Dark Parables 2: The Exiled Prince PC CD
Published by Focus Multimedia
Developed by Blue Tea Games
Dark Parables 2: The Exiled Prince is the latest hidden object adventure game from Blue Tea Games, the developers who bought us Enlightenus and its sequel, Enlightenus II: The Timeless Tower. What I really like about the Enlightenus games is that Blue Tea Games haven't simply given you a hidden object adventure game experience where you basically have a list of items to find in a scene that's unrelated to the game's storyline. The games were imaginative and the various scenes in the game always seemed to relate to the overall storyline. I'm pleased to say then that this also seems the case for Dark Parables 2: The Exiled Prince yet it feels significantly different from the Enlightenus games.
In The Exiled Prince you'll play as a detective whose job it is to investigate the disappearance of the Chancellor's daughter and her body guard somewhere in Germany's Black Forest. The belief is that the two disappearances are somehow linked to the mysterious Frog Prince who, when it's foggy, is said to roam an area known locally as The Exiled Prince Road in search of his love. All who have been said to have seen the Prince have never returned and it's your job to get to the bottom of this mystery and find out what's happened to the Chancellor's daughter and her bodyguard.
The gameplay in The Exiled Prince is a mix of hidden object and puzzle solving. In most scenes you'll have to find parts of an object. Each object is split into three parts with each part then being broken up into pieces. When you locate all of the pieces for a part, that part will then become whole. On obtaining all three parts they will come together to form a whole object which will then be added to your inventory and you'll have completed that particular scene. There are no penalties for random clicking on the screen and you can even use hints if you're really stuck (or simply access the in-game strategy guide). Once used, you'll have to wait for a hint to 'recharge'. Discovering cursed objects will enable you to shorten the time taken to recharge the hint meter. The puzzles in the game are pitched about right as they are challenging without ever being too frustrating.
The Exiled Prince is a very enjoyable hidden object adventure but in some respects it could have been better. There's a little too much back and forth and it can become a little tedious having to revisit the same location multiple times during the course of the game. I like the way that the in-game map shows you what your objectives are and where the hidden objective scenes are located but it could have been made more useful. For instance when you need to revisit a place you've already been, you ought to be able to simply double click a location on the map to quickly jump there instead of having to navigate your way back to locations that can be quite a distance away.
Once you've completed your first play through of The Exiled Prince you'll gain access to The Frozen Lake bonus game. Essentially this gives you some extra puzzles to solve and scenes to investigate. The game plays out in exactly the same fashion as The Exiled Prince and is enjoyable. You'll also gain access to the game’s Hard mode that allows you to play through the main game again without the use of hints or the ability to skip puzzles like you can on the initial play through. Whilst this is a welcome addition I didn't use any of the hints or skip any of the puzzles on the first play through so as far as I was concerned it didn't really add anything to the experience.
The game's presentation is pretty much what you would expect for a hidden object game. The visuals are displayed at the rather low resolution of 1024x768 which at this point is not ideal for either desktop or laptop displays. That said you can always run the game in windowed mode to help keep the visuals crisp. Not all of the dialogue in the game is voiced but it's all shown in text meaning you'll be able to follow the game's storyline without any problems. None of the puzzles will be problematic for deaf gamers. All tutorial messages are shown in text and the included strategy guide displays all of its information visually through the use of text and pictures. The sounds in the game aren't captioned. For instance when you solve a puzzle that might give you access to another area there is no visual notification of the grating sound that signifies this. For the most part however the game will give deaf gamers no real problems.
Dark Parables 2: The Exiled Prince is another very enjoyable hidden object adventure game from Blue Tea Games. The game feels sufficiently different from other hidden object games that I've played (admittedly I haven't played the first Dark Parables title) and it's kept me interested from beginning to end. The bonus content also gives the game some longevity although it's a shame that Hard mode didn’t do more than simply remove the hints and the ability to skip the puzzles. If you're a fan of the genre, Dark Parables 2 is easy to recommend.