A breath of fresh air from the last hidden object game I reviewed, Season of Mystery: The Cherry Blossom Murders is a fairly decent, and lovely hidden object game! You play as Irene Pemberton, who moves to Japan with her beloved husband, Richard Pemberton, to enjoy the calm atmosphere of the land of the rising sun. However, tradgedy strikes when her husband is found dead in his office. Police are quick to rule it as a suicide, leaving it up to you to find out who killed Richard, and why.
The storyline is quite good, and paced very well! A murder mystery, plenty of characters, and settings help to keep things fresh and interesting. Clearing rooms and puzzles is rewarded with more story, as well as character interacitons to keep the driving force going, and there is even a skip button for those who are not interested in the storyline. Interactions between characters is very good, and the characters have different personalities and views: Which may not sound like much, but I've seen some hidden object games with horribly bland characters that you wouldn't be able to differenciate between them if their names weren't listed.
The art? Lovely, absolutely lovely. It's easy to tell that love and work was put in to the different characters, to make them look unique and ensure that they don't 'blend together'. Yet another issue I've seen in some hidden object games, and even in other genres! So it's quite a lovely sight to see. It certainly made it more enjoyable to observe interactions between characters, something that would be a lot less fun if characters looked too similar to one another. Takes a lot of the individuality out when characters look like they were made from the same cookie cutter.
The scenery is yet another thing that was gorgeous to look at. Scenes were well crafted, and dare I say challenging with some, to find the objects scattered across them. I've seen hidden object games where the items just absolutely choaked the scene, making it hard to tell what was underneath even! However, here? You'll have issues finding some items, with how they blend in! Which does increase the difficulty, but certainly makes the items take a little less away from the scenery. Looks a lot less like someone took all their belongings and threw them around the area.
The music is pretty good too, nothing overly memorable, but it is nice, albeit repetitive at times. It doesn't sound so much like Japanese music, so much as mystery music. Had they made more of a effort by adding some music with a violin and/or flute, it would set the mood a bit more, as well as provide some extra soundtrack to cycle through. But, if all else fails, there's always muting it and then playing Zen music in the background for that oriental feel.
The objects hidden amongst the scenes is actually well done! And, thankfully, they are randomized too! Sometimes the game'll give you a pretty easy deal, with pretty obvious placements. But if you get that, then expect tough-as-nails placements up ahead, making getting the "No hint" achievement more difficult to get. Playing cards are THE worst offender for "Most annoying to find" in this game... Or any game for that matter. The game does like to also mix up what you look for too, so if you're looking for three apples... Then expect maybe two apples, and the word 'apples'. Thankfully, there's silhouettes for the items when you click on their names on the list. Making it nice for beginners who could make use of it, or decent for those looking for a challenge, who can decide not to use it.
Minigames are also a blast. They certainly have a variety, making it fun to solve them! But there's always the skip button for those who can't solve them, however that forfeits getting certain achievements. There's one puzzle that repeats itself twice, but it's not that big a deal. Just a memory game where you flip the cards/shells and try to match them. The other puzzles are plentiful, and spice things up.
The fact that this game had achievements made me jump for joy. I absolutely love getting achievements in game, and this one was no exception. I got all the achievements in about two playthroughs, of which I would complain that it was a bit too easy... But, that's probably just because I've played these kind of games a lot, and am pretty dang good at them. It really depends on the person who plays, it'll provide a tough challenge for beginners. However with veterans to these kind of games, they'll probably breeze through it. So your mileage may vary there.
I was quite a bit surprised to see that Square Enix made this game, as they're more for making RPGs. However, it's not a unwelcome change, it's nice to see that they stepped out of their comfort zone. Though, I will say one thing: They didn't take a very professional approach to it. This is the one bad thing I have to say about this game really, is the item textures. Some of them kinda have a white edging on a few, making them obviously different from the background. That one problem aside, it's all good.
I definitely suggest this game, for new people trying out hidden objects. And for hidden object addicts, looking for a new hidden object game to clear through. And for 5 dollars? I'd say it's worth it. About as expensive as maybe a gallon of milk or so, depending on where you live.