Surprise! There is yet another hidden object game now available on the Nintendo 3DS eShop! It's become clear to us that the developers behind all of these games are going for a world record regarding quantity, because the quality here does nothing to impress. If Gothic Masquerade — the latest addition to the flooded genre — is an indicator of anything, it's that the amount of work being put into these titles is plummeting.
Upon loading Gothic Masquerade you are greeted with a menu screen so ugly that it looks like it may have actually been pasted together in MS Paint. The only redeeming factor is the oversized virtual button on the 3DS's bottom screen that reads "PLAY!" This button is large enough to quickly guide you away from the miserable title screen that serves as an indicator of the overall quality that buyers are about to experience. The downside to this button is that it means you are now playing one of the more disappointing entries in its respective genre.
Jumping into the game, you're immediately dropped into a screen full of objects that clearly do not belong where they are. It's just like any other hidden object game that you've ever played, except this one has a spooky haunted theme and no plot to give any reason behind it. If you're interested in seemingly haunted hallways or swimming pools riddled with scary things such as witches, candelabras or pretzels, this is the type of hidden object game that will appeal to you. If you are instead interested in games with depth and/or challenge, this is absolutely not one that you will want to play. Either way, it fulfils its promise of hiding objects in a screen and asking you to find them, but it doesn't manage to do it particularly well.
Calling the objects in this game “hidden” is an insult to the word; rather than making the objects difficult to find, they are instead difficult to see. Most items are in plain sight, but they’re so transparent and faded into the background that they’re often completely invisible if your console’s brightness isn’t set high enough. It’s rather like telling someone to listen to a song, then jamming your fingers in their ears. The game is still playable, but less effort is put into searching through piles of rubbish than is put into straining your eyes in order to make out the ghastly pincushion that has been coloured grey then faded into the equally grey background.
Despite being a hidden object game, there are four different types of stages that actually give a hint of variety to the otherwise dull experience. The first type of stage is your standard affair — items are placed around a room that occupies a single screen while you use your stylus to locate the objects indicated on a list. The second type instead provides silhouettes of objects for you to find, forcing you to be a bit more observant rather than just identifying objects based on their name. The third type shows you two images and asks you to identify differences between them, while the fourth is a simple sliding puzzle. Points are earned when the correct objects are found, and deductions are made for tapping wildly at incorrect objects or blank spots on the screen. You are also allowed three hints that point you directly to one of your objects per level, but there is no point reduction or time penalty for using the hints; you might as well take advantage of them so the experience doesn't last any longer than it needs to.
If there’s anything good that can be said about this game is that the touch controls are astonishingly sensitive. The controls are by no means complex, consisting entirely of using the touchscreen to tap on objects and the Circle Pad to navigate the single screen, but they work well. The graphics are a little grainy, the top screen remains entirely flat despite being a 3DS game and not DSiWare, and the soundtrack consists of about three short loops that repeat themselves into what might be misconstrued as passable songs. The moving pieces of the graphics, audio, and tone are supposed to slide together to give the impression that you’re somehow playing a game that fits the title of Gothic Masquerade, but instead they all crash into each other to form an exceedingly sloppy experience.
The entire game can be completed in just around an hour, at which point it asks if you want to play again. If you decide that you do want to play again, you will be thrust back to the first of the 20 stages, this time seeking different objects than you were asked to find the first time around; yet everything's still hidden in the same place. If instead you correctly choose not to play again, you then get to turn your 3DS off and go outside, never having to think about playing Gothic Masquerade again.
Gothic Masquerade is just about as shallow as any other hidden object game, but this one has the courtesy of being over with in just around an hour. The touch controls are tight, but that's about the only genuinely positive thing we can say about this title. This is hardly a compliment though as, in a hidden object game, accurate touch controls are one of only two things you need, the other being a functioning pair of eyes. Games of this sort tend to provide a fulfilling casual experience for players seeking just that, but this one in particular does nothing to differentiate itself as one worth adding to any treasure hunter's collection.