Jud’s Game Rating:

Graphics                                           ****         🙂
Player participation (PP)          ****         🙂
Satisfaction Factor (SF)            ****         🙂
Frustration Factor (FF)             **              :I
Fair Play (FP)                                 ***            🙂
Tedium Factor (TF)                     
*                🙂

Embark on a brain-bending adventure that’s full of unique Hidden Object fun! Journalist Nicole Rankwist has always been close to her archaeologist father, so when he goes missing, Nicole knows she has to find him! After all, he had apparently just made a discovery that could change the course of humanity. Join Nicole as she searches the globe on an eye-popping quest to find her father and discover The Mystery of the Crystal Portal. (Bigfish Sale Blurb)

This is the first of the Series, and also the first I’d seen (and possibly the innovators of) the Bubble Hidden Object Games – there is a Key Object (KO) in a circle, with bubbles surrounding it for the images of the Items required.  You can put these into their own bubble or into the centre bubble if it’s more comfortable – both work.  This is great fun, though has been refined by others and Artogon over time and is much more manageable now, and the Items in the Bubbles actually belong to the KO, or create it once assembled.  That is a draw-back for this original game where the items seemed to bear no relevance to the KO.  The Cursor turns into a Hand to show the next KO.

However the opening scenes between the lands travelled to – USA -> Japan -> Swiss Alps -> Guatemala, Sth America -> Africa -> Russia -> USA – are gorgeous, and the Graphics are generally colourful, authentic, detailed, and well-designed.  I especially love the Japanese Location with its cherry blossom.  But unfortunately the Graphics are not as clear as they could be, and some of the HOs are tiny, so there is quite some FF for this.  I don’t know if my large screen has contributed to this, but do remember that, when playing on my smaller screened XP PC, I had trouble seeing some of the HOs.  However the game is so good generally that I still enjoy it, though I must say that, now that I have played the improved Sequel, I may not go back to the older game again for some time.

There is a basic Options; Interactive Mini Maps – within which you unlock new sites as you go – for each new Location via the Journal; and the Hint is slow to recharge and hard to see in the Russian snow scene.  The Dialogues are intrusive but necessary for your first play-through, but need to be clicked out of in subsequent plays – they would be so much better with voice-overs.  Another quirk with this game is that things that are initially solid as you mouse-over the scene looking for KO sites, suddenly highlight with sparkling edges and disappear if clicked revealing more Items behind them.  The game only lets you play one or two KO sites at a time, so when they are complete – often after the first yields an Item for the second – you have to mouse-over again to find the next KOs that were previously inactive.  This also causes FF.

Tips:  Look for Zoom sites when looking for HOs, and for special Items – Japanese Weights; Swiss Tiles; Guatemalan Calendar Runes; African Prisms; Russian Gears; and Portal Fragments and Scrolls.  In Guatemalan ruins CampSite the Tape Measure looks like a small wheel in the bottom right corner.  I think that the Airfield site in Africa is one of the worst for seeing the tiny Items – and this play-through left me feeling that the HOs got smaller and ore obscured as each new Location was reached.  The ending is tricky – keep searching the cellar and look to the lamps when you can’t go any further.

I really do recommend this game – you may find it’s been remastered to suit later version drivers – if not then go to Windows 7 Troubleshooting (or equivalent) and reset your game for earlier versions.  This should help with the clarity and also any glitches that you may have – I had none.

* * *

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Jud’s Game Rating:

Graphics                                            *****         😀
Player participation (PP)          *****          😀
Satisfaction Factor (SF)             *****         😀
Frustration Factor (FF)              Nil              😀
Fair Play (FP)                                 *****          😀
Tedium Factor (TF)                    
Nil               😀

Join Nicole, and her sidekick Igor, as they trek across the globe in search of her missing father! Discover a secret so big that it could threaten the very course of human history. Solve puzzles from her home in New York City, to distant lands on the other side of the world to find her beloved father and save human kind. Solve interactive puzzles and find many Hidden Object scenes in Mystery of the Crystal Portal – Beyond the Horizon. (BigFish Sales Blurb)

This game is an extension and improvement on the Prequel, and is fantastic in every way!  Straight As, High Distinction, Top of the Heap!

It has good Options and Casual and Advanced Difficulty Mode choices.  You collect Red Gems/Rubies for the borders, which when complete trigger off a more complex border overlay for more gems.  Really cool.  It sparkles to show where the KO Bubble sites are – you can have multiple KO sites working at once, and often need Items from one for the next one till all are done.  Some of the Items for the KOs have their own Zoom Bubbles in which you repair the Items before putting them into the KO Main Bubble.  Boy does that sound convoluted – it’s so simple though.  And the KO Items – images in smaller Bubbles – can be Moused-over to show the Item name, in case the Image is confusing.  The Items don’t seem to have any relevance to the KO involved, as in the Prequel, but the rest is so good you quickly overlook that fact.  And they spark if you take too long to find them – in Casual Mode.  It’s like they’ve thought of (nearly) everything!

The Graphics in this game are magnificent – clear, light, colourful, imaginative, a joy to traverse and be immersed in.  The artwork is innovative especially with the technology of the story – the Bathymobile is particularly clever.  The story is engrossing, so much fuller and completely integrated driving the game-play – in fact you don’t want to stop till the end – completely compulsive.  Addictive!  The only negative is that the journeys between the Main Locations are done automatically for you – you see very little of them, and disconnect for a moment from the game which is disconcerting and a shame.

I bought this game immediately and highly recommend it to all.

Jud House  2/11/2013

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About judsartwork

I write reviews of Adventure and Hidden Object games that are Crime, Fantasy, SciFi, Renovation, Travel, Quest and/or Mystery by genre. I have a Masters in Writing (2006) and have been writing novels, both crime and fantasy for many years; plus Haiku, verse, and prose both fictional and literary. I am also an artist of modern, Acrylic, textural and hard edge work, underwater, fantasy, expressionist, and Cosmos paintings. I use mixed media (Acrylic, Watercolour, Pastels) in textural Monoprints, finding surprises to expose within each work. Having both an analytical and creative mind has meant that I have strong powers of observation, and the persistence required to follow computer problems through till I solve them. Of course I am not always successful, but am willing to ask for a little help in order to then unlock the main problem myself. My Troubleshooting Blog, 'Problems and Solutions', was the result of my tenacity.
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