Sonya: The Great Adventure
Year Published: 2011
Publisher: Specialbit Studios
Developer: Specialbit Studios
When I saw the title, "Sonya: The Great Adventure", I'll admit I didn't expect much. I figured that a hidden object game from 2011 whose devs couldn't think of a better title wasn't going to be anything worth playing. Well, I was wrong. Sonya is actually a rather decent oldschool HOG, but the reason for the lackluster name becomes apparent when you start playing it. Though it's a finely-crafted game, the story feels like it was weaved in as an afterthought.
Sonya's home is invaded by soul burglars
So, it begins with you, as Sonya, waking up to the sound of burglars in your house kidnapping your sister. After completing your first series of hidden object, fragmented object, and puzzle scenes you'll learn that the thieves only took your sister's soul away in a magical crystal orb. Yet, somehow part of her soul remains to tell you this before disappearing, leaving only her comatose body behind.
Call me crazy, but I kinda like to know what's going on in my game stories. Who is Sonya and her sister? Who are the thieves and why did they target us specifically? What type of world are we living in? It looks like a mishmash of modern, Victorian, and fantasy, but it's not given a name. I even exited back to the title screen and waited a few minutes, thinking it was possible I missed an intro cutscene explaining all of this, but alas, one never came.
The joy of saving wolf puppies from a sleeping dragon
Though they are a bit dated, the backgrounds are still gorgeous and there are moments when I am sure the intent was to inspire a sense of awe. There is a good balance of searching for items, using items, and solving puzzles in some very creative situations. One chapter involves a large tree that is home to seven brothers (whom you never actually meet), and each has a room themed around their jobs (a kitchen for the chef, a music room for the composer, a trophy room for the hunter, etc.) Items found in one room must be used in another and you'll go back and forth between them many times until you have all seven keys that unlock the main room of the tree and the way forward.
Sonya's design is as good as any HOG from the era (though it may have the most aggravating Cat's Cradle puzzle I've ever seen). But its story barely exists and is hardly explained. When a cutscene does take over, it's presented in comic book panels that don't quite match the look of everything else. When Sonya talks, her portrait appears and strangely enough, it's drawn in a style that does look closer to the rest of the game than the cutscenes do.
Though the game does not state it's a "Collector's Edition", it does have a bonus chapter. Since the main game is light on story, it's not surprising the bonus chapter is just "repair an airplane to fly home". The ending is extremely brief. But I still appreciated it for the extra puzzles and beautiful artwork.
Some breathtaking scenery
If story is really important to you for a HOG, then Sonya isn't what you're after. But if the game itself sounds inviting, and you're still not sure, a free demo is available on Steam. Give it a try and decide if you want to pay for the rest, because it's definitely one where your level of motivation will be compelled by how much you like the game and not the narrative.