Overall Score 78%
Pahelika: Secret Legends
While clearing out the study, you come across a mysterious device. Reassembling all the components, you discover its purpose - it is a portal, sending you to mystical and far away places. In each of these places you are faced with a series of puzzles - by proving yourself, you will show yourself worthy of the ancient book of magic, the Pahelika.
Your quest features six locations, each more challenging than the last. From the tower of the invisible wizard to the ice caverns, each journey features a quest to activate the teleporter that will send you home again. Your last visit is to the monastery where the book itself is held.
Pahelika is, basically, a hidden object game. Click on things with the mouse to pick up or activate them - not all items on the screen will be relevant, but anything you can examine is surrounded by twinkly lights as you hover over it. As well as various small items, which you can manipulate from your inventory at the bottom of the screen, you will be faced with various puzzles ranging from combination locks to sliding blocks. Each location also features a jigsaw puzzle, which will see you rotating and placing pieces to assemble a complete picture.
Controls are, aside from entering your name in the user profile, entirely mouse driven. There is no time limit involved, so you can take as long as you need to, and if something is of importance after you've solved some other puzzle, the twinkly lights remain on it as a permanent reminder. You may occasionally need to take items from one screen to another but this is largely handled automatically. In later parts of your quest you'll need to revisit previous locations.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and call these graphics beautiful. Every challenge has a series of highly detailed backdrops and they're frankly stunning. Occasionally something doesn't convince - a skeletal warrior in one scene, for instance - but generally the artwork is first class. Animation is minimal - objects you pick up fly into your inventory as trails of twinkly lights and changes to the scene itself seem to "fade" between states rather than animate. This adds to the ethereal quality of playing Pahelika. At the opening of the game and between locations there are also comic strips that detail the plot, though the plot itself is not particularly important for playing the game.
Pahelika is accompanied by a range of soft and haunting music tracks and voiceovers for plot and setting descriptions. Sound effects also accompany most actions. Since all voiceovers are subtitled, there's no need to play with sound at all - but you'll miss out on so much atmosphere if you mute it.
Pahelika is very simple to play, but can occasionally be irritating. Sometimes the objects you need to click on are fairly small, and the connection between things is not always obvious - why, for instance, does repairing a snowman reveal a buried chest? Several tasks involve assembling things - these usually need to be done in a particular order, though there is no real reason why. Hints are offered on some puzzles, but are not always relevant (or helpful) and occasionally annoy by their persistence. One of the great strengths of Pahelika is that you cannot really lose - there is no penalty for being slow or making mistakes.
This is, however, also a bit of a weakness. Pahelika's greatest problem is a lack of replay value - the quest is a single track with only one resolution, and while individual puzzles may differ (such as the memory games and jigsaw puzzles) the game as a whole is the same. Since you'll eventually solve every puzzle by randomly clicking on things until you get a result, this is not a quest that rewards intelligence so much as persistence.
Pahelika is a highly professional and beautiful game, but it could use a little more player freedom. One cannot even decide in which order to face the challenges! As it stands, it's something you can only really play once. Hopefully the sequel (I'm sure there is one planned!) will provide the player with an element of choice over what they do and where they go.
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