Genre: Hidden Object Puzzle Adventure
Release Date: September 2012
Platform: PC (version reviewed), Mac
Note: This is a review of the Collector's Edition (CE) of the game, which includes:
I remember when there was a clear difference between casual and non-casual games. I could never have confused Diner Dash with Dark Fall, for instance.
Casual games were basically diversions that offered relatively simple stories such as solving mysteries by finding hidden objects or rescuing businesses from financial ruin. They were simple enough that players who weren't able to sit down for full-fledged gaming sessions could pick them up and put them down quickly without losing continuity. About the only things that changed were levels of difficulty and specific goals to be achieved as one progressed through the game.
Over the years, the differences have become much less distinct. These days, casuals have expanded to include adventure elements such as detailed stories -- many of which are dark tales of witchcraft, murder, the paranormal, missing relatives, you get the idea -- as well as inventories and a variety of puzzles to solve.
In Angelica Weaver: Catch Me When You Can (CMWYC), we have a Hidden Object Puzzle Adventure. Hidden object scenes (HOS) are scattered throughout the game and are incidental to its adventure elements.
Three difficulty levels are offered: Casual, Advanced and Expert. I've played all three. All offer optional in-game tutorials. The game can be played either full screen or widescreen.
Music and sound effects are suitably atmospheric. The graphics are very nicely done. CMWYC is a good-looking game.
Before I go further, I must say that this game has an enormous flaw that greatly interfered with my ability to enjoy it: its use (actually misuse) of the English language. This occurs in Angelica's voiceover, in the dialog subtitles, in a journal Angelica keeps and in the game's Strategy Guide.
For me, this is a huge deal. It reinforces errors that are already made too frequently these days, and it makes the game's developer appear careless. It also makes the game's protagonist sound -- to be charitable -- unintelligent.
The worst offense is the mixing of singular antecedents and plural pronouns. This occurs throughout the game. Below are some examples; emphasis is mine.
The following is included in Angelica's very first piece of voiceover dialog: "THIS VILLAIN has killed before. THEY will not stop; THEY enjoy the pattern, and THEY enjoy the game."
THIS VILLAIN = THEY?? Three times in a row, no less?!?!! Ouch, ouch, freakin' ouch!!!! This literally left my mouth hanging open. It's not only wrong; it sounds dreadful.
"SomeONE who works here would be a great suspect. THEY know the area, make the kill and admire THEIR handiwork at THEIR leisure..."
SomeONE = THEY, THEIR, THEIR. It's another triple-whammy!
"THE KILLER wants me to succeed because THEY enjoy the game."
Oh, man. That's just awful.
"THE KILLER plans to use THEIR sharp blade again..."
I'm in absolute pain.
"EveryONE thinks THEY'RE a doctor.”
Please! Make it stop!!
These kinds of errors permeate the game. Did no one proofread the text? Or could it be that the people who worked on this game are unfamiliar with proper English?
Sadly, the game has other grammatical errors such as mixing past and present tense as well as errors in spelling and punctuation. Additionally, a female NPC's name is spelled "Francis" rather than "Frances."
Allow me to relate an anecdote. When I was maybe seven years old, I was talking to my dad and used the phrase, "me, neither." He corrected me and said it's, "me, either."
Well, this didn't sound right at all. In fact, I'd recently seen "me, neither" in a comic book I'd been reading. So I retrieved the comic book and triumphantly showed it to my dad. "See, it is 'me, neither'." My dad then said, "You shouldn't believe everything you read in comic books."
I've never forgotten that. Had he not pointed out my error, I might have been condemned to an unfortunate life of "me, neither."
So listen up: don't believe everything you read/hear in computer games. You wouldn’t want to get stuck in the land of disagreeing antecedents and pronouns, would you?
Okay, back to the game now. Angelica "Dream" Weaver is a cop who's investigating a murder. She has the ability to "become the victim and the killer at the same time." Her boss calls this a gift. She calls it a curse. She's brought in to work on "no suspect, no lead" cases. She also works alone.
Gameplay begins after a visually impressive cinematic during which someone is murdered. It starts in the present and ends in the past.
This ties in with the game's enigmatic premise: serial murders in present-day Cicero, Illinois* that parallel those of a certain infamous killer in London back in the 1800s. During the course of the game, Angelica jumps back and forth between locations and time frames.
CMWYC is a relatively lengthy game. However, its story moves slowly and is rather convoluted; it never really engaged me. Further, Angelica herself proved to be an annoying distraction (more about this in a few minutes).
The integration of the two time frames could have been smoother. There were times when things didn't make a whole lot of sense to me and I didn't really care what happened.
As I've previously mentioned, the CE includes an integrated Strategy Guide. It's accessible from within the game and provides detailed, illustrated instructions. It practically plays CMWYC for you.
One of the game's features is the ability to skip puzzles. The "skip" option takes time to fully charge and varies according to difficulty level: one minute in Casual, two minutes in Advanced and a whopping four minutes in Expert.
I found this option useful. Although many puzzles are on the easy side, some are a little ridiculous. In one of these, the player must identify specific footprints that track across four successive screens filled with almost identical footprints. Make one mistake and you're sent back to the beginning of the screen. This can be frustrating, particularly if you screw up the very last one.
Is this a fun puzzle? Nope. I had no problem waiting for the skip option to become available. True, I could have followed the solution in the Strategy Guide, but I found the thing so annoying I just wanted to be done with it. Whoever thought this puzzle would be a good idea should forever have to wear shoes that are a size too small.
Then there's a physics-based puzzle in which assorted objects must be stacked on top of one another in precise positions. These objects are difficult to maneuver. If you happen to position one incorrectly or drop it while trying to place it, the entire thing can come crashing down. The objects also tend to jiggle, vibrate and move by themselves. Collision planes a bit off, perhaps?
So is this puzzle fun? Negative. The responsible party should be hit over the head repeatedly with heavy stackable objects.
The two final puzzles at the end of the Standard Edition (the bonus chapter in the CE provides a second ending) involve swinging ropes and hooks that must be precisely manipulated. They are played back-to-back.
During my various playthroughs, I was able to successfully negotiate one of the two puzzles just once, and I did so by accident. Try as I might, I was never able to do it again. Yes, I could have consulted the Strategy Guide but ultimately, skipping the two puzzles was better for my mental health.
These puzzles are not fun. The fact that they appear right at the end of the game makes them even worse. I have a big problem with developers who do this kind of thing. Whoever came up with the puzzles should...well, I'll leave it to your imagination.
The game has no map. This is always bad news for me, as getting lost is one of my specialities. Fortunately, hints can be used to get the directionally-challenged back on track. I'd rather have had a map, though.
The HOS aren't timed, nor are players penalized for clicking randomly or rapidly. A player who's unable to find something can simply click on everything until he/she hits the appropriate object.
In some HOS, the player has to match pairs of objects that belong together (such as shoes) or that are related to one another in some way (such as coins and a coin purse). I found some of the correct objects impossible to identify; they didn't really resemble anything. Others were so dark I couldn't see them. In these cases, I either used a clue or clicked at random until I found the correct object.
Unfortunately, I found the Angelica Weaver character to be rather off-putting. I tried to like her -- I really did -- I just couldn't.
She has a condescending attitude and overblown ego; she's full of snide remarks and is far from subtle. Soft-spoken, she is not. For instance, as she kicks open a suspect's door, she bellows, "KNOCK, KNOCK!!!!"
It's possible that this was meant to make her sound assertive, but to me she sounds arrogant and patronizing. And it doesn't take her long to announce that the killer is playing games with her and making things personal, thereby ratcheting up her own importance a few notches.
I think a softer tone with some humility thrown in would have suited both her and the game better. I would have liked her more had she not sounded like such a harpy.
Fortunately, there's an option to turn off the voiceover. You can also click the screen while Angelica is squawking -- er, talking -- to cut her dialog short if you choose to leave the voiceover enabled.
So here we have a main character who's smug, abrasive, feels cursed, is unable to articulate properly and has an inflated opinion of herself. It's difficult to feel sympathy for such a character.
Angelica also makes deductions and jumps to conclusions with little or no supporting evidence. For example, she uses the flimsiest of observations to deduce the killer's country of origin (using her criteria, I would not be from the U.S.). Some of her pronouncements come completely out of left field and she's never wrong; it appears that she's infallible. This is not something I care to see in a game's main character.
Further, there are things Angelica can't know unless she sees what the killer is doing over time. I got the impression that her psychic episodes are relatively brief. But if she is able to become the killer for a prolonged period, why doesn't she just look at their -- I mean his -- surroundings, then go to that location and arrest them -- I mean him? (Hmmm... In that case, I guess there would be no game. Never mind.)
All of this unsupported deducing and concluding contributes to the story's inconsistency. I also found some parts of the story implausible.
Early on, for example, Angelica encounters a broken street light. She says this was not mentioned in the police report, so the killer would have had to return after the investigation and break the thing. She also says that the killer had done this "recently." During the course of the game, other things are mentioned that Angelica somehow knows were done by the killer after the police had investigated.
Considering the nature of some of these things, it sounds as though a substantial amount of time was permitted to pass between the investigation, the police report and calling Angelica in. This seems like pretty sloppy police work to me.
No wonder this case ended up with no suspects and no leads. I'm all for leaps of faith and suspension of disbelief, but not to the extent apparently required here.
A rather large animated image of Angelica stays perched in the lower right-hand side of the screen throughout most of the game. The upper third of her body is visible. This takes up approximately one-quarter of the screen's height. She wears a dreamcatcher around her neck that pulses dim-to-bright.
The only time the Angelica-thing isn't there is during the game's brief cutscenes, after which it pops back up in the lower-right hand corner. This tends to look silly and made me laugh.
The Angelica-thing engages in assorted gestures and reacts to various occurrences in the game. It nods -- or more accurately, bobs back and forth with its upper body -- scrunches up its eyes and mouth, rubs its chin, frowns, looks down and squints. About the only thing it doesn't do is move its mouth as Angelica is speaking.
At one point, the Angelica-thing is almost hit in the head with a flying brick, which had me laughing out loud. Most of the time, however, it stares at the player. I guess it doesn't know it's impolite to do so.
As the "skip" option -- which becomes available at the beginning of each puzzle -- is loading, the Angelica-thing looks down at the dreamcatcher it wears. After loading completes, it goes back to staring. At you. The entire time you're trying to solve the puzzle. Considering Angelica's general attitude, I can imagine it thinking, "You mean you haven't solved it yet? Man, what a dummy!"
Unfortunately, the Angelica-thing isn't optional. The character modeling is excellent -- which helps -- and I was able to more-or-less able to ignore its presence after awhile. There were times, however, when I just wanted to smash its face in.
Here's a suggestion. If the Thing gets to be too much, you can always lean something up against your monitor to block the image. An envelope stood on-end works well.
As already mentioned, the CE includes a bonus chapter -- but take heed. Among other things, it includes an invisible maze through which you must drag a pinball using a speaker magnet. The only time you get to see any of the maze is when you collide with it. Even then, you see only the part you've hit. This is the method by which you must navigate. The pinball is ridiculously difficult to control, and you'd better not drop it.
Is this fun? Nope. (Skip button, please.) What's more, whoever thought of this puzzle should be locked inside a pinball machine. Forever.
On a brighter note, the bonus chapter offers a quite a twist at the end. It's a lot more satisfying than the rather ho-hum first ending.
CMWYC isn't the worst game I've ever played (Belief and Betrayal holds that distinction), but it sure could have been better. It's a shame that its visual presentation, music and sound effects are done so well, while the protagonist is not very likeable, the pacing is too slow, the story meanders around and is difficult to follow in spots, the text has been written carelessly and the Angelica-thing is not optional.
As previously mentioned, CMWYC’s verbal and textual cacophony took considerable enjoyment out of it for me. I'm unable to recall ever having cringed so much while playing a game. Further, I might have been able to overlook some of the game's other flaws had the text been written/spoken properly.
I implore Mumbo-Jumbo to please make a better effort to write proper English. Trust me: it’s not that difficult.
Now, I'm sure there are people who will be able to disregard the game’s shortcomings (or possibly not even notice them) and thoroughly enjoy CMWYC. Unfortunately -- and I’m really sorry to say this -- I'm not one of 'em.
Final Grade: C+
*The game's location is reflected as "Chicago, Cicero." Cicero is not part of the city of Chicago. Cicero is a separate township that borders on Chicago. It has the only town form of government in Cook County and is governed by a board of trustees. In 1923, Al Capone set up shop in Cicero in order to remain outside the jurisdiction of Chicago authorities.