Review: Twisted Lands: Shadow Town

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Turn the lights off, throw on a good pair of headphones, and strap in for some bone-chilling…hidden object adventuring!? That’s right, folks. Alawar Entertainment brings the scares (sort of) with Twisted Lands: Shadow Town, a hidden object horror adventure good for hours of casual spooky fun on your PC or Mac.

Tailored for the mature casual gamer, Twisted Lands is a first-person point-and-click adventure in the classical style of Myst. You move along scene by scene guided by arrows that pop up at the edges of the screen, and within each scene are items you can collect and store in the inventory to use in the various puzzles you’ll encounter on your adventure. Sometimes items must be collected in hidden object puzzles as well, so you’ll enter a room with a list of objects which must be found in order to proceed.

There aren’t any major surprises to the gameplay, but the balance between traditional adventuring and hidden object hunting is very well executed, and overall the game packs a healthy challenge by casual game standards. The one drawback, though, is the frequent backtracking through the same environments and regularly having to go back to the same dozen or so hidden object scenes, only with a different list of objects to find each time. Fortunately, the scene transitions are instantaneous, so the tedium of backtracking is lessened quite a bit.

The 2D backgrounds are also crisply detailed and atmospheric. Dense fog effects, subtle scene movements like floating leaves and flickering fires, and creepy sounds like creaks, groans and screams add tension and keep the scenery from becoming static and lifeless. Objects are also well defined within the environments and easy to identify once you pinpoint their location, and that is critical to the success of any hidden object game. I can’t tell you how many hidden object games I’ve played where certain items blend in to the point of being impossible to see…even when you are staring directly at them or use a cheat to have them highlighted!

Surprisingly, Twisted Lands also tells a compelling yarn full of mystery, suspense and supernatural forces, and it even closes with a twist ending that I honestly didn’t see coming. The story begins with a man and a wife out on the sea searching for shipwrecked treasure, when suddenly the man falls overboard and wakes up ashore a fog-covered island, wife nowhere in sight. As the man, you set out in search of his wife, and along the way you learn that the island has a mysterious past – and that it seems to be a magnet for shipwrecks!

In typical horror game fashion, collected newspaper clippings and journals flesh out the back story of the island and its former inhabitants, and ghostly apparitions help clue you in on past events, which is another nice touch.

Twisted Lands won’t scare you literally – and by literally I mean that it won’t make you jump out of your seat or give you nightmares or anything like that. But it does have a tense atmosphere and a creepy story, and in the end it’s nice to play a casual hidden object game skewed more toward the adult mind.

In closing, I think it is important to note that there are two versions of the game to choose from. For the average user, Alawar offers a standard edition for only $7, and for that price you get roughly three to four hours of gameplay. If you are more serious about your hidden object adventures, you can download the Collector’s Edition which, for $20 (or only $14 right now at Big Fish Games), gives you an unlockable bonus chapter consisting of somewhere around 30-45 extra minutes of gameplay and a neat in-game guide complete with video walkthroughs showing how to complete every puzzle. Of course, if you are being extra cautious, you can always download the hour-long trial version for free at no risk.

Whichever route you choose to go, Twisted Lands: Shadow Town is definitely an adventure worth taking.

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Pros:
+ Good balance of point-and-click adventuring and hidden object puzzles
+ Interesting storyline with a twist ending
+ Detailed backgrounds and tense atmosphere

Cons:
– Too much backtracking

Game Info:
Platform: PC / Mac via digital download
Publisher: Alawar Entertainment
Developer: Alawar Stargaze
Release Date: Collector’s Edition – 9/23/2010; Standard Edition – 10/21/2010
Genre: Point-and-Click Adventure / Hidden Object
ESRB Rating: N/A
Players: 1
Source: Review code provided by publisher

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About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!