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MAGICINDIE: HOPAs
MAGICINDIE GAMES
Date Played Sept - Oct 2015

Sometimes I purchase games outside of my favoured genres for the sake of offering a little variety on the site, but going HOG wild for a period was a result of a confluence of various circumstances. One of those was a period of game fatigue when nothing appealed in the genres I normally play and I was also just plain tired of having to apply some sort of fix to every new game I fired up. So I turned to something different and discovered a couple of new genres I ended up liking very much.

My first experience with Hogs and Hopas was a group of the well-received games developed and published by Artifex Mundi. So, I bought a bundle from Indie Gala, which was promptly relegated to my backlog. However, sometime later, when I was looking for something that could be played in a short amount of time, 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 could add Hogs to the list of genres I like. Since my confluence of circumstances lasted a couple of months, I went on the hunt for more of the same.


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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, no tedious walking through endless screens of nothingness, and usually no long reams of dialogue to wade through. 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 will save 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.

My first experience with HOG games was with Artifex Mundi and it was a good one. That sent me on a quest for more developers offering these types of games and MagicIndie Softworks did just that. The following three games will scratch the itch if you like this genre. A rating of ♥♥♥ falls somewhere in the middle. It's neither really good nor really bad.


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Dorian Gray Syndrome
Brink of Consciousness 1 Release Apr 2012 ♥♥♥ - One difference from Artifex Mundi games is that the Brink games have male protagonists. Another is the tone of the graphics which in Dorian Gray are pretty dark, dreary and somewhat flat. Add to that no fast travel, which means long trips back and forth, and the game loses 2 stars in the rating. I'd include the far too long dissertations from the enemy on the negative side as well except for the fact that the developers have provided the means to turn these off or collapse the text. Other than that, it has the usual accoutrements of the genre, a map, a recorder, a guide and hints, wallpapers, sound track, concept art and 2 modes, but there are no achievements or collectibles. However, there are some unique types of puzzles, although some are a little pixel sensitive, and it also has a bonus chapter.

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Lonely Hearts Murders
Brink of Consciousness: 2 Release Nov 2014 ♥♥♥♥ - This is a better offering than the first Brink, but as to why it's called a Brink game is a mystery as it bears no resemblance to the first game at all. The graphics are vastly improved as well as the way they are presented. The story really has two protagonists, although played through one in the main game and the other in the bonus chapter. However, the game once again loses a star due to the lack of fast travel and a few other features generally typical of the genre. This one beats the other hands down though if you have to make a choice.

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Nearwood
Release Apr 2014 ♥♥♥♥♥ - Of the 3 MagicIndie HOPA games, this is the winner. It ticks all of the boxes that the genre has to offer including some cute collectibles called Snoop-Sees that when found will unlock a special storybook comic. There are not so many hog screens in this game, but there are a lot of good puzzles and the visuals are stunning. It also has a very cool introduction screen, so be sure to let it run its course before clicking through to gameplay. Amongst fans, there is near universal agreement that this is on of the genre's best.

Game Issues Experienced
None the first time around, however, Nearwood froze on a second playthrough, which was resolved by verifying the Steam files.
Development Note
Magicindie Softworks was founded in 2009 and is based in Republic of Moldova. The company started life as a one-man team. The founder, Vladislav Chetrusca, took up game development while working on his University degree and released his first game six months later. Although it was not successful, with the help of others, his second attempt called Adventures of Robinson Crusoe turned out to be quite popular.

From the beginning Magicindie focused on casual titles, especially hidden-object adventure games, and now employs over 30 people. However, we are unlikely to see many more PC Hog's or Hopa's from this studio as they have shifted their attention to the free-to-pay mobile market. It's a let-down for fans of the genre as the few HOPAs they did develop for PC were of fairly good quality.

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GAME INFORMATION
  • Genre: Adventure, Hidden Object
  • Developer(s): Magicindie Softworks
  • Publisher(s): Viva Media
  • Platforms: Microsoft Windows, other
  • Release: Various
  • Mode(s): Single-player
  • Media: Download
  • DLC Available: No.
  • OS: Windows XP, Vista, 7 & 8
  • CPU: Pentium 2.0 GHz
  • RAM: 512 MB
  • Hard Drive: 1106 MB free space
  • Video: DirectX compatible
  • Sound: DirectX compatible
  • Shader Model:
  • Input for PC: Keyboard & Mouse
  • DRM: Steam, 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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