- Developer: Ocean Media
- Publisher: Ocean Media
- Release date: 15/04/2021
- Price: £8.99 / $9.99
- Review code provided by Ocean Media
Introducing: Emily Archer and the Curse of Tutankhamun Review
I have a soft spot for the hidden object genre of game. I haven’t played one in years, but I did spend a lot of time playing these sorts of games with my grandmother while growing up since I was a big fan of computer games and this was one style that could be easily played as a group. As a result, I figured I could get myself a bit of nostalgic kick out of playing something like Emily Archer and the Curse of Tutankhamun, even if it was for a review and not with my grandma this time.
Onward to Adventure
This game has a somewhat hokey premise, but it’s kind of in that way I love. It’s the 1920’s and the tomb of King Tutankhamun has just been discovered for the first time. However, there’s been a mysterious death that needs investigating and Emily Archer has been called in to handle it, bringing you along as her assistant. The situation quickly evolves into a search for a missing artifact and ransom. Just what every good adventure story needs. It’s a simple premise but it carries things along well enough. It’s just the right level of cheesy that I like for this kind of thing, like an old black and white adventure flick. It might not grab the attention of everyone, but it’s just the kind of thing a game in this style needs.
The entire story is conveyed though text boxes and images of the characters. This works fine, but I will admit that sometimes I could have a little trouble telling characters apart. A lot of them have similarities since they’re simply designed and there are so many that show up for just a scene or two, which can sometimes make it feel like the plot is a little on the bloated side. That’s not a deal breaker though, since the story is mostly just a vehicle for the gameplay. I will say that I did see a typo or two though, which was a touch disappointing. When you’re telling your story primarily through text boxes, that’s something you’ll want to triple check. I was also a little disappointed in how much of the game seemed to take place in the hotel. It just felt like a mundane place to be when there was so much other adventure.
So, for the gameplay, what we have here is your tried and true search and find game. The digital equivalent to those old I Spy books. In this case, I was quite happy with what we were given. The search and find screens are all cluttered in the way they need to be to obscure objects, but without being so overly cluttered that they are overwhelming. They look about as messy as I would expect for the area that they are portraying. Like, I would be searching a wardrobe and it would be as cluttered as I think a wardrobe could be while still being realistically functional.
You start the game with 5 hints and I was pleased to see that there was an opportunity to find one in each screen so you don’t have to feel as guilty about using them. Heck, I used them quite a bit. The only real complaint that I have is that sometimes the word cues given for finding something could be a little odd. For example, there was one screen where the last word that I had to find was, “pipe.” I was thinking like a drainpipe, water pipe, or smoking pipe. So, I was searching all these little nooks and crannies for it. In the end, I used one of the few hints I had and it highlighted the euphonium that was front and center in the image. I guess “pipe” is technically something you could use for that, but it felt misleading to be sure.
In addition to these search and find games, Emily Archer also contains quite a few other puzzles! There are a small handful of these that are actually a bit of a challenge, but most are very straightforward and take only a minute or so to complete. I think that’s fine though. It’s more a way to give yourself a break from intently squinting at one screen trying to find items. It’s a welcome break too. Even if I rarely felt challenged by these additional puzzles, I think they were a good choice to keep the game from feeling like it was one note for the whole runtime.
Digging in the Dirt
One of the bigger issues that I had with this game, though, were the controls. The game has full touch screen controls, which work okay most of the time, but make it hard to select small items. I’ve got fat fingers, I guess, because hitting something very tiny on my switch screen was often pretty hard. There’s no real penalty for random clicking, but after enough times clicking where there isn’t something, the screen will be covered with sand and you have to wait a few seconds before you can keep trying. If I was randomly hitting, yeah, I get it. However, it’s frustrating when I know that that’s where the needle is, but my finger just isn’t hitting quite the right spot to pick it up.
There are controller options for playing on the tv and such, but they just kind of feel unnatural. You gain a cursor, but it’s controlled with the right stick, which just feels a little unnatural since you have to hit A to select something. I feel that controlling with the left stick would just feel better, but that could be me. The downside to the cursor is that it becomes highlighted when over a selectable item on the hidden object screen, which means you can just move the stick around a bunch until the cursor lights up, effectively cheating your way to finding everything. With all of this, it’s pretty clear that this game was likely built with a mouse in mind.
The other problem that I had was that there were some screens that were revisited a little too beat-by-beat. There are some finding screens that you go to two or three times, which I wouldn’t normally have a problem with. The issue comes in when on revisit, you will be told to find some of the same items as before. If it were an all new set, it would feel like a new challenge, but with sometimes nearly half the item list being repeated, it could feel a little bit like the game was being padded out. Emily Archer is already a fairly short game. I was able to beat it in a single evening and that was with having to restart halfway though, which we will get to the reason for in a bit.
The Ark Melts Faces
The visuals here are okay, but mostly in a nostalgic way because this game looks like it was ripped right off my grandma’s computer in the mid-2000s. The search and find screens all look just fine. Each is digitally rendered and all the items have a cohesive look and blend well in the world. There was a point or two where something would be hidden in an area that was too dark, but I think that was an issue of my brightness being pretty low. The place where I feel things get a little yikes is with the character images in the dialog scenes. They’re pretty simple and honestly have this kind of uncanny valley quality to them. I think even if it clashed a little with the 3d modelling in the search and find screens. A piece of well done 2D art might have been less off putting. A cartoonish style would have worked just fine for the story too.
The music was a case where I ended up muting the game after a while. When you’re stuck in one screen, it can get annoying to hear the same songs looping and there isn’t a lot of music variety in the game. I understand that wasn’t the focus of this title, but it was something that had me more willing to throw it on mute and have a tv show or podcast going in the background while I was doing my searching and puzzling.
I mentioned earlier that I had to restart the game about halfway though, which is completely true. While I was playing Emily Archer and the Curse of Tutankhamun for review, everything was running just fine until I slammed into a game breaking glitch. After clearing hidden object screen, I was prompted to pick up a letter. After reading it, nothing happened, even though the game was meant to move on. Figuring it had just frozen, I closed and opened it again. Upon attempting to go back into my game file after the reboot, the game crashed entirely. I tried this three times before just starting a new profile and starting from the beginning again.
Now, since this was a pretty catastrophic failure, I reached out to the developer to find out if this was a known issue. Apparently they had never heard of it before, promised me they would look into it, and said they would release an update when they found the problem. It’s good to see them taking accountability, so I am willing to cut them a little slack, but it’s still a problem. This issue did not reoccur on my second time around, so it seems like it was some freak accident.
Having to play from the beginning again did allow me to test for replay value though! I found that the first few hidden object screens don’t seem to change, but once I was a bit into the game, it felt like about half the list was different, which I wasn’t really expecting. However, the side puzzles stayed entirely the same. I wouldn’t call it endlessly replayable, but there is a little extra value to be found there.
Overall, I had a pretty good time with this game, but I will willingly admit that’s mostly due to my nostalgia for games of this genre. Emily Archer feels a little dated, if I am being honest, and it does have some problems. It’s dated in a way that’s my jam, but that doesn’t mean that it will be that way for everyone. If you’re a fan of these types of games, then I think it’s worth checking out, especially at this manageable price point. If you’re not already into hidden object finding, though, I don’t think this would be the best first impression on where to start.
- Lots of things to find
- Variation in puzzles
- That cheesy adventure serial feeling
- Some typos
- A pretty severe technical issue
- The character art frightens me
- Controls are a bit iffy