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Apothecarium - The Renaissance of Evil Premium Edition

Score: 94%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Big Fish Games
Developer: Space Monkey International
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure/ Puzzle (Hidden Object)

Graphics & Sound:

Apothecarium - The Renaissance of Evil Premium Edition comes from the developers behind Voodoo Chronicles and Sisterís Secrecy, both strong adventure titles that use hidden object screens for occasional changes of pace. Well, Apothecarium follows suit with a rather creepy Victorian era tale.

Visually, Apothecarium is a dark setting filled with detailed backdrops. The abandoned town you are exploring is filled with an imposing atmosphere that is complemented well by the background sounds and music. That being said, the music itself is a bit overpowering at times and I found that there were times when it kept me from seriously concentrating on the puzzles presented to me.

The gameís cutscenes are a combination of fully animated CG sequences and in-engine graphics with cut-up drawings for animation similar to the Marvel Knights animated graphic novels. While the switches in graphical styles are a bit jarring at times, the game tries to keep to one style or the other as much as possible.


Gameplay:

When a plague ravages the countryside, your character decides to hunt down a rumor of a city of scientists that should have a cure for the disease. As you explore the now abandoned city, in Apothecarium - The Renaissance of Evil Premium Edition, you learn that it is much like Rapture from Bioshock. Apothecarium was supposed to be a closed community of scientists looking to further their fields of study without pesky things like government or moral intrusion. Naturally, something went wrong and someone went too far. The result is a desolate city with a ton of mysteries scattered throughout ...and ghosts.

While most locations in the game have a hidden object screen somewhere, Apothecarium leans much more on the adventure side when it comes to the challenges it will throw at the player. You will see a wide variety of puzzles, but there are very few obstacles that feel truly new, and if the puzzle isnít a matter of following a series of logical steps, it is all about observation and keeping an eye out for strange symbols.

Of course, the hidden object screens play into the game as well. Each one will lead you to an inventory item that you will need in one of the other puzzles. What I like about Apothecarium is that it continues to use a mechanic that the developers introduced in Sisterís Secrecy, you can play a match-three game to find objects that arenít all that apparent.

This means that you wonít ever find yourself stuck on a hidden object screen. If you canít find the objects you are looking for, switch to the game and match tiles in order to get the ones that have magnifying glasses on them to the bottom row. With each spyglass that hits the bottom, a new hidden object is found.


Difficulty:

Like most Hidden Object/Adventure games these days, Apothecarium - The Renaissance of Evil Premium Edition has three difficulty settings. The easiest makes the hidden object screen locations easily visible and has short Skip and Hint buttons to help get players past the various puzzles. The middle setting increases the amount of time before the Hint and Skip buttons cool down, while the third maxes out that time and doesnít help the player at all when it comes to finding necessary items.

While these settings have become pretty standard for games of this type, Apothecarium does one thing that can really trip you up before you catch on to what it is doing. While the hidden object screens are fairly static, there is some animation that keeps the screen from getting too boring. What you might not realize at first is that part of that animation is that some of the items on the screen slowly change to other items and then back again. I know Iíve played a lot of these games and there is always that "How did I not see that there before" feeling, but with Apothecarium, itís entirely possible. Oddly enough, given the creepy setting of the game, this shifting of objects doesnít feel out of place.


Game Mechanics:

Apothecarium - The Renaissance of Evil Premium Edition does add one new mechanic to the developerís repertoire. Early in the game, you pick up an odd gauntlet, and there are occasions throughout the game that you will have to use this item to fight. One early encounter involves blue flower-like stalks coming from the ground and biting at you. With the gauntlet selected, you have to click on the flower when it gets close to you and deal it some damage. Truth be told, this aspect felt a little tacked on, but it was an amusing change of pace whenever it was required.

All things considered, I enjoyed Apothecarium a lot and think that most adventure gamers will enjoy what it has to offer. Those looking for more of a hidden object experience might not want to jump in, but if you do, then you shouldnít be afraid of using the Skip button if a puzzle is holding you back longer than you would like.


-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows XP/Windows Vista/Windows 7/Windows 8, 1.4 GHz Processor, 1024 MB RAM, DirectX 9.0, 1141 MB Hard Drive Space
 

Test System:



Windows 7 Ultimate, Intel i7 X980 3.33GHz, 12 GB RAM, Radeon HD 5870 Graphics Card, DirectX 9.0c

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