Thursday, 10 March 2011


Phew! and Phew again!
Well, one of the biggies has reviewed. Here's the full, undoctored transcript (which, to my knowledge, was unbribed) from Gamezebo:

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Curse of the Severed Heart is everything a great HOG should be, but the bonus content is a little thin.

Updated Mar 9, 2011, 7:11pm

Margrave: Curse of the Severed Heart takes you on a journey into the supernatural as you search for answers regarding your childhood and the fate of your parents. Starting with a gripping narrative that expertly combines photographic characters with painted backgrounds and cleverly-designed puzzles with hidden object gameplay, Margrave: Curse of the Severed Heart is fine example of what a good hidden object title should be.

As young Edwina Margrave, you return to the village where years ago your scholarly parents searched for a relic called the Severed Heart. Settling into the cottage of the area's sole remaining resident, the otherworldly Miss Thorn, you soon realize both the picturesque village and your mysterious host are hiding something. The first clue that something's amiss is that wherever you go, you encounter ghostly animals: spirits of former cats, geese and sheep that call out to you to free them by helping them remember their names.

Divination is done with a special deck of Dream cards in an entertainingly unique mini-game. A number of cards are laid out that contain half-symbols in all four of each card's corners. A series of symbols are shown at the top of the screen and the idea is to recreate these symbols by lining up the half-symbols found on the cards. It's a simple concept that's more challenging than you might think. The artwork in these sequences is charming and it's genuinely satisfying winning the mini-game and receiving praise and thanks from the pathetic little ghost beasts.

This little mini-game alone makes Margrave: Curse of the Severed Heart different from your run-of-the-mill hidden object titles, but it's not the only unique thing the game has going for it. Another is the thoughtful, clever design of its many mechanical puzzles. Not only does every hidden object scene serve to solve an intricate puzzle; many of the individual puzzles are linked to one another to form an intriguing larger puzzle. You'll be blown away by the complexity of it all and by the game's beautiful environment art. You'll also enjoy the dialog sequences which are fully voice acted and though photographic, work well within the 2D painted environments. Further, you're bound to get the ethereal soundtrack—especially the haunting vocals of the game's main theme—totally stuck in your head.

The one downside of the game is that for a Collector's Edition, Margrave: Curse of the Severed Heart is light on extras. Many Collector's Editions these days offer concept art, music and mini-games as well as bonus chapters but Margrave merely offers a strategy guide and one unlockable bonus chapter called The Blacksmith's Revenge. This bonus chapter, taking place two years after the events of the main story, is meant to serve as something of an epilogue but makes a strange conceptual leap that will likely leave some gamers scratching their heads. Even so, it offers a new narrative as well as some new locations, art and puzzles and is good for another hour or so of interesting gameplay.

Margrave: Curse of the Severed Heart is one of those rare hidden object adventures that completely sucks you in, keeps you riveted throughout and when it's over, you're sorry to leave. Its photographic characters and fully voice-acted dialog make for enthralling drama, while its captivating environments and elaborate puzzles make you eager to explore and get to the bottom of things. Additionally, its beautifully phantasmic art direction and unique Dream card mini-game, not to mention its unearthly musical score make it an expertly-crafted adventure.

Regardless of your enthusiasm for hidden object titles, this is one game no mystery lover should miss - although given the title's thin bonus content you might be better off waiting for the Standard Edition.

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Apologies to all who expected more from the bonus material. Truth is, I believe that Big Fish are going to have to review their CE policies, especially as it looks as though the top ten is going to be swamped by the things! We noticed a weird psychological occurrence in the forums whereby any CE which included concept art and music as extras suffered from complaints of We don't want concept art and music! We want more gameplay! Such complaints seemed immutable and entirely unrelated to the length of the bonus gameplay, as though the dev should have devoted their complete allotment of CE time on the bonus gameplay alone.

But a splendid review nonetheless!

I've reached the conclusion that it's not a great idea to read reviews. I'm sure this notion has been championed by many!

Why's that solv? Surely you should be looking for those recurring themes and learn lessons?

Well sure, but public reviews are unregulated and, as such, sprawling. There really is nothing to learn from the bad reviews (that's to say, I've not found anything), not least because they contradict the good reviews (and even each other).

Solvy solvy solvy! That's a cop out!

Not really. We know that a percentage of people will not be pleased, and that percentage, measured in controlled surveys, is marginal enough to warrant the CE status. A minority percentage would douse me in petrol and skip around my blazing body. Let's take that as read right from the off - even before the first idea is typed upon virtual paper.

However, there is value in looking through that majority percentage to see if I achieved any of my ambitions (beyond designing a 'popular' game).

To be honest, this kind of self assessment feels horribly like ego rubbing, and I'm very much against that. So I'll do it quickly and run away with my eyes closed, and flagellate under my duvet.

Emotions in an iHOG? Oh yes! Read of 'teary' players and 'moved' players; read of 'hilarious' responses; read of 'best moment ever!'

Unique? Immersive? Sure thang!

Um, that was all I really wanted to achieve. Oh, that said, I wouldn't mind the number one accolade too. (Currently we're at number two, stuck behind the much better Dark Parables game. Bummer.)

Hey, if I'm going to flagellate, I might as well make it worthwhile. Check out the five star Game Mile review, and the five pipe Hidden Puzzles review.

In the next post, I'll share the downside of plaudits, otherwise known as the difficult second album, and we can leave all this sugary stuff behind us and return to our old friend pain.

1 comment:

esruel said...

Hey! I'm sure you're already working on the next offering. Perhaps first place with the new one may be a realistic aim, given that the history of Margrave's games was not that great. I'm not really a gamer, though I will play this one! But when it comes to movies n stuff, I'm rarely moved by bonus content. If the main event isn't enough for the gamer, then the bonus content surely won't get you off the hook.
You've made a great start, matey! The best is yet to come!