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The Magician's Handbook: Cursed Valley HD

Score: 73%
ESRB: 4+
Publisher: G5 Entertainment
Developer: G5 Entertainment
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Puzzle (Hidden Object)

Graphics & Sound:

While not bad, the graphics in The Magician's Handbook: Cursed Valley HD are nothing to write home about either. Some of the artwork seems a little amateur and I was really not happy with the scaling. In an effort to trick the player, items are often nowhere near the size they should be and consequently can be incredibly hard to find. Add to that the fact that items are often obscured in complete darkness and only by luck or using the Hint feature can you find them, and you have a problem.

I liked the background music most of the time, but some of the background sound effects were just totally annoying. I get that there are "distractions" in each level, but some of these go beyond distracting and venture into straight up aggravating territory.


Gameplay:

The Magician's Handbook: Cursed Valley HD is first and foremost a hidden object game, but they also round out each of the levels with a mini-game that is either a match-3 variant or another type of hidden object. The story goes that a dark wizard and a wise wizard were battling it out over the Cursed Valley and you, as a magician's trainee using the Magician's Handbook, are tasked with learning 12 spells in an attempt to cast out the darkness covering the land. Each spell to be learned comes with more background on the epic battle and a certain number of items to be collected across a variety of locations.

You can visit any of the locations on the map that have a floating number next to them, indicating how many items are hiding in that location. There will always be a handful more hidden items than are required for the spell, so if you find yourself stuck, you can move on to another location without penalty by tapping the Map button. Once you have found the required number of items for that spell, you are given a choice to either complete the spell or keep looking for the additional items for extra credit. In order to complete the spell, you will have a mini-game that has you either swiping your finger across matching items in a match-3 variant or building a spell by selecting portions of the words from the spell to be able to cast the spell. The trick here is these magical parts of words and phrases like to switch places, which makes it tough to keep track of them.


Difficulty:

Initially, there are only two levels of difficulty in The Magician's Handbook: Cursed Valley HD to choose from: Casual and Apprentice. Once you beat the game on Apprentice, you unlock Magician, which is considerably more difficult because you have less time to complete your goals and only three objects at a time are listed for you to find.

Even on Apprentice, I found The Magician's Handbook: Cursed Valley HD to be tougher than most hidden object games simply because they employ really tricky means by which to hide the items. Shrouded in complete darkness or so tiny you don't even realize what the item is - these are typical methods employed by the game. Each area also has Distractions that are meant to... well, distract the player from finding their items. These can include anything from annoying sounds to even having to work in complete darkness save for a small lighted area that you sweep around in your hunt. There is an anti-distraction spell you can tap to eliminate the distractions and this lasts for about a minute, then takes a good while to refill. There is also a Hint feature that highlights an item that hasn't been found yet, and this will refill over time as well. Be aware that you have an overall time in which to find all of the items for a spell and then to cast that spell and if you fail, you must repeat the entire thing, which is a drag.


Game Mechanics:

Everything in The Magician's Handbook: Cursed Valley HD is accomplished by either a finger tap or swipe. When you spot a hidden item, you tap it to collect it. During the match-3 mini-game, you will swipe your finger along matching items that are connected in some fashion. This can include being next to or diagonal, so you can make some long matches if you try. Every set you complete fills a magic potion jar a little bit more and when it is full, you can cast the spell. If you find yourself stuck, you can reset the board, but it will cost you a little bit of the potion in the jar, setting you back a bit.

One problem I had was the fact that a number of items are right on the edge of the screen and I use a case that fits onto my iPad. While the case doesn't cover the edge, it comes close. There were a number of times when I could barely tap the item and I often had to pull back my sleeve and slip my pinky finger in several times to tap the item.

In the Options when I paused the game, there was a spot to turn off the Distractions mentioned earlier, but when selected, it didn't seem to work as the Distractions were still there, loud and clear, unless I used the short-term spell to get rid of them. You can also look for a dark handprint somewhere in each area and selecting this turns off Distractions for a little while too.

As you go about collecting items, you may also spy tiny coins with the letter "c" on them. You can collect these as well for a bonus, but I didn't see where it made any difference as I collected a number of them. Additionally, you will collect Achievements every time you complete a level and learn a spell and you can either ignore them or post them to your Facebook page.

Overall, The Magician's Handbook: Cursed Valley HD is not one of my favorite hidden object games and I found it to be more tedious than fun. I don't typically feel that way about hidden object games, but this one just didn't grab me, although I trudged through the entire game and beat it. If you have an opportunity to try before you buy, you should know pretty quickly if you like it or not, so let that be your guide.


-Psibabe, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ashley Perkins

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