When the internet’s down and you can’t play your MMO, when Sims 3 doesn’t work and you can’t torture Sims…what can you play?

I’m with Virgin Media, and as anyone who’s also with them knows, the best thing that can be said about their internet connection is “It’s a bit patchy”. I tend to use less complimentary words when I’m cut off midway through a guild dungeon run on GW2 (Guild Wars 2), but the sentiment is the same; it’s just not quite what it’s cracked up to be.

As a mother to a very precocious and active toddler, my evenings are precious “Me Time”, and unless I’m finishing a cosplay at the last possible minute (such as right now, actually) I can be found in front of my laptop, writing an article for Renegade Revolution, or plugged firmly into GW2. Back in the days of my Windows 7 laptop (Delta, forever in my heart) I would transfer my attentions to the delights of Sims 2, then Sims 3, whenever the internet failed to live up to expectations (or, in fact, live at all) but for reasons unknown to me Sims 3 refuses point blank to load on my Windows 8 laptop. I haven’t figured out a bug fix for it yet, as a lot of the methods are technical jargon that makes my eyes cross, so I’ve had to look elsewhere for my gaming fix. A fix that is sated by Big Fish Games.

Oh dear, happen.   (c) Big Fish Games, inc

Oh dear, happen. (c) Big Fish Games, inc

Not long after I had my son HRH, I innocently downloaded “Awakening: The Dreamless Castle” by Boomzap Entertainment on my iTouch as a method of entertaining myself whilst I had a small creature sleeping on my chest preventing me from doing the same, and enjoyed it enough to purchase it after my free play bit had run out. I had played Hidden Object Games (HoGs) in the past, but for some reason the storyline and art on “The Dreamless Castle” hooked me, and suddenly I found that I had joined the Big Fish Game Club, and had a number of other Boomzap Entertainment games downloaded both on my iTouch and on my laptop.

What is so compelling about these games? Well, I can’t say it’s the voice acting, as – certainly in the case of the Dana Knightstone series – it is very hit-and-miss; tones are odd, there are strange emphasises on some parts of words (think William Shatner) and sometimes the voices don’t seem to fit the character displayed on the screen. Also, for someone used to the graphics of Sims 3 or GW2, the animation and graphics displayed in HoGs seem clunky in comparison. If you are after awesome graphics, I wouldn’t suggest HoGs.

However, if you enjoy interesting storylines set in fantasy worlds, or dark spooky tales, or murder-mysteries, with a healthy dose of brain-bending puzzles, then HoGs are a great place to be. Add to this, often beautiful soundtracks, and you have recipe for addiction (at least, you do you’re me). For the purposes of this article, I shall be focussing solely on the two Boomzap game series I have played the most of, and that have me impatient for the next instalment: The “Awakening” series, and the “Dana Knightstone” series, but I have played a large number of HoGs and enjoyed them, so if you are interested in looking into playing HoGs, I have listed a few of my favourites at the bottom of this article.

Certainly one of the major draws of HoGs for me is that they are, in a way, a lot like books; you have a storyline where there is some sort of conflict the protagonist must overcome before an ending is resolved. I have often found myself staying awake later than is entirely wise, just to finish the ‘story’ of the HoG I was playing.

Since I am a sucker for added extras, I invariably purchase the Collector’s Editions of the above game series, as they always come with extra gameplay after the main game has ended, as well as other little things such as concept art, playable soundtrack, and sometimes even minigames. It’s enough to make me pay the £10.80 per game, as opposed to the cheaper £5.39. The handy-dandy strategy guide that’s in-game accessible doesn’t hurt, either…

The Dreamless Castle.  (c) Boomzap Entertainment

The Dreamless Castle. (c) Boomzap Entertainment

The Awakening series begins with “The Dreamless Castle”, the title of which attracted me because I am a hopeless fantasy addict. I enjoyed it so much on my iTouch I actually purchased the game again on my laptop to play through with a bigger screen. The story’s protagonist is a princess, Sophia, who has apparently been in a dreamless slumber for countless years, and has awoken to find the castle near-deserted. The storyline, though perhaps a little basic, is interesting enough to keep you hooked, the artwork and soundtrack are pretty, and the puzzles can be challenging. The follow-up games (Moonfell Wood, The Goblin Kingdom, The Skyward Castle, The Sunhook Spire, The Redleaf Forest) have a linear narrative following Sophia’s quest. As the genre suggests, there are many instances where you have to find hidden objects. Some of the Hidden Object Scenes (HOS) are easy (look for the things that seem out of place, click them) but some are much harder (is that a pen or a shelf?) and the diversity in difficulty makes for interesting gameplay. Having the entire series set in a mythical, mystical world where you can have a pocket-sized dragon to help warm things up and a talking owl as an aide adds to the experience for me. Like I said, I’m a sucker for fantasy, and this ticks all the boxes.

Death at Fairing Point.  (c) Boomzap Entertainment.

Death at Fairing Point. (c) Boomzap Entertainment.

In complete contrast, the Dana Knightstone series ticks all the boxes for me for a completely different reason. The series would, I believe, fall into the category of “urban fantasy”, starring an author with the ability to see ghosts. This ability leads her to solving murder mysteries left right and centre and, in later editions, getting herself into trouble. This particular series satisfies my interest in murder-mystery stories, with my obsession with ghosts and spooky things without venturing into the realm of horror, which is not my cup of tea.

As with the Awakening series, the Dana Knightstone series offers intricate puzzles, engaging storylines, and lovely music. The latter is particularly true for “Death Upon an Austrian Sonata”. The stories follow a relatively similar plotline, insofar as Dana visits or is called to a place, where there is a spirit that wants something solving. Generally they want their murderer brought to light, but sometimes it is locating a precious object for the remaining family, or getting closure.

This series is, again, one I downloaded on my iTouch to trial a chapter, and – much like The Dreamless Castle – I enjoyed it so much I purchased it in order to complete the game. The puzzles are as challenging as those in the Awakening series, and though by necessity look very different, a lot of the ideas are the same.

Top: Puzzle from the Awakening series. Bottom: Same puzzle, updated for Dana Knightstone series.  (c) Boomzap Entertainment.

Top: Puzzle from the Awakening series. Bottom: Same puzzle, updated for Dana Knightstone series. (c) Boomzap Entertainment.

The HOS are slightly different also, as the objects you might find in a mystical fantasy realm strongly differ from those you would find in modern-day society.

Top: HOS from Awakening series. Bottom: HOS from Dana Knightstone series.  (c) Boomzap Entertainment

Top: HOS from Awakening series. Bottom: HOS from Dana Knightstone series. (c) Boomzap Entertainment

Like the Awakening series, the games are linear, following the tititular Dana from her discovery of her abilities on holiday in Scotland (“Death at Fairing Point”) to honing them whilst lecturing as a visiting novelist (“Death Under Tuscan Skies”) to assisting a relative (“Death Upon An Austrian Sonata”) and finally – so far – to finding a new ability whilst attending a hotel opening (“Death at Cape Porto”). It is my opinion that, as the games are progressing and Dana’s “abilities” are growing, the games are getting somewhat darker, which I feel adds more to gameplay for the older gamer.

If you are interested in playing any of the games mentioned above, please visit Big Fish Games and take a look! Below I have listed some of the other games I thoroughly enjoyed playing.

  • Otherworld: Spring of Shadows
  • Otherworld: Omens of Summer
  • Otherworld: Shades of Fall

(Another enjoyable series by Boomzap Entertainment)

  • Grim Legends: The Forsaken Bride

(Cute kitty assistant, what more could a girl ask?)

  • Witches’ Legacy: The Charleston Curse
  • Witches’ Legacy: Lair of the Witch Queen
  • Witches’ Legacy: Hunter and the Hunted

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