Sister's Secrecy: Arcanum Bloodlines (Premium Edition)
Year Published: 2012
Publisher: 1C Company
Developer: Space Monkey International

Sister's Secrecy: Arcanum Bloodlines is another entry in the overcrowded genre of hidden object games that has some unique and memorable moments, but ultimately feels a little underwhelming.

A knight, a shady merchant, and a random dragon. Totally normal things you find in an English pub.

The story is vague about its era and location, but somewhere in England in presumably modern or possibly Victorian times, you awake one morning to find your twin sister has disappeared. The two of you had grown up as orphans together, and while you never learned the circumstances that led you to that situation, you do know that your sister was always drawing pictures of things, typically fantasy-world monsters, that she saw in visions. Trying to resolve her sudden departure reveals that she may be clairvoyant, and her visions are of creatures and places that actually exist.

Using a map left behind by your uncle, you board a train and later a stagecoach and end up somewhere beyond the "moors", in a world where fantasy creatures like harpies and dragons are real, and a great battle against an evil Necromancer and his army once took place. You believe the Necromancer is the one who took your sister, and you must find the scattered parts of a powerful magic crystal to defeat him.

Strangely, you never learn what happened to your parents, but you will discover the truth about your uncle (your last caretaker before you became orphaned) and his involvement in the battle. This revelation happens in a rather unsettling cutscene in which the twin sisters are children, but are drawn with the same adult heads they have in other scenes.

Stalagmites with faces, remnants of a massive battle, and a weird harpy lady. Again, completely normal.

And that's sort, for Sister's Secrecy, as everything feels oddly random. One of the first tasks you're given is to find the missing sons of a woman who has no other relevance to the plot. (The devs wasted no time in getting right to the "save the children" cliche.) Despite that she has two missing boys, you'll probably wonder why you only rescue one (twice). That's what the bonus chapter is for, where you find the other in a sequence that feels like it was cut from the main game.

Other, more interesting and relevant characters include a highly talkative dragon who has managed (despite his size) to procure a seat at the local pub, and a mysterious harpy who is in one of those "is it friend or foe?" roles. The harpy is a CG render, which was probably necessary because it is the most mobile character. It looks good, but the hand-drawn characters do that weird "bulging" animation when they talk, which is common to a lot of early HOG's.

Also interesting is a shady merchant who lets you unlock extras, such as artwork and downloadable music tracks, in exchange for coins. Coins can be collected by finding hidden flowers on every screen and by completing puzzles and hidden object scenes fast enough. No matter how much time I took, I always got the max coin score. Maybe it's rigged in your favor?

In one of the more standout scenes, your boat voyage is hindered by flying demons.

While the hidden object scenes and puzzles are fairly standard HOG material, if there's one thing that makes the game more difficult than average, it's how ridiculously dark many screens are. Much of the game takes place at night, in forested settings, so discerning small items would be nearly impossible if not for your cursor changing shape to indicate what you can interact with. However, it doesn't change for those hidden flowers, so if you want all the coins, prepare to squint.

Sister's Secrecy has a "Mostly Negative" rating on Steam, which is usually applied to the worst of the worst games available. As cliche as some of its story elements, and annoyingly dark its graphics are, I don't feel that's an accurate reflection of its general quality. Fans of the genre may enjoy doing the same things they love doing in other HOG's, as well as the some of the more memorable, goofier elements like the talking dragon and the spectacularly overdone orchestral score. But anyone else, or anyone expecting better can safely pass.

SCORE: 3/5



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