G5 Entertainment’s The Mystery of the Crystal Portal is the latest title to capitalise on the growing popularity of Hidden Object games on the PlayStation 3. After years of quietly bubbling under on PC, the advent of digital distribution channels on consoles has given the genre a new outlet, and one that’s proving surprisingly fruitful.
And not only does the rising popularity of the genre on consoles mean that more publishers and developers are likely to produce more titles (especially given their comparatively low development and marketing costs, and therefore low retail price), but it also means that new ideas are likely to spring up with alarming regularity. The Mystery of the Crystal Portal does exactly that, delivering a Hidden Object game with innovation at a reasonable price.
In The Mystery of the Crystal Portal, each new puzzle scene presents multi-layered puzzles; Resident Evil style object collection and implementation over and under other objectives. While most Hidden Object games are content with presenting a list of items, and asking the player to get on with it, The Mystery of the Crystal Portal sets the player about their task with no clue as to what will be needed, instead presenting an ultimate goal, and allowing the player to investigate an increasing number of objectives each building to that final purpose. Objects within the world can contain items, and most objective require the player to locate a number of items in order to obtain an item for use in a later objective.
The Mystery of the Crystal Portal’s new ideas end there however, as the rest of the game is largely formulaic. The hint system remains entirely standard, and the zoom function is exactly as would be expected and the analogue control is perfectly weighted for the implementation of more precise control with the D-Pad, which appears strangely absent. A story that provides enough backdrop for a globe trotting adventure fails to ever really communicate any depth or drama, and the player will soon tire of it’s one note characters and
The art direction is more than commendable however, brining vivid interpretations to a genre full of inspired scene setting. Tidy, hand-painted scenes are the basic design, while completion of objectives often leads to computer generated effects being placed over the top. Smoke trails, ghostly figures and other such visualisations come to life with progress, and have been carefully crafted so as not to clash with the brushstroke nature of the backgrounds.
Though The Mystery of the Crystal Portal is largely a mixed-bag in terms of it’s performance in the growing Hidden Object genre, in terms of a marketable product it’s near-flawless. A low cost title perfectly suited for play on either PlayStation 3 or PlayStation Portable (PSP), The Mystery of the Crystal Portal also includes a clever menu containing details and screenshots of some of G5 Entertainment’s other PSP Mini releases – Mahjongg Artifacts: Chapter 2, Supermarket Mania and Stand O’ Food are highlighted – as a demonstration of the publisher’s growing awareness of the unique opportunities offered by the numerous digital distribution platforms in today’s market. And there’s The Mystery of the Crystal Portal’s greatest strength – its built perfectly for the audience that will already be aware of it’s small innovations.