Danse Macabre: The Last Adagio (Collector's Edition)
Year Published: 2014
Publisher: Big Fish Games
Developer: Eipix Entertainment
My main reason for wanting to play Danse Macabre: The Last Adagio was that it was made by Eipix, who are responsible for some of my absolute favorite games in the Hidden Expedition series: The Crown of Solomon and Dawn of Prosperity especially. The Last Adagio was the first in a new series from this developer, predating their Hidden Expedition titles, and it rather shows. There is no question about Eipix's talent and skill when it comes to graphics and special effects - Danse Macabre looks absolutely fantastic with some of the best hand-drawn art in any game. But even for this genre, Danse Macabre is very short, easy, and linear. There is a bonus chapter, but it is also quite short.
I will not deny how stunning this game's artwork is.
As an unnamed female protagonist, you are going to meet your sister at a ballet theater only to discover she's been kidnapped by a malevolent ghost who wants to make her dance only for him. The ghost, Gaspar, used to be a composer who, in life, was in love with a ballet dancer named Marie. Gaspar believed Marie cheated on him and that made him burn down his ballet theater, killing everyone inside. Now their restless spirits haunt the current theater, and they help you rescue your sister because it will also lead to them being freed. So, it has some creepy ghost moments, but (true to HOG form) it's never really all that intense. These characters are all played by members of Eipix's staff, which is common to their games, but a nice touch - it gives them the feeling of being real people and not just paper cut-outs.
Some of the game's conventions will be familiar to anyone who's played Eipix's Hidden Expedition games, such as the mini-HO scenes where you find items in a small space based on their silhouettes instead of a list (though the game does have normal full-screen HO scenes as well). There is definitely no quetsion about Eipix's craftsmanship - all the little pans and zooms they're known for give you close-ups of every scene to really make you feel a part of the action.
The organ is the favorite instrument of every villain.
The problem with Danse Macabre is that because it was made before Eipix's Hidden Expedition titles, it hadn't quite reached their levels of accomplishment. Most of the puzzles are the same cliches you've seen many times before (Memory Match, Bucket Problem, Alchemy, Key Maze, Bookshelf, Tower of Hanoi), and they're all fairly easy. One of the most baffling decisions was to have in-game achievements for both completing all the puzzles and skipping all the puzzles, then not letting you replay the game from the beginning with the same profile. This means that any given profile will always be missing one of these two achievements, unable to 100% the game. I am guessing this is why they were not implementd as Steam achievements.
There are sidequests for hidden roses and morphing objects, but the desire to collect these wanes when you know you can't get all the achievements on one profile anyway, and can't replay to collect any of these objects you missed.
An amazingly well-rendered cat.
I could tell from the messages in the end credits that Eipix were really proud of their game and excited about the prospect of it becoming a series (which it did, with four entries), and they especially hoped it would infect players with some of the "magic of ballet". I can't honestly say it had that effect on me the way the Midnight Mysteries series inspired me to read up on the authors and other historical figures involved in them. And that's what I'd say is the problem with Danse Macabre - it's a simple "spurned lover/restless ghost" story in which we never get to see any actual ballet dances. No music or story elements from popular classical ballet suites are used. No real-world ballet figures or locations are referenced. Given Eipix's track record, I have high hopes for the following games in this series. The Last Adagio is more of a rehearsal than a true performance.