Robin's Quest: A Legend Born
Year Published: 2010
Publisher: Strategy First
Developer: Gogii Games
What is up with hidden object games that introduce a number of great ideas then go absolutely nowhere with them? They're like the gaming equivalent of that awesome blog you found in the mid-2000's that only updated five or six times before the blogger quit. Such is the deal with Robin's Quest: A Legend Born - a game I would've liked and appreciated more for its innovative features if it hadn't ended before it got started.
Sherwood Forest is pretty at times.
Robin's Quest is an extraordinarily sanitized take on the timeless and public domain legend of Robin Hood. The thing about the name "Robin" is that historically it has been used by both men and women, so this game has a Robin Hood who is female, but otherwise does all the things the male character is known for - robbing the rich to feed the poor, archery tournaments, and assembling a band of "Merry Men". Just no romance with Maid Marion, who is a little kid, this time.
Considering how many hidden object games have female protagonists because the genre is generally marketed to women, bending Robin Hood's gender isn't all that revolutionary here, but the game does include other features that would've been nice to have had standardized. When there is literally nothing else that can be done on a screen, an "Area Clear" message appears at the top. While that may ruin the mood of some HOG's that rely more on realism and atmosphere than the cartoonish Robin's Quest, some kind of indicator that would tell you when there is absolutely nothing else to do so you don't waste time on "wild goose chases" would be most welcome in this genre.
Assembling your band of Merry Men.
Another interesting feature of Robin's Quest is the way Robin recruits the "Merry Men" (Friar Tuck, Little John, Will Scarlet, etc.), and each has a special ability that is required to solve certain puzzles. Although you get far more mileage out of Little John's "strength" ability to move heavy objects than Friar Tuck's "persuasion" skill that's supposed to make people listen to you (and little Maid Marion's skill is almost the same as Tuck's).
All the characters you talk to are drawn in a pseudo-anime style (though developer Gogii Games is Canadian), and every line is spoken with voice acting that isn't bad for not being done by professionals. It makes one lament that most of the dialogue for the NPC's amounts to, "Please return the money the Sheriff of Nottingham stole from us", and for the Merry Men, "Please find the pieces of my torn-up pardon letter." The story may be based on Robin Hood, but it's no epic. It seems very designed for little children, and perhaps that explains the voice acting - the dialogue is spoken in case players are too young to read.
An Archery Tournament Minigame.
Like I said in my intro, Robin's Quest is so short, it feels like it ends just when it was beginning - you've assembled your full team of Merry Men and now there isn't much left to do. One way it pads its length is with optional archery tournaments you can enter from the billboard in town. They are very simple minigames in which you aim the crosshairs at a target and shoot. I never once didn't come in first place even if I didn't get all "bullseyes". And there is an inherent problem with them...the only thing you get for winning are coins, which are only used to enter a special tournament that (at least for me) doesn't work - the targets never pop up. And it seems that, even if it did work, all you get for winning is...more coins, which have no other use.
An oddity of Robin's Quest is that almost all of the puzzles are ridiculously easy (again, seemingly because it's aimed at kids), yet some of the hidden object scenes are tough to finish without clicking everywhere (there is no misclick penalty) or using hints (which are plentiful). There is also a sidequest for finding "Wanted Posters", but getting them all didn't seem to do anything as there are no achievements.
Fooling these guards is easier than you'd think.
Many Gogii Games titles are short and simple. Robin's Quest, despite putting a few twists on the genre and the Robin Hood story, is no exception. Strangely, the game doesn't commit entirely to its idea of a female Robin Hood - the subtitle, "A Legend Born", refers to the ending, in which Robin Hood and her husband eventually have a child who is named after her and is implied to grow up and become the actual legendary Robin Hood of folklore. But with Prince John and the Sheriff already defeated, what would he become famous for, exactly? That's the problem with Robin's Quest - it has a lot of ideas, but nowhere for them to go.