Hidden Mysteries: Civil War
Year Published: 2008
Publisher: GameMill Entertainment
Developer: Gunnar Games

I could say that Hidden Mysteries: Civil War is a very oldschool HOG, but most I've played (even from that long ago) don't exclusively hide items by making them so tiny that human eyesight can barely detect them. Plenty of HOGs also mix historical fact with fiction, but usually it's obvious where one ends and the other begins. Here's one that presents its history lessons and its fictional narrations the same way: As giant walls of text with no indication of which is which, misleading some players into believing its three main characters were real people - at least up until it's revealed that one of them does something that completely rewrites history.

The whole story is told like this.

The game's store pages would have you believe it takes place during the American Civil War. You wander around generic pre-rendered backgrounds the sites of its most famous battles, searching for out-of-place randomly scattered clipart clues to the location of a stolen Mexican artifact. But it seems more like you are visiting these places in modern times because many of the objects lying around were not yet invented in the 1860s (cassette tapes, traffic signs, telephones), and also because you never directly interact with anyone. The stories are told completely in letters that are found in each scene, which makes it seem like everything happened long ago.

It's okay to have fictional stories based on historical events, but a good mystery should make you feel a part of what's going on. (I will continue to point to MumboJumob's Midnight Mysteries series for examples of how to do this right, though to be fair, this game is a year older.) The blocks of text eventually bored me so badly that I began skimming them. And why commit so hard to presenting accurate information, only to have a laughably revisionist ending? If you have a problem being honest about what happened to Honest Abe, or are worried that children playing the game might be disturbed by it, then why base your game on the events leading up to it?

Does this look like the Civil War to you?

If your storytelling skills aren't the best, then at least make a good hidden object game. Objects should be relevant to the game's theme and time period, fit with the scenery, sometimes have functional uses, and not all be so tiny that you can feel your eyesight thanking you when the (otherwise too short) game is finally over. It isn't even worth recommending this game to learn about the Civil War because there are certainly far better ways of doing that. As it is, Hidden Mysteries: Civil War fails to commit to historical accuracy with its facepalming ending, and is even unsuccessful in resolving its own made-up mystery as the lost Mexican artifact (as if anyone would actually care about it), is never found.

SCORE: 1/5