Publisher: Big Fish Games
Developer: Namco Games
Requirements: Windows XP/Vista; 1.0 GHz CPU; 512 MB of RAM; DirectX 7.0 or later; 200 MB hard-drive space.
Genre: Hidden object adventure
Release date: Available now
It is a dark and stormy night. (Okay, maybe not.) Miranda is an author suffering from a terrible case of writer’s block. Her doorbell rings. She opens the door to discover she’s received a mysterious package, which turns out to be a book sent from a fantastic world known as The Otherside, a parallel dimension that works on dream logic, full of bizarre locales and creatures. With the guidance of Jovie, a possessed teddy bear, she must travel back and forth between worlds and unravel the mystery of a brother and sister torn apart.
I have to admit, I was skeptical about Otherside: Realm of Eons, especially once I learned it was a hidden-object adventure, but I was pleasantly surprised. It doesn’t make any bones about what it is; you spend most of the game looking for hidden objects to complete a set and finish a task, moving you one step closer to unraveling the mystery. Every once in a while, you’ll be called upon to complete a logic puzzle (usually jigsaw puzzles or tangrams), then it’s right back to the hidden objects again.
Generally, you must find objects to complete a set of items to move the plot forward. You can be asked to find identical items (such as sheets of music), things described only with a single-word clue, or objects that look nothing like the example icon you’re given. On rare occasions, just for an added twist, you must complete a second set of items before you can finish the first. For example, an item you need is on the other side of a fire through which you can’t reach. You must find the parts to fix a broken fountain, which puts out the fire, before you can finish the first set of items.
Given the small size of Otherside, the production values amazed me. Every location is carefully rendered, to the point that the 2D cutscenes feel cheap and ugly. The graphics reminded me very much of some of my favorite graphic adventures from the late 1990s, which is not a bad thing. The story is woven naturally into the gameplay in such a way that, even though the object hunting itself can be pedestrian and repetitive, the story keeps you going, with a few plot twists that surprised even me.
You won’t find any bugs in Otherside, but the game’s major flaw is that, well, it’s a hidden-object game. If it weren’t for the story, it would be boring. It has a hint system tied to a slow timer (it takes a minute or two before you can get another hint), but there’s no time limit to solve the game itself. The logic puzzles can be skipped entirely once you’ve spent a certain amount of time staring at the screen, so there’s little incentive to use the hint system. If you get frustrated and try random clicking, after five clicks Jovie floats around the screen riding on a cloud for a few seconds, during which time you can’t click on anything; I found this so annoying I wished I could shoot him. And finally, there’s simply zero replay value. There’s no incentive to play again once you’ve beaten it the first time.
Still, I can’t complain too much; the price point is set at a very reasonable $8, and the plot is actually enjoyable. If you’re a fan of hidden-object adventures, or are simply looking for a few hours’ diversion with excellent production values, this could be the game for you.