Questerium: Sinister Trinity HD (Collector's Edition)
Year Published: 2015
Publisher: ESDigital Games
Developer: Urse Games
Questerium's title alone is a clue that it's a game that doesn't really know what it's about, seeing as how "questerium" is not a real word, and the game has no explanation for what it refers to or what it means. What Questerium does have is a patchwork of genre cliches and ridiculously hammy acting that results in a game that's passable, but offers nothing new to hidden object veterans.
Just your average man made out of electricity hiding in the sewers.
As an unseen/unnamed police detective, you arrive at the city of Fortuneville, which has been devastated by a recent earthquake. While the population has mostly been evacuated, you learn that two children are still missing, and you are sent into the rubble to find them. Almost immediately, you spot them in a window, but a strange man who has the power to wield electricity gets in your way. As if that's not weird enough, the town is overgrown with mutated plants, some of which have been put there on purpose by a mad scientist to keep people out.
Abandoned/ruined town setting? Check. Save the children plot? Check. Mad Scientist with unclear motives? Check. The mutant plants are unusual, and yet somehow they don't feel very relevant, despite a sidequest to find strange plant/animal hybrids for a book that would rival the Voynich Manuscript.
This is exactly what it looks like - a guy popping out of a 2D drawing to cut some power lines.
Curiously, the electric man, children, and mad scientist are played by real people, presumably the developers and their kids. When they aren't chewing up the hand-drawn scenery, they're hobbling away from it in most peculiar ways. I still think the main reason some HOG devs choose this route is because it's easier and cheaper than animating drawn characters. Perhaps they also like the idea of starring in their own games, and I'm sure the kids thought being in a game was cool, too, but it does make me wonder - do child actor laws apply to video games like they do for movies and TV shows?
For the next 6-7 hours, you'll find objects from lists, solve puzzles, and use items where necessary to progress, like you would in most HOGs. The puzzles range from creative, to annoying, to cliche - such as a robot that plays "Tower of Hanoi". Typical HOG-logic silliness occurs in the form of your character finding and keeping a Swiss Army Knife for the entirety of the game, but being unable to use it to cut strings or open a locked compartment when you're arbitrarily required to use something else.
This place looks like that oddly stationary tornado hit it.
As you uncover clues to the strange circumstances of Fortuneville, you will learn that there are more details than what feels necessary. The sub-titular "Sinister Trinity" refers to the mad scientist, the mayor (who is only represented by a booming voice over loudspeakers - a HOG cliche I am fast growing tired of), and a third character who's never seen nor heard. I wasn't able to care enough about any of this to sort it out. The bonus chapter attempts to exonerate the scientist as you find a way to deal with the real source of the town's problems. Certainly, this town didn't need any more, but I suppose that's what bonus chapters are for.
The game's Steam achievements are easy enough to unlock, but the in-game trophies disappeared from the room after I beat the main game and began the bonus chapter. The bonus chapter's hint system is similarly bugged as it never progresses past the first room and puzzle (you may need a walkthrough if you get stuck).
There is also a bizarre sidequest for finding hidden money to purchase trees and statues for a conservatory, I guess in keeping with the plant theme. But it makes me question the morality of my character - a detective who is pocketing money from crime scenes seems as corrupt as anything going on in Fortuneville.
The mad scientist's robot plays an all-too-familiar game.
That's the trouble with Questerium - it wants to keep you busy, but not in ways that feel meaningful or even sensical. It's not a bad effort from a small company that primarily focuses on match-3 games, and if you only care about doing typical HOG stuff against typical HOG backdrops (in HD! per the title!), then you may not regret playing it. But it's a game that will be remembered more for its goofball acting, if remembered at all.