The Emerald Maiden has been on Steam since Feburary 2016, developed by Gogii Games and published by Artifex Mundi. If the publisher sounds familiar, it's because they've published many other hidden objects games on Steam and the Windows Store, such as Eventide: Slavic Fable. As with many hidden objects games for the PC over the past few years, it follows a very familiar formula: Lengthy pre-rendered CGI cutscenes with voiceovers to explain the story, exploration and fairly linear item collection for elementary puzzles, and a lot of dialogue from anyone that's interactive, and monologues for anything that's interactive. You can currently buy it on Steam for $9.99 USD or obtain it on the Windows Store for free, if you're running Windows 10.
STORY AND OBJECTIVEA young woman who was left for adoption by her mother in London 1951 has only a small amulet as a namesake. Twenty-five years later, she has received an envelope with clues as to her mother's whereabouts and an invitation to the Emerald Maiden an underwater attraction for aristocrats with bars, theatres, and the fantastic mysterious Symphony of Dreams. The shadowy Director promises magical secrets and wonder, but there must be more. By solving assorted simple puzzles, clicking on objects and navigating through labyrinth of lush scenes laden with high-resolution stock images, the player must learn the truth behind the Emerald Maiden, and its Director.
CONTROLS AND INTERFACEThe game is, appropriately for a hidden objects game, controlled exclusively via mouse. The in-game interface is typically just a bar on the bottom of the screen indicating which objects are in the inventory and need to be found, and buttons for the menu and for hints. The options are sparse, as to be expected with hidden object games: The ability to toggle sound and music volumes, full screen and windowed mode (the latter being fixed in 1220x780), graphic detail quality, the option to toggle voice overs, and the option to change the game's difficulty at will. The only significant differences between difficulty are penalties for mis-clicks and whether interactive objects sparkle. The controls are interface are quite standard for a casual hidden objects game like this. Or a difficult one, should the player select the Difficult setting instead of Casual.
GRAPHICSThe game's cutscenes are nicely detailed and rendered with a mix of 2d and 3d graphics, while the in-game graphics are flat yet high-resolution images with stiff animations. There's nothing too eye-grabbing, but nothing's ugly to look at. The character art is actually very nice compared to that in many other hidden objects this reviewer has played while babysitting. In fact, an extensive artbook or comic book from this game's artist would be quite a treat. If you can find out who did the illustrations for this game, please comment the artist's information below!
AUDIOThe cutscene music is actually very majestic for something in a hidden objects game, and the music is subtle, relaxing and thought-inducing. Nothing about the music or sounds are too exciting, and they facilitate focus. The voice actors are lively and believable, and there were no signs of audio distortion or skipping. Even though many hidden objects games shine through their audio and graphical qualities rather than through their gameplay and storytelling, Gogii Games did a fine job of making the former aspects shine more than what's usually expected from a game like this.
SYSTEM REQUIREMENTSThe Emerald Maiden: Symphony of Dreams can run on Windows, Mac OS X, and SteamOS & Linux. Minimum specs for Windows computers are an operating system of XP, Vista, 7, 8 or 10, a CPU of 1.5GHz, 512 MB system RAM, DirectX 9 or higher, and 1GB availabe hard disk space. MAC OS X computers will require all of the following including 128 MB VRAM for graphics and an operating system of 10.6.8 or higher. SteamOS & Linux computers will require an operating system of Ubuntu 12.04 (32/64bit).
SUMMARYAfter all this serious examination of what's today's version of an "I Spy" or "Where's Waldo?" book as a game and a story, I think it's important and hilarious to realize that a grown man just analyzed what is (he hopes) a KID'S GAME; although I did find Sinister City by Jet Dogs Studios to be a funny and decent hidden objects game with relaxing music, as much camp as the 1950s monster movies it portrayed, and the graphical blunders when 3d models walked too high up on the 2d backgrounds and started floating up the walls. Sorry, I'm starting to review another game now. But then, when you've played one hidden objects game you've essentially played them all. But this one has so much more of an environment, more of a story, and more effort in setting everything up that it distracts one from the actual puzzles. I'm sure someone likes this more if they're interested in a casual experience, but I'd rather have a big book of hidden objects puzzles than a fantastic yet linear world to explore such as that in The Symphony of Dreams which tries to mix the two.
SHOULD YOU BUY THE EMERALD MAIDEN: SYMPHONY OF DREAMS? (or get it for free if you have windows 10)
You'll probably like this game if:1. You enjoy finding hidden objects.
2. You like solving puzzles meant for children.
3. Your little baby barbarian brain can't handle REAL puzzles! Now where's my big book of logic bombs?
4. You like high quality images that look flat as cardboard.
5. You like a story that was probably written for the kid's corner of your local library.
6. You think 1860s Southern salesman, carnies and servants in 1970s England is a-okay.
7. You believe the South Will Rise Again across the pond.
8. It entertains and distracts your children long enough for you to work on your taxes.
9. You're the main character and your mother mysteriously skipped out on you. Where's the dad in all this, anyway?
You probably won't like this game if:1. You get bored by lots of talking, looking and clicking.
2. You play first-person shooters for fun or professional purposes.
3. You don't want a story and navigation mixing in with your object hunting.
4. You don't like easy puzzles.
5. You don't like puzzles to begin with.
6. A lack of extensive options irritates you.
7. You prefer more productive or gripping ways of unwinding, like cooking or gardening.
8. You have no children who need to be distracted by a game like this.
9. You're the main character and your mother mysteriously skipped out on you. Seriously, are we not going to question what happened to the dad? Why is he not in this story at all? Did I just not get that far in the game?