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October 8, 2013

iPad – Stolen Beauty HD: Fashion Mystery (2012) Review

by Master Pillow

The plot for Stolen Beauty HD: Fashion Mystery sounds very much like a reject script from a US daytime soap opera as a fashion journalist named Eva Sanders travels the world unravelling a rather awkward tale featuring supermodels that have had bad luck befall them, usually through physical maladies, that force them out of their vocation. Getting fat or having spots break out all over your face might sound, in the grand scheme of things, to be relatively minor issues yet for these young women it is enough to send them into hiding for fear of ruining their image. While I can’t say that the plot is rock solid the game does manage to mildly hold some intrigue until it decides, rather abruptly, to quickly change direction in the last thirty minutes of gameplay by introducing an element of the occult which simply does not work nor make an ounce of sense.

Stolen Beauty HD: Fashion Mystery is your basic hidden object game albeit with a few adventure elements thrown in mainly through the use of movable items that are strewn about each area. While this isn’t the epitome of originality it gives gamers the ability to better interact with what is essentially a static pre-rendered location. The only downside is that many of these movable objects are not marked causing gamers to fumble incessantly around the scenery in order to find them that more often than not register as incorrect guesses by the game. Thankfully, the penalty for too many incorrect guesses is nothing more than locking the screen for a few seconds to prevent any sort of interaction.

In terms of item organization the game is massively erratic often times inserting objects in logical locations while others might as well exist in another dimension as both scale and placement are awkward to say the least. For instance, Eva eventually visits an ice skating rink where she is tasked to find a veritable zoo of animals from mice to parrots to chickens and ducklings. Just why are there animals lying around an ice rink is beyond me but to make matters worse the duck itself is bigger than the zamboni cleaning the rink while a mutant parrot sits in the rafters looking like it is about to devour any human below. If this out of scale illogical placement bugs you then this is not the best game to pick up.

As par for the course, the game gives players up to five free hints that are on a refill timer but it has to be said that the actual hidden object gameplay skews towards those of a more beginner level. Objects are more or less easy to find and you can bet that nearly every movable item has a required object behind it. Admittedly, there is an inventory system where key items are kept that need to be utilized in a different capacity but these are all ridiculously obvious and almost always found within the same scene. Thus that locked safe in the back of the room requires a key or a bunch of frayed wires are fixed with some duck tape lying on a nearby desk. Occasionally the game will force gamers to backtrack through previous screens but this is rare and even then the objects that need to be found are simple to discover.

Unfortunately, the game has no zoom feature which is lamentable although it didn’t seem to detract from my playthrough as most objects were easy to locate. The game does have a handy goal function which reminds gamers what exactly they are tasked to do in each area as well as a rather useless dossier where Eva collects photographs and information about each individual she encounters. The problem with the dossier is that there is no reason to go back and remind oneself of past individuals because the game has the bad tendency to funnel players through an exceedingly linear path and the narrative isn’t aided one bit by the massive u-turn in the plot near the end which throws the entire premise out the window.

The game does present one novel gameplay segment that takes place at the end of every area where Eva has to enter a kitchen to make a holistic antidote to help whatever ails the current fashionista. This is done rather easily as the game provides a series of object silhouettes which the player must pick up and place into the correct pot or bowl before the timer runs out. However, even if a player has a total lack of skill there is no real way in which to fail in this segment as letting the timer run out merely resets it once again as the game cycles through the same silhouettes over and over again. This is nothing exciting but at least it breaks up the usual monotony of scouring a room for a tiny object although the recipes that Eva concocts to combat ailments can sometimes be hilariously ill-advised as I really don’t think giving a fashion model a huge ice cream sundae is going to help them much.

Visually the game isn’t going to get your iPad GPU burning as it consists of nothing more than static imagery both in its backgrounds and with 2D characters which pop up from time to time during dialogue sequences. What is odd though are that the 2D drawings rarely match the ailments that are being described. For instance, when Eva meets a young woman who is suffering from putting on large amounts of weight the 2D graphics make it appear as if she is a normal supermodel with an appropriate figure. Another instance sees Eva speak to someone who seemingly has aged overnight but again the 2D character art doesn’t match whatsoever. Or how about the stunning supermodel who is suffering from facial spots yet her character art shows a brilliantly smooth face? I have no idea why this is so but the dichotomy between written description and its visual counterpart does nothing but cause gamers to become disconnected with the narrative.

In addition, though the game has Eva jetting around the world from one exotic location to another, the game misses an obvious opportunity to highlight local environments or architecture so that every scene looks like it could have come from downtown New York. At the same time, the game tries hard to present visually appealing cutscenes through basic comic book panelling but the effect is ruined when gamers notice that virtually every panel uses the same 2D static character art as well as the exact same illustrations such as showing the same plane flying off into the sunset. I realize that hidden object game developers might not have massive budgets but surely whoever is doing the illustrations can be paid a few extra dollars to add more variety. As it stands, the reusable art as well as the character images that don’t match their descriptions makes the game feel unprofessional and even cheap, two elements that could easily have been avoided.

There are no voiceovers whatsoever as dialogue is transmitted through text bubbles entirely and a ridiculously looping musical soundtrack that is sure to grate most gamers to the point where eardrums will bleed. In terms of options the game offers only the most basic customization with sliders to control the volume of both sound effects and music as well as a handy clear progress button that erases all saved games in case anyone wants to start from the beginning again. On the plus side the game does link to Game Center for some easy achievements that all can unlocked through normal gameplay.

Stolen Beauty HD: Fashion Mystery joins the multitude of hidden object titles already available on Apple’s iOS devices and though the art and visual appeal is certainly adequate the gameplay is decidedly too traditional to make it stand out. Throw in a ridiculous plot, an easy difficulty curve and an altogether short completion time and it makes it tough to build a case for anyone to pick this over other similar games. Perhaps it is worth it at a discounted $0.99 but anything higher should be avoided.

*1/2 out of ****

Publisher: Nevosoft
Developer: Funlinker
Languages: English, French, Russian, Spanish, German
Version: 1.0
Size: 145 MB

© 2013 The Galactic Pillow

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