Overall Score 77%
Girls with Secrets
Amy was murdered last night. The news hit everyone hard, particularly her best friend - unhappy with the police investigation, she decides to look for clues herself. It seems that Amy knew a lot of secrets about her friends... perhaps one of them is the killer, desperate for their own secrets not to be told. There are bound to be clues at the police station too, if you can find them - can you find out who the killer is?
Girls With Secrets is a hidden object game from the makers of earlier review game, "Jane Croft: The Baker Street Murder". Your task is to solve Amy's murder by finding a shopping list of items in each of a series of locations. The game is divided into chapters, each of which features a number of scenes to complete. Some of these are locked until you complete the others, and some are minigames (such as hacking codes, fixing fuseboxes or picking locks). Every chapter completed will take you a step closer to solving the mystery.
If you've not played a hidden object game before (how is Mars, by the way?) the premise is simple. Each scene is filled with a variety of bizarre objects, some quite obvious, some blending into the background. You have a list of items to find by clicking on them. Complete the list, and you complete the scene. You have a hint option available if you get stuck, which will highlight one of the remaining items - this takes a while to recharge, however, so use it sparingly. Minigames are a little different, with a puzzle to be solved by clicking on or rearranging objects.
Graphics are paramount to any hidden object game, and Girls With Secrets does pretty well here. The oddest aspect of the graphics is the random objects that seem to be scattered about these locations, which leaves me with the impression that our protagonist is hallucinating them! Objects can be hidden in plain sight, in trees, partly obscured by the background and are sometimes cunningly hidden against similar backgrounds. Most objects are pretty obvious to look at and are usually quite forgiving when clicked on - though there are occasions when one object partly covers another, and if you remove the first you can't select the second by clicking on the part that was covered. Sound effects are obviously limited, as there is little noise beyond the click as you select an item, though some more variety might be possible here. The background music, however, is nicely atmospheric, with each chapter accompanied by its own haunting melody.
In many ways, Girls With Secrets is very easy to get started with. There are no complicated controls - just click on the objects. There are no time limits or other restrictions, so you can take as long as you like. Things are a little less clear in the minigames, where no instructions are provided - it would have helped occasionally to know at least what I'm trying to achieve. However, minigames can be skipped. My biggest playability problem was actually in the main game - the English is frequently poor! I spent some time baffled looking for a "racke" (a coat rack? A medieval torture device?) before realising it was a rake, though far more baffling was looking for "Olivier". Laurence Olivier? A poster from the musical, "Oliver!"? It turned out to be a pot of olive oil. Thank goodness for the hints!
There was, however, a much more concerning error in the game. I realised a few chapters in that I was seeing the same scenes reappear without any connection to the plot, and it seems that chapters frequently have random scenes from other chapters added to them. Some of these, confusingly, can be scenes from later chapters. Unfortunately you have no choice but to complete these again in order to progress with the game. A bizarre bug!
There is limited replay value in Girls With Secrets. The game plot is fixed, but the objects to search for vary (and the passcodes in the minigames are different every time, too). Most endearing is an attempt to introduce some achievements to unlock, such as completing a scene in under a minute or beating all the minigames without skipping them. These are, however, quite easy to collect. The two difficulty modes are fairly pointless, with the only difference being whether you get two or three minutes between hints, though there is an achievement for beating the game on each mode. Ultimately there is no real challenge - you are not penalised for clicking randomly and there is no time limit, so you can spam the hints as soon as they charge up.
There's a fairly solid hidden object game in here somewhere - it just needs some final tweaks. Sort out this weird bug, and get the text looked at! Aside from the typos and guesses at names, some of these descriptions are just wrong (a trumpet is not a trombone; "stencil" is not a clear description of anything). Once the rough edges have been sanded down, Girls With Secrets could be quite entertaining.
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