Continuing on after the compelling Vampire Saga: Pandora’s Box, casual game publisher Alawar Games brings us eerie hidden object adventure, Vampire Saga: Welcome to Hell Lock.
The game starts the way so many hidden object games do, with a road accident. A young man on a motorcycle crashes, is knocked unconscious and wakes to find himself on the outskirts of a village called Hell Lock. Once the shock of the accident passes, he realizes he’s lost his memory and doesn’t know who he is or what he was doing before the crash. Hurt and confused, he heads into the village in hopes that someone can help him regain his memory. Unfortunately, upon entering Hell Lock, he realizes the town’s been abandoned. Worse yet, it seems to be haunted by ghostly apparitions.
In many ways, Hell Lock is much like other hidden object games, but there are a few gameplay variants to keep things interesting. Having completely lost his memory, the young hero decides to use his camera to document every location he visits and that means nearly everywhere you go, you have to whip out the ol’ Polaroid (where did he get one of those?) and take a snap of the area. The cool thing about this mechanic is that later on you can use these photographs to teleport quickly among different locations. This is a good thing because solving the puzzles in Hell Lock requires a lot of backtracking.
In fact, do to this arrangement, the game’s puzzles could prove too challenging to less experienced gamers and the hero’s journal provides little help in regard to your objectives. There are times where serious patience is needed to discover the connections among items and locations, not to mention the ability to keep all the pieces you’ve discovered firmly in mind. Many objectives are not particularly intuitive, and it can be frustrating having to revisit locations repeatedly to figure out your next move. Compounding the issue, some gameplay contrivances prevent you from doing simple tasks until the exact tool is found.
Aside from these gameplay issues, the game’s other weaknesses come from its story. You’re alone through most of the game, then characters appear out of nowhere. One (spoken to over the phone) who claims you owe him money never appears again and the other, who shows up in Hell Lock, seems like a weird afterthought. Oh and what about vampires? Throughout the game, ghostly apparitions make the game feel like some kind of ghost story–vampires only come into play in the last half hour or so, right before the bizarre, somewhat unsatisfying ending.
These issues aren’t insignificant, but in spite of them, Welcome to Hell Lock manages to be a fun game. The graphics are expertly done (the comic style cutscenes are particularly stylish) and give the game a great spooky atmosphere. Gameplay can be occasionally confusing but when things get too convoluted, you can use the handy Hint button to move things along and the for the most part, puzzles and hidden object sequences are handled very well.
In the end, Vampire Saga: Welcome to Hell Lock is a bit misleading since vampires play such a small part in the overall game but as a hidden object mystery, it succeeds and is well worth your time and money. If you’re down for an adventure that takes a bit more time and patience, then you’re bound to enjoy it.