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Ancient Secrets: Quest for the Golden Key

Score: 75%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: RealNetworks
Developer: GameHouse
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Puzzle/ Adventure/ Family

Graphics & Sound:

Although GameHouse's Ancient Secrets: Quest for the Golden Key may not be the most visually pleasing to some, others will find the graphical style of the game to be beautiful in its own right. You're not going to find photorealism like you would in some other casual games of the same find-and-seek genre, but the artistic quality is good nonetheless.

The environments (or rather the screens) of Ancient Secrets are very well-conceived and offer a nice variety in colors and composition, which greatly affects the gameplay as well. The developers did an excellent job in offering visuals that conceal, but are not too difficult to find objects in. There are even some subtle animations (like seagulls sitting on a pier or butterflies fluttering about) thrown in at times to spice up the environments.

On the audio front, Ancient Secrets does a decent job with its music, but beyond that, the sounds that lie within are forgettable. It's not to say that the audio is horrible or even remotely bad... it's just that a game like this can be fully played without ever hearing a noise and nothing will be lost in terms of gameplay. It would have added a bit more life into the game had character dialogue been voiced, but I suppose it wasn't a necessity for this low-budget title.


Casual games are usually relatively easy to get into, easy to control, and easy to play, no matter what your age or experience level concerning videogames. Ancient Secrets: Quest for the Golden Key does not stray from this formula in any possible way. In fact, the game goes so far as to also be of a pick-up-and-play nature, allowing the user to play for brief periods of time, if so desired.

Ancient Secrets' gameplay boils down to using a point-and-click method on still screens that contain interactive characters and objects, as well as puzzle-style mini-games that range in difficulty from simple object searches to more complex slide-puzzles, among others.

From the start of the game, you are on an adventure to recover the missing pieces of your father's Tekka Key, but your path isn't as simple as asking for what you need. The town that you traverse will have you going back and forth between screens, having quick chats with the locals and trading your services for items of interest. Essentially, as you make your way around town, you will be confronted with puzzles that need to be solved in order to continue on.

One of the most recurring puzzles is the object seek-and-find. Here you will be presented with a list of items that need to be clicked on the screen, and as with any good I-Spy type of game, the objects on the screen will range from obvious to very well-hidden, blending in with the backgrounds to the point of seeing only a silhouette. Another recurring theme for puzzles are those of sliding blocks to allow another block (or maybe a ball) to pass into the exit position. These games are quite fun, as it sometimes takes a decent amount of thought and cunning to get through them and move on in the game. There are other miscellaneous puzzles throughout the game as well, some of which are interesting, and others that don't necessarily take a lot of thought to overcome.

While Ancient Secrets is certainly entertaining, it has to be said that the game just isn't all that long. For the minimal cost that it takes to purchase the game, the lack of length may not be a problem to some. Be warned, however, that hardcore gamers may burn through this one in a single sitting.


Ancient Secrets: Quest for the Golden Key has a fairly minimal difficulty level to play through the game, but there are a few puzzles that will likely twist your brain matter a bit before getting through them. The basics of the game are easy enough for a child to get through: talk to residents, and point-and-click to move from one screen to the other. Unfortunately, the storyline is pretty linear in nature, so it is hard to really get lost in what to do even if you only slightly pay attention to what is going on.

The puzzles are generally entertaining, but for the most part a bit too easy. A lot of the time while playing through Ancient Secrets, I felt like "I've done this before." In fact, if I didn't know any better, a few (maybe more) of the puzzles have come from outside sources, because I definitely had a feeling of "dj vu" more than once. Still, there are times when the puzzles challenge enough to have to replay them. For me, in particular, some of the slide-puzzles required restarting in order to reset the tiles that I had so heinously messed up. For the average casual gamer, the difficulty of Ancient Secrets should not disappoint.

Game Mechanics:

Like many casual games, the controls of Ancient Secrets: Quest for the Golden Key have been kept extremely basic. In fact, you will use nothing more than a point-and-click mouse movement throughout the entire game. As such, anyone should be able to enjoy the gameplay without worrying about how to master the controls. Even without a mouse, Ancient Secrets is very playable using a standard laptop touch device, no matter if you prefer using a touchpad or that crazy eraser-looking thing that some laptops don.

The find-and-seek gameplay mechanic is an enjoyable way to sit down and play for five minutes or an hour, but there is one downfall to Ancient Secrets. Unfortunately, the game isn't all that long. In fact, if a person had nothing better to do, he or she could easily play through the entire game in one sitting. On one hand, this is a positive knowing that those who are likely to only play a few minutes at a time can still get through and beat the game. On the other hand, more hardcore gamers will likely be disappointed with the short finish to an otherwise good title.

Ancient Secrets is a fun title with a balance of somewhat addictive gameplay fit for casual gamers or anyone who enjoys puzzle games. While it would have been nice to see a few different puzzles thrown in and a few less "find the object" challenges, the overall enjoyment of Ancient Secrets is fairly high. The repetition may get to some, while others will likely enjoy not having to learn how to play new puzzles with every turn. For the cost of this low-budget title, I can recommend Ancient Secrets mainly to casual gamers looking for an entertaining, yet easy to play, puzzle game.

-Woody, GameVortex Communications
AKA Shane Wodele

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows XP/Windows Vista, 800 MHz Pentium or equivalent, 512MB RAM, DirectX

Test System:

Dell Vostro 1700 Laptop: Intel Core 2 Duo CPU T7100; Dual 1.8 GHz Processors; 2 GB RAM; NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT

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