Space Legends: At the Edge of the Universe
Year Published: 2014
Publisher: Viva Media
Developer: Red Hedgehog
What happened here? I begin my review of Space Legends: At the Edge of the Universe with that question, and I think I already have the answer. The idea of a hidden object game taking place on an alien planet is certainly intriguing, but how would that work, exactly? Presumably, alien objects would be so different from what exists on Earth that finding items from a list would be impossible, but perhaps silhouettes or fragmented objects would work. That isn't the approach that was taken here, though. The result is that the latter 2/3 of the game feel like a completely different game from the first part, and I have a hunch they probably were.
A hallway is a makeshift sick bay.
After an impressive opening FMV of your spaceship, the game begins with you playing the role of Elizabeth, a botanist studying plant life on a planet called Apriol. Your partner, Steve, takes off on a hoverbike vehicle of sorts to find and bring back some flower samples. As you return to base, a massive hurricane bears down on your location, and Steve is gravely injured trying to return. Now you must find a way to return with Steve to Earth to save his life and bring back the samples.
Right from the start, this story has issues, because if you check your journal you'll see that Elizabeth mentions that they knew the hurricane was coming. So, why Steve went out riding in it makes no sense. It also makes no sense that a base on a remote planet doesn't have a sick bay nor a medic on hand. So, if one of them gets injured or sick, he/she has to wait in the hallway until the other solves enough puzzles to get to the spaceship and fly it back to Earth. For what it's worth, a lot of the dialogue has grammar and spelling issues, but that's common to HOG's not originally written in English.
A curiously familiar "alien" planet.
So, you don't get to explore an alien planet before you're rocketing back to Earth already, but when a collision with an asteroid sends your ship off-course, and you land on a nearby planet, there is hope that the promise of the game's title and subtitle will be fulfilled. Until you see the planet, and it looks like the screenshot above. Admittedly, that's pretty, but it looks like Earth. Like a medieval kingdom on Earth. And the items in the hidden object scenes are all clearly things you'd find on Earth.
Eventually, after exploring the fantasy kingdom for awhile, you'll learn about an abandoned city with modern technology and skyscrapers that you can reach via a long-forgotten subway station. When you get there...c'mon, it's clear this is Earth. It has to be Earth. The game has some other name for it, but one of the buildings is a casino with the word "CASINO" in huge capital letters. This is not an alien world. It's Earth. They can call it whatever they want, but it's still Earth.
No convincing me this isn't Earth.
So, I ask again, what happened here? The credits for the game have an obituary for one of the people who worked on it. If I am allowed to speculate wildly, my hunch is that this person may have been the one who had the idea for the space-themed HOG and passed away during development, after which the rest of the team finished it by (possibly) stitching a different hidden object game onto it. Elizabeth does not even look the same in the later parts and Steve remains in cryostasis on the ship and is thus never seen again. The developer, Red Hedgehog, does not seem to have ever made anything else.
If I am right, then I suppose this is better than having all the dev's work go to waste. I didn't know him, but I do feel bad (he would've only been 27 when he died). But I can't give a serious recommendation for the finished product, as its ideas aren't even half-realized, the story and puzzles are expectedly incoherent given the circumstances (there is no indication that some inventory objects have to be combined), and the game design is overall HOG-typical.