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July 3, 2014

iPad Review – Les Misérables: Cosette’s Fate

by Master Pillow

I guess pigs can fly as Anuman Interactive/Microids has finally made a game that feels contemporary and compares well to its peers.  Based on Victor Hugo’s famous novel Les Misérables: Cosette’s Fate adapts his work into, of all things, a hidden object game.  Most modern fans will probably remember Claude-Michel Schönberg’s and Alain Boublil’s musical take on the novel or director Tom Hooper’s recent big-budget movie adaptation.  However, trying to shoehorn a literary classic into a game is certainly audacious and it has to be stated that developer Anuman Interactive is probably not any casual gamer’s first choice to head such a project based on their past output.

Both the stage musical and film adaptation of Les Misérables decided to adapt the novel almost verbatim by following the lead protagonist Jean Valjean from his early days as a criminal working under the stern Inspector Javert to his re-invention as the mayor of a small town many years later.  This time around developer Anuman Interactive has decided on something a bit original and has crafted a game that shifts the focus entirely to Cosette, the young girl who Jean Valjean takes as his own daughter.

Cosette is one of the least likely protagonists to follow as her story is actually incredibly constricted as opposed to Valjean’s but it also gives a grand opportunity to explore the world of Les Misérables in a new light.  Therefore, instead of focusing on Valjean’s overall narrative the game casts players initially as a young Cosette who has been severely mistreated by the Thenadier family that see her as nothing more than a nuisance.  Cosette’s mother Fantine places her under their care but unbeknownst to her, the family could not care less about her daughter, frequently keeping her mail from Cosette’s eyes and, more importantly, taking her cash for themselves while lambasting her for being such a financial drain.

The game itself is your standard hidden object game where players are given a list of objects to find within a certain location in order to gain a needed key item that can be used to proceed in the narrative.  The difference this time around is the developer Anuman Interactive has totally junked their old user interface as well as actually spending money on crafting impressive 2D visuals that compare favourably with their competitors.  Not only that but there are now a ton of environmental effects present in nearly every single location that really are impressive, such as the copious amounts of snow that fall when Cosette is outside the Thenadier house trying to get water from a pump.  In fact there are so many effects that it almost becomes overkill but compared to the completely static and lifeless backgrounds that exemplify all their previous games this is a massive positive surprise.

The new user interface resembles modern hidden object games with an emphasis on providing gamers with the biggest “window” in which to see the graphics while attempting to minimize the object list and settings/hint buttons so that they do not intrude.  The entire object list can be minimized and hidden as well in case you want an unobstructed view of the graphics and thankfully, the developer hasn’t really cheated by placing items behind the list as that would simply be cheap.  Some objects are hidden behind or inside others and these are easily represented by red coloured text in the item list although it is not particularly hard to discern what can be opened as the game highlights them in sparkles.  Those who want a tougher experience will probably blanch at those highlights but for everyone else it prevents excessive tapping/guessing at everything on screen.

The red coloured text can also indicate that certain objects need to be used on others to obtain a needed item such as tapping and dragging a knife over an apple in order to slice it into smaller pieces.  Once again, it isn’t particularly difficult to figure out what to do as all that is needed is simple logic as all the objects are usually included on the same screen.  As another example one board has a nail that is too tough to pry out of a piece of wood by hand thus, players need to scour the scene to find an instrument like a hammer to help them out.

Like nearly every modern hidden object game the item discovery levels are interspersed with mini games of the usual variety such as reassembling a broken plate in a jig-saw game but there are also a few brainteasers that are incredibly obtuse where it is not particularly obvious what to do.  Diehard gamers will probably figure them out through trial and error but it has to be said that the game does a poor job at educating those less skilled at hidden object games leading to much frustration.  The game’s hint system doesn’t work at all for any of these mini games, an admittedly real design headache as it would have made much more sense to provide some written text that can help befuddled players.  Thankfully, all the puzzles can be skipped with a tap of a button so gamers who are stumped or just couldn’t care less for mini games will not get stuck.

Interspersed throughout each level are hidden butterfly icons that when pressed, give a short blurb description detailing little snippets of trivia about the real Les Misérables novel.  None of these are particularly illuminating but at least it shows that the developers are attempting to link their game to the source material.

The game’s narrative is actually split into three acts, the first beginning with Cosette attempting to escape from the Thenadiers while the second details her actions some time later when she tries to help an ailing Jean Valjean.  The final section shows a grown-up Cosette, now obviously pictured as a sprightly young lass, as she meets and falls in love with Marius while finally discovering the secrets of her adopted father’s past.  The gameplay remains the same in every act and the only thing that changes is basically Cosette’s 2D portrait.

Anuman Interactive deserves some credit for finally dragging themselves into the modern era of hidden object gaming with Les Misérables: Cosette’s Fate but unfortunately, spiffing up the graphics while crafting a coherent story and user interface in only the first step.  Once the game is finished there is still nothing to unlock giving the title little replay value.  It would have been infinitely better to throw in some sort of unlockable picture gallery or even Apple Game Center support for achievements as there is really no incentive to keep the game installed on your device.  However, there’s even a bigger issue here and that is, for all its polish the game follows their past titles in one dreadful facet by being incredibly too short for its own good.

The entire experience clocks in at around 90 minutes which is ridiculously short even for a hidden object title.  Many new titles from Big Fish Games easily double or triple that running time making Les Misérables:  Cosette’s Fate a hard game to recommend considering the tough competition.  Admittedly, the game is currently $2.99 for the iPad version which is much less than the $6.99 that Big Fish Games charges for their premium titles so perhaps players who want something they can finish in one sitting will be tempted to pick it up.

In the end Les Misérables:  Cosette’s Fate is at least a step in the right direction for the developer who thus far has released average or sub-par hidden object games that all feel as if they had been unceremoniously crafted from an assembly line of similar parts.  If they can just work on ironing out some of these kinks as well as radically increasing the total game time then perhaps they can finally join the big boy ranks.

**1/2 out of ****

Publisher: Anuman Interactive/Microids
Size: 442 MB
Version: 1.5
Released: 03/07/2013
Rated: 12+
Languages: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish

© 2014 The Galactic Pillow

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