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ARTIFEX MUNDI: HOPAs
ARTIFEX MUNDI GAMES
Date Played Sept 2015 - Feb 2016

I think all gamers go through periods of game fatigue when nothing appeals in the genres you normally play or you just get plain tired of having to fix every new game you start. This happened to me in September of last year where I turned to something different and discovered a couple of new genres for me. Sometimes I purchase a game for the sake of offering a little variery on the site and after some cursory research and determining that a group of hidden object games developed and published by Artifex Mundi were well-received, I bought a bundle from Indie Gala, which was promptly relegated to my backlog. However, sometime later, due to time constraints on my part, I was looking for something that could be played in a short amount of time and these fit the bill perfectly. I had been labouring under the impression that this genre was just a point-and-click where you go pixel hunting for hidden stuff, but I was wrong. Hidden Object Games (HOGs) are a sort of point-and-click and you do search for hidden objects, but they're not point-and-click in the traditional sense. So, I was very pleasantly surprised to find I enjoyed them so much and have now added Hogs to the list of genres I like.


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For those of you that might not know, HOG is short for Hidden Object Game or HOPA, which is short for Hidden Object Puzzle Adventure. These are different from traditional point-and-click games as they are primarily built around puzzle solving and you never see your character except perhaps in a cut-scene. There is no character movement except to one-click into another area and no tedious walking through endless screens of nothingness. The hidden object tag comes from the mechanic of being given a list of items to find amongst a screen of all kinds of other objects. Once you have found them all, you will receive one item for your inventory which can be used to solve a different puzzle. The best of the HOGs and HOPAs these days offer a story, great graphics and many other types of puzzles as well. These games also have quick downloads and saves at exactly the point you decide to quit, making them great for short and mostly problem-free gaming sessions.

Because the entire HOG and HOPA genre pretty much utilizes the same methods and features, I decided not to do a full review of each game, but instead break them down by developer. My criteria for rating them from good to bad is story, graphics, intuitive puzzles, bonus content, and how well the game instructs you on the actual mechanics it requires to solve the puzzles.

The features that are common to most of Artifex Mundi games are good artwork, good story, widescreen support, difficulty modes, a help section, a hint button, ingame maps, a journal/diary, a skip button, achievements, collectibles, fast travel and a female protagonist. The following are the ones I've played. A rating of ♥♥♥ falls somewhere in the middle. It's neither really good nor really bad.


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Abyss: The Wraiths of Eden
Release Oct 2012 ♥♥♥♥ - The puzzles are a bit challenging, the environments interesting and the characters are a little bit more developed for this type of game. It also includes some cinematic cut scenes which add more immersion. You can choose between doing hidden object puzzles or a mini game of dominoes, and there is a bonus chapter upon completion. The voice acting is pretty cheezy, though, and there is no fast travel.

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Grim Legends: Forsaken Bride
Release Feb 2014 ♥♥♥♥ - This has all the features including a bonus chapter and mini dominoes as an alternative to HO puzzles. There are two types of collectibles, one of which is called illusive objects. These fade in and out of the screen and are not always present at the time you are there, so illusive is very apt. You have a Kitty helper that is pretty darn cute, but is not utilized for puzzles very often.

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Grim Legends 2: Dark Swan
Release Sept 2014 ♥♥♥ - The second of the Grim Legends also has all the features plus a bonus chapter that's pretty meh. The graphics are quite naive and the puzzle instructions are not great. It features some animal helpers as well. There seems to be a lot of dead bodies in this game. Maybe that's why it's called "grim". It's a bit of a disappointment, really, for a fairly recent game. The third of the series, Grim Legends 3: The Dark City, was released in June 2016.

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Nightmares of the Deep 1, 2 & 3
Release 2012 - 2014 ♥♥♥♥♥ - This series is a trilogy, includes all of the features, and is one of Artifex Mundi's best. It's a must play if you're a fan of this genre. All three games follow the same heroine and continue the same basic story line about pirates. If you want to try this genre out, these would be a good place to start and would give you a pretty good meter by which to judge other HOG and HOPA games.

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Time Mysteries: Inheritance
Release Oct 2010 - This is the first game in this series. A remastered version of this was released in 2014 after fans kept asking for it, but this is definitely a case of be careful what you wish for. The game is nothing like Time Mysteries 2 and I really don't have anything good to say about it. This is one they should have left on the shelf. Steam user reviews are more negative than positive, so save your money.

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Time Mysteries 2: Ancient Spectres
Release Nov 2011 ♥♥♥ - A bit of a disappointment from this developer. It derives its name from the fact that you can use a portable time machine, which is a neat concept. However, it relies heavily on HO puzzles with only a smattering of other types. Towards the end, all I was doing was traveling from one HOP to the next with no story in between. It does have an alt mini game, sort of on the same premise as Bejeweled. It's an earlier work and the graphics are not great.

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Enigmatis: Ghosts of Maple Creek
Release Sept 2011 ♥♥♥♥ - This is an earlier work that also uses a previous engine, but is a lot better than the Time Mysteries games. The graphics are not as modern as the 2nd in the series, however, it's a must play for story continuity. The puzzles are mostly HOPs and there is no alt mini game or fast travel. It does feature a detective mechanic and a bonus chapter. This series seems to be a fan favorite.

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Enigmatis: Mists of Ravenwood
Release Sept 2013 ♥♥♥♥ - The graphics are much improved over the first game and it has all of the features of the latest games including an alt mini game and fast travel. It continues with a detective mechanic and has a bonus chapter. The story is a continuation from the first game. This is another series that I would recommend in this genre. Enigmatis 3 was just released in Aug 2016. Going on my list.

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Clockwood Tales of Glass and Ink
Release Aug 2013 ♥♥♥ - Although it looks good, and has many of the features of the latest games, it had no widescreen support, no mini-game and uses too many repeats of the same types of puzzles you've seen before. It also features a helper in the form of a mechanical bird, which is not nearly as cute as kitty in Grim Legends. The bonus chapter is also not up to par. I felt a little let down by this offering and didn't think it was of the same overall quality I had come to expect.

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Dark Arcana: The Carnival
Release Oct 2012 ♥♥♥ - This is rather an odd offering where the heroine doesn't really seem to fit the bizarre theme - a police detective embracing the paranormal. It has all of the features, including a bonus chapter, and includes a helper in the form of a monkey. The graphics look a bit dated, some HOGs are repeated and are generally too easy. The game is also fairly short. Nevertheless, it has a certain fascination due to the strange environments.
Game Issues Experienced
None with one exception in Time Mysteries 2 where constructing the portal time machine was a bit buggy.
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GAME INFORMATION
  • Genre: Adventure, Hidden Object
  • Developer(s): Artifex Mundi
  • Publisher(s): Artifex Mundi
  • Platforms: Microsoft Windows, other
  • Release: Various
  • Mode(s): Single-player
  • Media: Download
  • DLC Available: No.
  • OS: Windows XP, Vista, 7 & 8, some Windows 10
  • CPU: 1.5 GHz
  • RAM: 512 MB
  • Hard Drive: 1 GB free space
  • Video: 128 MB VRAM
  • Sound: DirectX 9 compatible
  • Shader Model:
  • Input for PC: Keyboard & Mouse
  • DRM: None
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  • Version: Steam Download
  • OS: Windows 7 SP1
  • CPU: Intel Core i5-3570K; 3.40 GHz
  • Ram: 8 GB
  • Disk Drive: DVD/CD
  • Video: ATI Radeon HD 7870 2GB
  • Shader Model: 4.1
  • DirectX: 11
  • Input: Keyboard & Mouse
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Development Note

Considered a leader in this genre, Artifex Mundi has been in the field a long time and although their older games using the older engines may not be quite as good as their more recent games, they do, for the most part, hold to a certain standard. The company is also very active in the Steam game hubs and readily keeps in touch with their audience, which is why fans get a little disappointed when they feel some releases are not quite up-to-par with expectations.

Although this Polish studio was founded in 2006, it was formally a part of ZSK Progres, a company founded in 1991 as a software developer and reseller. Artifex Mundi had its start as a new branch actively focusing on game development. They currently develop for many different platforms and have recently moved into the role of a publisher for other developers as well, currently sporting 40 titles in their portfolio and 140 employees.

All of their protagonists to date are female, citing the reasoning behind this is that HOPA gamers are mainly women and so they cater to that market. Personally, I don't think they are doing themselves any favors by boxing themselves in to this perception as just buzzing around the internet indicates that men are playing these types of games as well.

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