I picked up this game both because I like paranormal stories, and because the game author came highly recommended. I was expecting to be blown away, but although the game was good, I don't think it entirely lives up to the hype.
The thing that bugged me most of all was actually the writing. Much of the dialogue, especially Samantha's, felt choppy and flippant. I didn't really get a sense of personality from her other than "generic upstart teenager with delusions of grandeur." I also didn't like that her character talked big about her "magician's code," and then wantonly broke it at every opportunity for her own personal gain (although maybe that was intentional to show her immaturity).
Beyond her character, I was let down by the overly predictable plot. The premise of the story is solid, and blends together a number of canon paranormal and horror themes, but the way it unfolded left me disappointed. It is frustrating as a player to so easily figure out what the ending is going to be, but then have to watch your character blindly ignore the clues and run around circles for hours. I also felt that the ending was entirely avoidable, and the tragedy was shoe-horned in for emotional effect.
Despite these issues, the other aspects of the game are top notch:
- There is a unique cast of well-developed side characters that have interesting backgrounds and talented voice actors.
- The puzzles are creative and varied, with the magic tricks bringing an innovative and novel twist to the genre. Even veteran adventure gamers will find it both challenging and refreshing.
- The art and cutscenes are beautifully rendered, with a blend of hand-painted flashbacks and 3D CGI. I also appreciated the thematic touches of magic and fantasy that were woven throughout.
- There is a good mixture of seriousness and humor within the overall suspenseful atmosphere.
- The colour-coded map system is a nice gameplay feature, allowing you to instantly teleport to various location hubs, and informing you of where you still have available actions.
- There are several hidden bonus quests and actions which add flavour and depth to the story. (Although I was sad that there is no in-game reward for 100% completion, nor are there any Steam achievements. An alternate ending might have been nice.)
Overall, I would give this game an 8.5/10