Tiger Eye: Curse of the Riddle Box
Delilah (or Dela to her friends) is psychic. She's also a detective. She's been having a powerful dream every night since she came to China, and it's brought her to the dirt markets of Beijing. More than a dream - a warning, too. It isn't long before Delilah is given a riddle box that proves to be more than it seems - and mysterious forces start to follow her. But the biggest surprise is that night, when she opens the box - and summons an ancient warrior known as Hari. A man cursed to obey the orders of the owner of the box. A man still being sought by the one who imprisoned him - a sinister being known as Magi.
Tiger Eye is a story in two parts (this game being the first). It is based on the novel of the same name by Marjorie M. Liu, largely portrayed through a series of hand drawn cut scenes. Between these, Tiger Eye is a hidden object game. Click on items in the image as you spot them, as listed on the panel at the bottom of the screen. Some items are needed to operate other items (such as a crowbar to open a grate, say). There are also lots of puzzles interspersed amongst the item spotting. The usual options for hints when stuck are present - minigames also allow you to purchase two hints on how to solve them, with a third "hint" simply skipping the puzzle.
One feature that's fairly new is the ranking system. A display in the lower right shows your remaining hint points, which will regenerate over time - this can be boosted by finding items, solving puzzles and the occasional bonus rounds in which you need to spot pairs (or trios) of identical objects. Every ten points will unlock a new rank, which includes background information about Delilah and the organisation she works for. Reach rank five to unlock the Extras option on the main menu - including the option to dress up Hari in all manner of crazy outfits. And why not?
The various locations are all hand drawn and of high quality, with the hidden objects often very sneakily hidden. Puzzles to be solved are highlighted with sparkles and points of interest are marked with question marks (usually for an optional bit of character dialogue - Hari's "fish out of water" quality in our modern world is the subject of a fair few of these). Animation is limited here. The cut scenes are somewhat rougher drawn and have a rather minimalistic style of animation - I like it. Characters are portrayed fairly well. It might not be entirely suitable for very young players - while nothing explicit or particularly violent occurs, there are a few scenes in which we see Hari's naked bottom. I suspect particular care was taken when drawing this but I haven't studied it that closely!
Tiger Eye features a series of background music and/or noise for the various locations - as there's one track per location/event, it can get a little repetitive when you're still hunting for that last object after several minutes, but they are of good quality and generally well matched to mood. Most are quite gentle, but those in more critical situations are suitably sinister. There are also sound effects for general gameplay and voice actors accompany the cut scenes. I am pleased to report there are also subtitles for those who struggle to hear speech. Voice quality is generally very good for the main cast, though the minor characters are sometimes a little forced.
It's a very playable game, and instructions (should you need them!) are given in the opening scene. Every minigame is quite explicit on what you need to do - usually swapping or drag/dropping objects into the correct positions. Mostly the left mouse button is used, with the right mouse button occasionally used in some puzzles. It misses out on a trick here - I would rather have liked a magnifying option, as with my earlier review of Brunhilda and the Magic Crystal. Ah well! Your progress is automatically saved and you can't ever really get stuck - even the minigames can be skipped if you find them difficult.
I found Tiger Eye compulsive whilst reviewing it - it is difficult to tear yourself away with just a few items left to find, and after that you're thrown into a new challenge - but this also acted against the game. I finished it within a few days! There's the bonus of unlocking the extra content, but this is not really all that difficult. There's little replay value - everything is exactly the same the second time through, including the minigames, though Delilah's "metal-sensing" psychic efforts are a randomly generated match-3. You could possibly make a side game out of this alone. On the plus side, part two looks set to continue the suspense and mystery and I'm already eager to see what happens to Hari and Delilah.
Tiger Eye is a consummate offering. I didn't detect any real issues with the game at all - every aspect, from the artwork to the music down to the game text, has been given clear attention. Those objects can be very cunningly hidden, but in nearly every case I was kicking myself when I resorted to hints - virtually none could be considered unfair. Minigames are generally simple and in some cases could be solved eventually just by random clicking, but that said a few of them had me scratching my head, and they vary so much in design that they don't get repetitive.
It is perhaps unfair to criticise Tiger Eye for its lack of variety between games. It isn't so much a game as an interactive novel, and I don't expect the latest Stephen King to go differently when I next read it. This format makes it a more immediate and engaging story and has left me more invested in the characters as a result. I hope to see the concluding part of this story very soon. Well done, PassionFruit Games!
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