Review: Chronicles of Vampires: Awakening (DSiWare)

Bloody good?

It seems that popular culture's obsession with vampires may be entering its twilight years. If contemporary films, books and TV series focusing on gothic lore ever felt fresh and exciting, that effect has worn off and the bloodsuckers have come to feel a bit bland and tired. Still clinging onto the trend is the second in Teyon's hidden object series, Chronicles of Vampires: Awakening. Not an especially original title, but this particular genre has never proven too ambitious anyway.

Still, this entry attempts some innovation – puzzles are often 90% seek-and-find and 10% point-and-click adventure, with some spot-the-difference, logic and jigsaw-esque challenges along the way. It's nothing that casual gaming hasn't seen before, but it certainly breaks up the action and makes the whole affair seem more interesting, though you can usually skip these bits if you wish.

The puzzles themselves are once again merely decent, with objects generally hidden well against clear but medium-quality background images. Unfortunately it will often have you spot an object amongst other items that could just as easily fit the description. For example, you're asked to find a "Book" multiple times, and eventually you'll learn exactly what the books you're seeking look like, but until then you'll find yourself growing ever more frustrated as you search within libraries and other rooms filled with normal books aplenty, the specific one you're after among them without you easily being able to tell which is which. Similarly, the game provides little direction in adventure sections, which is both a gift and a curse as sometimes there is simply no way to figure out what you're supposed to do, short of arbitrarily touching inventory items to different objects in the scenery.

There's also plenty of dialogue-based plot to read through, but this time around it's many times more interesting than in its predecessor. No longer are you simply watching as protagonist Linda Hyde repeatedly becomes frightened at the simple prospect of vampires – instead, you'll watch a somewhat interesting Satanic ritual-centric storyline unfold. It's by no means a masterpiece, but it's enough to fuel your motivation, though some laughable attempts at character development and emotion show up from time to time. Also, maybe it's the enriching effect of its higher quality narrative, but this entry seems to be at the proper length while the former felt quite short.

You can use a rapidly-refreshing hint button to help you find objects and your only punishment for mis-clicking is to take away this ability briefly. Thank goodness for that, as incorrect taps are very likely as some of the objects are difficult to identify thanks to the somewhat sub-par graphics, not to mention the previously mentioned vague definitions in the object list.

The character art is ridiculous – none of them ever move, which means that Linda keeps the same comically intense expression at all times. Not to mention that while she is clearly a man-made drawing, most of the people you meet look more like cut-out photographs. Our favourite is the mysterious Ignacio, a smiling, bespectacled suit-and-tie-wearing older man who looks more like a dad or a dentist than someone who belongs in the game world. The music is your typical lazy, low-quality MIDI fare, but no one buys these titles for the music anyway. Frequent load screens are a nuisance as well, though generally they don't last long.

Conclusion

At its heart, Chronicles of Vampires: Awakening is a very middle-of-the-road hidden object game. Fans of the genre won't be disappointed as the puzzles are decent, and it makes for a serviceable time-waster, helped in part by its at times interesting gameplay choices and slightly above average story. It's a step up over its predecessor, then, but not a big one.