her that an important and powerful book has been stolen, she sets off on a quest to recover the book and stop the Illusionist, and evil wizard bent on taking over the world. The story is fairly engaging, especially compared to other HOGs, and it serves as a great set-up for the actual game. The magical theme plays a huge role and Catherine's long journey -- which sees her exploring places like China, Egypt, and even the hidden city of Atlantis -- provides plenty of variety.
As far as the magical theme goes, it provides the game's single most compelling feature. The world of Magic Encyclopedia 3 is divided into two: the real world and the world of illusions. And in order to find all of the objects in the game, you'll need to explore both. In the beginning this is done in a number of creative ways. You'll be searching for hidden objects via moonlight or throwing handfuls of magic dust to reveal secrets. But eventually you'll gain access to a pair of magic glasses, which let Catherine see through illusions.
This clever mechanic provides a new dynamic when it comes to searching for objects. Not only do you have to do the traditional scouring of the screen to find what you need, but you'll have to do it twice, looking at the scene again through the glasses. Often times you'll only be able to find certain objects by noticing the differences between the two worlds.
Find What You Need
Everything you'll be searching for in the game is something you'll need. Though, for some reason, all of the objects have been torn to bits. If you need to use an axe or a magic spell, well you'll need to find every piece of it first. But because you're not searching for whole objects, this means that most of them are fairly small, which makes things a tad difficult. There's also a few too many long, skinny pieces to find. Thankfully, the game features a very generous hint system to help you out if you get stuck.
Since everything you're finding is an object you'll need to use at some point, this means that often you'll need to find them in a specific order. Some objects aren't available until you find and use other ones. For example, once you figure out how to move a camel out of the way, it'll reveal an object that was hidden behind him.
There are, of course, also a number of mini-games thrown in to help break up the action. These are all fairly standard fare, including the requisite sliding block and maze puzzles. For the most part they're also pretty easy, though all the mini-games are completely skippable if you get stuck or simply decide you don't want to play them.
The Beauty Of Magic
The world that Magic Encyclopedia portrays is both unique and beautiful. The varied locations you'll be exploring are all vastly different, and have provided the game's artists with an excuse to let loose. It's an interesting world filled with everything from wizards to mermaids to airships. You'll also see a number of very cool magical effects, though occasionally these are a bit distracting and obscure the screen for a brief period. Complimenting the visuals is a soothing soundtrack that seems to fit the game perfectly.
The Bottom Line
Overall, Magic Encyclopedia 3: Illusions features just about everything you could want in a HOG. It looks great, features an interesting new play mechanic, and offers up a lengthy, varied adventure. It may be a bit on the difficult side, and the final battle is a bit of a let down, but this is a game that no HOG fan should miss.