iPad Review– Jennifer Wolf and The Mayan Relics
A while ago Hell apparently froze over because I finally played an Anuman Interactive/Microids produced hidden object game called Deadly Association HD that was actually decent as it seemed someone on staff finally managed to pen a coherent story. Sure, the gameplay was exactly the same as virtually every title that came before it but the narrative at least kept me interested during its short playtime. However, here we are a few months later with Jennifer Wolf and The Mayan Relics and, if anything, it proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Deadly Association HD was a complete fluke.
No doubt Jennifer Wolf and The Mayan Relics was released to take advantage of the brouhaha surrounding the entire Maya prophecy that predicted the end of the world but it obviously takes artistic license with the tale, instead crafting yet another grand conspiracy plot and an age-old society that attempts to safeguard its secrets. Players take on the role of Jennifer Wolf, apparently an accomplished archeologist, as she sets off to meet her father at a dig site in Mexico. Upon arrival she meets a handsome assistant and the two of them quickly discover that Jennifer’s father seems to have gone AWOL leaving behind a cryptic trail of clues pertaining to the Mayan prophecy about the end of the world. Now, Jennifer and her new male friend are in a race against time to piece together the clues to not only save her father but also the rest of humanity.
Jennifer Wolf and The Mayan Relics tries to portray a kind of Indiana Jones meets Romancing the Stone narrative except it is not only totally devoid of charm but also common sense. I’m a player that really needs a plot to keep me going and all I ask is that it makes a modicum of sense but alas this game has no idea what coherent means. The narrative jumps around like a drunken rabbit hopping our heroes from Mexico to numerous locations in the United States as they attempt to retrieve pieces of an age-old medallion that is required to prevent Earth’s demise. At the same time it is quickly revealed that the Mexican Mafia are after said medallion as well and will do anything, including kidnapping and killing, to retrieve it.
The gameplay is a total carbon copy of every other Anuman/Microids title as players need to find objects from a list in order to “win” the board and proceed to the next level. The 2D graphics are decent but exceedingly generic as many locations could easily have taken place anywhere around the world. Each board features static graphics and it is really becoming obvious that the developers really do not care about moving any of their games into the modern age by placing even basic environmental effects into their levels.
The game does attempt to stop errant guessing by darkening the screen whenever it detects too many incorrect taps but by and large the penalty only lasts a few seconds before players can resume guessing. There is a hint system with a limited number of uses but these can easily be refilled by either finding golden stars buried in each stage or by scoring well during the many mini-games. Once again these mini games are all based on traditional puzzles such as rearranging jigsaws or jumbled letters. Although they can be skipped they are all so easy that they do not present much of an obstacle.
Object placement is about par for the course with always a few items rammed in totally ridiculous places plus there are a few objects which will have players cursing as they are either too tiny or hard to find based on blurry graphics rather than being skillfully hidden. As always there are also immersion breaking instances when the game tasks players to find “hidden” mist/fog or strands of hair that block the screen all of which makes little sense.
Still, it is the narrative that will have players in stitches as it takes so many illogical turns that heads will spin. To give an example of the game’s busted logic take the following scenario: our heroes are at Mount Rushmore and have to elude a throng of Mexican Mafia who are on the lookout for them. What do they do? They decide to make costumes for themselves in order to blend into the crowd. So far so good. What do they end up wearing? Bright yellow and red t-shirts along with feathery Indian headdresses. Disguise in place they then attempt to evade their enemies by shooting all the Mexican Mafia they can find. Yeah….remind me why they need to dress in Indian headdresses if they intend on shooting their way out? Making matters worse is the fact that neither of our heroes is armed with a firearm of any kind.
Yes, it is all incredibly vexing and it gives the impression that whoever penned the script didn’t bother to speak with the developers programming the hidden object sequences as the two certainly do not complement one another.
Hidden object games have come a long way and nowadays the cream of the crop really pay attention to detail so that items are not placed in ridiculous positions such as having players find a shark that is somehow suspended in the sky. At the same time the objects the players are tasked to find make some degree of sense and can then be used in logical ways. These easy to understand concepts are nowhere to be found here in Jennifer Wolf and The Mayan Relics and even worse, there is one sequence that will make players feel that the developers are unfairly punishing them for no reason.
No matter which hidden object game you play the plot is usually secondary to the item discovery so it will come as no surprise that many players might not care for it by fast-forwarding through the dialogue, totally oblivious as to what is being said. It is also a fact that the newer genre games come with journals or diaries so that whenever a key event or word is said the game automatically adds an appropriate entry into the journal. In this way players can always check the journal in case they have forgotten their current task or key information. There is no such feature in Jennifer Wolf and The Mayan Relics so when the game actually stops dead in its tracks and then outright quizzes players by asking a series of multiple choice questions such as “what is the name of Jennifer’s dad?” chances are the majority of players will not have taken notice of it.
That’s right, the game actually asks three consecutive multiple choice questions grilling players about the plot up to that point and all must be answered correctly in order to proceed. Failure to get them all correct forces players to endlessly repeat the same stage with exactly the same object placement. Some gamers might state that players should always be paying attention thus, should know the answers already but that’s a lame excuse as this testing mechanic is virtually never employed anymore. All it really does is frustrate players as the only recourse is to take note of all the guesses until the right combination finally is reached. Choose unwisely and players might get stuck for 20-30 minutes at this quiz which is actually damning when one considers that the game lasts roughly 90 minutes.
That’s par for the course for most Anuman/Microids hidden object games but it is incredibly short when compared to some of the best genre titles out there primarily from Big Fish Games or G5 Entertainment. Finishing the game only unlocks the feature to replay all the mini games once again but that is a poor reward that most players will never use.
Jennifer Wolf and The Mayan Relics is sadly a return to form for Anuman/Microids as the game is too ridiculous with a plot that rarely connects the dots and is full of suspect logic. The gameplay is a near 100% match to any other title from the developer including the same user interface which really gives gamers the strong impression that all their titles are crafted in some soulless assembly-line process. It is not hard to write an engaging story with colourful characters but merely jetting our heroes around the world to meet stereotypical Native American Indians or disheveled University Professors hardly qualifies. Apple’s iPad is now a mature platform with plenty of quality applications and games and the only way to stand out in this competitive crowd is to prove your product is better than others and right now it seems Anuman/Microids are ignoring this at their own peril.
* out of ****
Developer: Anuman Interactive
Languages: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish
Rating: Rated 12+
© 2014 The Galactic Pillow