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February 2, 2013

2

iPad – Deadly Association HD (2012) Review

by Master Pillow

I better check the skies because pigs must be flying right about now as I’ve finally played an Anuman Interactive developed game that actually has a more or less coherent story.  I feel as if I should reach for the nearest bottle of Dom Perignon and celebrate the rest of the night away.  In all seriousness, Deadly Association HD is yet another cookie-cutter hidden object title with every single merit and fault found in their entire pantheon of games.  However, it finally manages to go where no Anuman game has gone before in sucking players into a CSI inspired narrative that actually is logical and gripping enough to keep one entertained.

Deadly Association HD casts players as Detective Chloe Cunningham who along with her partner Paul Baxter are assigned to a homicide case involving the murder of a young woman named Nancy Boyle whose corpse is found outside her house with all the tell tale signs of a sadistic murderer and potential rapist.  Nevertheless, as the duo begins their investigation the narrative quickly accelerates to involve a spate of other murders which may or may not be connected thus it is up to our intrepid heroes to piece together the disparate plot threads, discover clues and identify the culprit.

Mechanically the game plays exactly like other Anuman titles so much to the point where I sense déjà vu washing over me as I type this article as I find myself basically copying past reviews verbatim.  Players are given a list of objects to find which are strategically placed within 2D rendered but mostly static scenery.  The goal is simply to find all the objects whereby the narrative usually kicks in leading players to another hidden object location.

As always some picked up objects are deemed key items and are automatically placed in your inventory for later use such as picking up luminol spray to discover hidden blood stains as evidence.  Thankfully, the rather redundant costume feature which shows players what the protagonist is wearing is not present yet that is also probably due to the fact that Detective Cunningham never changes her clothing.

The game is incredibly lenient in its penalty for too many incorrect guesses by merely dimming the screen brightness and forbidding any more finger taps for a few seconds.  There is a hint system that automatically cheats and shows players where one undiscovered object is located but it has a finite number of uses that do not recharge.  The only way to gain additional hints is to find gold stars scattered throughout the scenery or do well playing the various mini games.

These mini games should by now be so familiar to hidden object gamers that most can do them in their sleep and include such stalwarts as match three tiles, jigsaw puzzles, slider puzzles and spot the difference.  Even someone new to hidden object gaming should have no problems here.  In fact, the game itself is not particularly difficult with most objects in plain sight except for a few nasty instances where they are altogether too small or placed purposely on top of another similar coloured object.  I am playing on a 3rd Generation iPad with a Retina screen but it doesn’t appear to me that the game takes advantage of true HD as the smaller objects are fuzzy and pixelated the closer you zoom.  Thankfully, the game supports pinch to zoom to help find these tiny objects but one wishes developers would start releasing titles that really take advantage of the Retina display.

Still, the game suffers from some basic mistakes such labeling objects with vague descriptions like asking players to find a “torch” when they really mean “flashlight.”  It is never so bad that one can’t figure out what the developer is asking for but it makes the game feel as if it were translated by an amateur or that the QA process wasn’t strict enough.  At other times the game asks players to suspend disbelief in an awkward way most presciently when it tasks gamers to find fifteen pieces of smoke or rays from the sun.  Yes, seriously.

Take the sun’s rays for example as what happens is that Detective Cunningham walks into a dark basement and opens the window letting sunlight into the room obscuring everything inside.  However, forcing players to tap numerous times to “delete” these sun rays makes little sense.  The smoke works the same way as an unfortunate accident has caused a car to wrap itself around a tree while smoke billows from the shattered husk.  Yet once again the game asks players to get rid of the smoke making one wonder just how a Detective is supposed to do this – wave a magic Police Baton that blows smoke away while sucking in sunlight?

It is these incongruous moments that really act to derail the rather cohesive plot that Anuman has written here which at least connects the dots in much more convincing fashion than past titles.  There is also a logical reason why characters travel from one location to the next even if it means revisiting past areas such as the police/forensics lab.

Graphics are on par with other Anuman games with clean imagery that still unfortunately has the bad tendency to make areas look like junk yards or garbage dumps with items strewn all over the room, sometimes including objects on the ceiling.  Once again the characters are a combination of real actors/actresses and that handy piece of software everyone loves to hate, Photoshop.  I just wish developers would take more time in creating more stances as showing the same static character photo no matter what is going on in the narrative really feels last gen or low-budget B movie.

One area which Anuman clearly needs more work is in the next to total lack of unlockables or post-game features.  Allowing players to replay all the mini-games is a rather poor attempt to add value considering the game is completed in under two hours.  While that might be acceptable if one were watching a feature film this makes the game clock in decidedly on the lower end of the time completion scale when compared to other similar titles.  Also, the game has a rather abrupt ending with no catharsis whatsoever that is sure to alienate players who wish for something a bit more developed.

Still, I can’t help but be surprised that an Anuman game actually crafted a narrative that was at least enjoyable especially to those who love crime procedurals like CSI or NCIS.  Make no mistake in that it isn’t original in the least but it makes sense which is a massive improvement from past narratives like the one in my previous Petrodollar review where a tax investigator is more skilled than a CIA agent and has such amazing psychic powers as to somehow delude a man into thinking she is one of his best male friends all just by wearing men’s clothing.   Thankfully, there’s no sign of this wackiness here making Deadly Association HD the best Anuman game I’ve played thus far.  Now if they can fix the gameplay issues then perhaps this could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

**1/2 out of ****

Developer: Anuman Interactive

Publisher: Microids

Size: 123 MB

Version: 1.5

Languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, German

© 2013 The Galactic Pillow

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