Review: Hints Hunter (DSiWare)

Sigh borg

Playing Hints Hunter is a lot like browsing through a book of carpet samples: there may be a lot of them, but it won't take you very long before you've moved on from one to the next. Also, sometimes you come across a really difficult square right in the middle of some comparatively easy ones. Plus there are cartoon robots. Ok, maybe it's not that great of an analogy.

The game presents you with a veritable carpet sample book of fifty-nine cute and amusing but largely simplistic puzzles. No two are alike, and they range from placing characters into a scene from a fairy tale in the correct order to completing a strategy peg game-esque challenge in a limited number of steps.

Unfortunately, most of these require very little thought. One level has you place a pole in a fisherman's hand, then a worm on the hook, and cast your line with clicks and drags of the stylus. Players will soon find this type of placing-objects-about-a-scene task quite familiar when going through this collection, though there are still plenty of puzzles that don't fit this mould. The titular "hints" refer to the fact that while the game never explicitly instructs you to perform these actions, you can use context clues to figure them out. It's a real shame that there are no actual hints to be found, however, which would very much come in handy in some of the more complicated stages. While the especially challenging ones are near the end, the difficulty slope is nowhere near even while leading up to this, and it's quite common to come across a very hard level bracketed by two novice stages.

The controls are another issue, as there's no telling how reliable they'll be from one puzzle to the next. Their simplistic, stylus-based scheme remains generally unproblematic, but as the level designs become more ambitious, they grow increasingly unresponsive and frustrating.

There are just two modes: Challenge and Quick Play. The former has you linearly progress through each stage while the latter lets you go back to individual levels that you've already unlocked. It's a bit odd that while you can save and come back, you're able to do so but three times, which in our opinion serves no purpose besides forcing you to return to the beginning, artificially prolonging your experience. It's also disappointing that in Quick Play you can only see the level numbers and not their titles, which would have been much more useful.

You're scored by the number of clicks that you make, a feature that's somewhat interesting but clumsily implemented as rather than count your moves, the game tracks almost every time you touch the screen, whether or not it makes a difference. Couple this with the previously discussed unresponsive controls and you've got a system that's too flimsy and imprecise to try to master.

There's an extremely limited high score list that's basically useless, not even bothering to keep track of your click count on individual levels, meaning that once a puzzle is completed there's almost no reason to go back and play again.

The presentation is a mixed bag. The music selection is catchy but quite narrow, and after a while the small playlist of short, repeated songs will lose its charm and begin to grate on you. While in-level graphics are cute, cartoony and amusing and the robotic theme works very well, the top screen, alongside your click count and the stage name, features a robot who repeatedly reminds you that "Your objective is to find the key," "Hints are very useful!" and "May be (sic) you should move something." When struggling with a particularly trying puzzle, these ineffectual statements become frustrating taunts that might make you think that may be you should move your DSi very hard against a wall.

Conclusion

Hints Hunter is a fun game overall, presenting a number of puzzles that are varied, entertaining and pretty, but the majority of challenges are far too simplistic. Couple this with an extremely limited scoring system and you've got an experience that won't last very long or provide much of a reason to return. Often unresponsive controls and an uneven difficulty slope seal the deal, making this game a very middle of the road amusement that's worth a download only if you're desperate for casual, largely unchallenging puzzles.

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