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Vampire Moon: Mystery of the Hidden Sun

For:   Also on: DSDSi
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I wouldn't count on it

Product: Vampire Moon: The Mystery of the Hidden Sun | Format: DS | Genre: Adventure, Brain training, Casual, Puzzle | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
 
Vampire Moon: The Mystery of the Hidden Sun DS, thumbnail 1
Looking for things is frustrating. You know those moments when you can't find your keys, despite them having been just there last night?

Well, those moments form the cornerstone of Vampire Moon: Mystery of the Hidden Sun, a Transylvanian point-and-click puzzler from City Interactive.

It's basically a hidden object hunt interspersed with brainteasing minigames. Move Professor Layton to  Dracula's castle, strip it of any charm, and you're pretty much there.

High stakes

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The game casts you as jetsetting news reporter Emily Davis, as she sets off to investigate a mysterious eclipse over Transylvania. She soon finds her way to a suitably gothic castle, where the puzzling begins in earnest.

Each new area Emily visits is presented to you through a pre-rendered still image. You're then given a list of things to find in that scene by tapping the touchscreen in the relevant places.

Once you've completed the obligatory game of 'I Spy', you're usually thrown into a minigame. These are all pretty standard brainteasers, rarely straying from the tried-and-tested mix of jigsaw puzzles, block-pushing, and matchmaking.

As the game progresses you'll meet a cast of frightening villagers, imposing counts and hunch-backed servants presumably called Igor. Dialogue is brief, functional, and wrought with enough horror movie cliché to give the Transylvanian tourist board nightmares.

Nevertheless, you'll need all the clues available to crack the castle's secret, a mystery that ramps up nicely with the puzzle difficulty as you progress.

Blood sucking


If all this sounds familiar, it might be because Vampire Moon owes an awful lot to another recent City Interactive title, Crime Lab: Body of Evidence.

Vampire Moon 'borrows' a lot from Crime Lab. From artistic direction to core gameplay it's very similar indeed - albeit with a few gargoyles chucked in for good measure.

Unfortunately, Vampire Moon still manages to be far less successful than its crime-solving cousin.

For starters, where Crime Lab opens with a cut scene to set the mood, Vampire Moon offers you only a black and white picture and a few lines of text, before dumping you into the game's first challenge.

With barely any context at all, you find yourself on a bleak stretch of Transylvanian road. You're then asked to "find the objects listed on the top screen", most of which are completely incomprehensible. A pawn? A fiddle? A strawberry?

A quick poke around reveals that this stretch of highway is crammed with more random tat than most antique shops. Among the grandfather clocks and violins unconvincingly blocking the road, there's also a paintbrush up a tree, a golden crown on an oil lamp, and a bizarre ClipArt silhouette of a car etched onto a fence post.

Nail in the coffin


This sort of absurdist item placement not only belittles any sense of immersion, but it actively makes the game more frustrating.

Whereas in most good hidden object games the items suit the location at hand, Vampire Moon simply leaves you to guess where (and indeed why) you might find a cucumber in a library. There's a time limit too, adding yet more arbitrary frustration to proceedings.

It's not that Vampire Moon is entirely without merit. The graphics, though static, convey the sort of eerie atmosphere you'd expect. The sound is pleasingly creepy too, its synthesised church organs and violins serving up gothic ambience with confidence.

Presentation alone won't save this game from its obvious shortcomings, though. After all, looking for things while under pressure is simply not an enjoyable experience.

If, for some reason, you do find it strangely fun whenever you lose your keys, Vampire Moon may be the game for you. Otherwise, unless your a massive vampire fan, I'd stay well clear.
 
Vampire Moon: Mystery of the Hidden Sun
Reviewer photo
Richard Meads | 25 January 2011
A tedious, barely justified chore of a game, easily bested by it's cousin Crime Lab: Body of Evidence
 
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