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Monday, April 18, 2011

Review: Forgotten Places: Lost Circus (iPad)

A circus is creepy. The bright colours, the laughing clowns, the freak shows and the interplay between humans and various deadly animals are, on the surface, an entertaining escape from the real world for a day, but in reality it’s a grand mockery of humanity.

It’s the kind of horror that HBO channelled so well in its TV series, Carnivale, and a derelict and abandoned circus sets a distinctly creepy scene for hidden object release: Forgotten Places: Lost Circus.

This circus has seen better days

The hidden object genre, riding a wave of casual popularity as it is right now, is a natural fit for the big, high definition iPad screen, and Lost Circus makes good use of it. The artwork in this game is truly appealing, with occasional animated flourishes to prevent the experience being too static.

It’s a game that’s interesting to play through, too, with an intriguing plot that largely makes sense. Like most hidden object games, it’s about solving a mystery – in this case understanding the personal link the female protagonist has with this abandoned circus. It’s a story that is heavy on the flashbacks, taking the protagonist back to a time where the circus was alive and active – a handy narrative trick that allows the developers to colour up the experience every so often, because the abandoned circus is depressingly drab.

Like most hidden object games, you’ll be tasked to find items that are both random, as well as related to the plot. Thankfully (and unlike many hidden object games) these objects are generally placed logically within the environments – it’s rare you’ll need see clouds in the shape of scissors, for instance. These find-a-thons are broken up quite liberally with puzzle sections – putting together broken mirrors and the like. It’s not exactly an adventure game, but it’s enough to break up the basic gameplay.

It's necessary for a hidden objects game, but the art work in Lost Circus is impressive

With two difficulty levels, and a liberal hints system, Lost Circus also checks the boxes in providing an experience to cater to a wide variety of casual players. The real trouble this game will face will be in standing out. It’s a seriously overcrowded genre now, and it doesn’t necessarily matter how good the artwork is, or how varied the developers have made the basic formula – a hidden object game is hard to put out in the market as something different.

That said, for fans of the genre, this is an easy recommendation – it’s certainly one of the better examples I’ve played. For those few of you who might be interested, but not played one yet – this is a good place to start. For Forgotten Places: Lost Circus can’t get you hooked, it’s unlikely any other hidden object game can.




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Review: Forgotten Places: Lost Circus (iPad)
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