With a solid sim offering on the Wii behind them, Keen Games have decided to use a similar setting to Anno: Create a New World for their first self-published WiiWare title, The Mystery of Whiterock Castle: a good-looking "find the hidden object" game that should provide entertainment for the whole family.
The game's story is that of a little boy trying to find his royal playmate, the princess, who is somewhere in the environs of Whiterock Castle. In his quest, our nameless explorer encounters various castle staff members who will direct him to where they last saw the princess, but only in exchange for helping them "tidy up" or do other chores that involve finding objects. After going through a series of rooms and being presented with the text-based ending, the player’s score is totalled and evaluated for placement on a local leaderboard. It's a simple concept and a simple game, but that should be expected in a title aimed at children and their parents.
Before starting each level, you're treated to a still image of the staff person in the current area, with some text indicating that they saw the princess and "oh would you help me tidy up?" or some other set-up, followed by them sending you off. There is only one kind of object to find in each level (teddy bear, apple, brush, etc.), but you'll need to find ten of that item using the pointer and button on your Wii Remote.
While definitely skewed towards younger players, it doesn't mean that Whiterock Castle is a cakewalk. There's a time limit and the objects don't stand out in any way; with an art style that matches the background and no visual or other indications that your pointer is currently touching a valid item, things can become tricky. It must be said, though, that the artwork is fairly detailed and lends itself nicely to the assistive feature of pressing to magnify a small area around your pointer. You'll be doing this a lot because some items can be fiendishly difficult to spot, seeing as they're sometimes protruding from a container or placed in different orientations. There are various places that objects may be hidden inside like cupboards or drawers, and these will flash and cause the remote to rumble when the pointer moves over them. Pressing will open these areas (accompanied by appropriate sound effects); pressing the button again will close them – just in case you've accidentally hidden something in the process.
When you find one of the sought-after objects, you simply click to collect it, removing it from the screen. Random clicking is discouraged by causing points to be lost for mistakes, though the hit detection is rather forgiving so you don't have to worry about getting penalised for having your pointer just miss an object you intended to click on. You can get bonus multipliers for clicking multiple items within a second or two of each other, and there are gems to find which will also award a score multiplier. In the event you run out of time (it can happen to the best of us) you'll be given the option to restart or go back to the main menu after putting your name on the local leaderboard. There are no continues, but it's a kid's game with ten levels, so it's not really a big deal. The objects come from a random selection unique to each level and the places they're hidden vary between plays to keep things from getting stale.
There's some surprising variety in the levels on offer; all nicely presented with quality artwork and accompanied by a quiet, but lovely musical score. In addition to castle rooms like the kitchen, stables, armoury – and of course the princess' bedroom – there are exterior locations like the courtyard and nearby forest. Not all areas are lit up; there are a few levels where your pointer moves a torchlight about, which adds some variety and makes finding objects a bit tougher. If you want further challenge, "Hard" mode reduces the time limit allotted, though nothing else appears to be changed.
Whilst this game is going to prove too challenging for very young children, there's a co-operative mode where two players can work together to find the object so parents or older siblings can aid youngsters if required. For more evenly-matched players, a competitive mode provides separate scores as they compete to find the most objects; both of these modes have separate leaderboards from the single player game for future bragging rights.
Despite the rather simple concept, developer Keen Games has managed to produce a decent interpretation of a well-established pen-and-paper game. The quality artwork is impressive and the random placing of objects gives Whiterock Castle decent replay appeal. With multiple play modes and a two player option, this a game that should appeal to families looking for something light and enjoyable to play together on a night in. The gameplay may be somewhat lacking in variety and it will not pose a challenge for the older audience, but the kids will certainly have a good time with playing this one.