Sometimes you feel like you’re playing the same character in the same game over and over again, then one day, you get a game like Hidden Mysteries: Titanic Secrets of the Fateful Voyage, which is so different that it makes you wonder how it ever got past the focus group tests that kill just about every fresh story idea out there. When was the last time you played as a non-Japanese, non-teenage female character with engagement anxiety issues? Exactly.
The gameplay in Hidden Mysteries consists of a hybrid that mixes puzzle elements, exploration, and hidden object mechanics. You have a story that plays out, and at various points, you have to explore the environment in search of elements to move the story forward. At times, these objects have to be combined or used in unusual ways to trigger the next story sequence. Since many of these items are hidden throughout the environment, you first have to look through the various environments and pick them out from the rest of the scenery. You can zoom in and out to get a better view of the environment and potential objects, or you can click indiscriminately throughout the screen and hope you land on a hidden object.
The UI is sparse, which is a good thing, and although the menus can get confusing, using the touchscreen to press ahead won’t prove very troublesome. Knowing where to go or what you should be looking for CAN be a little frustrating at times, but the difficulty is mostly kept in check, so that this game won’t provide hardcore puzzle fans with too much challenge. Going through the inventory is easy enough, and figuring out which items go together is fairly straightforward.
What will drive you forward is undoubtedly the story. These games live or die on the strength of the story, and in this case, the story was unique enough and different enough to hook me in. This isn’t your usual videogame storyline. In fact, I was surprised at the subject matter, and how measured and subtle the themes were. You play the role of a disaffected wife-to-be on the ill-fated Titanic, and while that sounds a bit like the famous movie, it soon turns into something entirely different as you explore the ship and its unique inhabitants. The writing is really restrained, avoiding the cheap clichés and delivering dialog that’s actually quite good, but at the same time metered out in small doses that keeps you guessing as to what the next twist is. Really, it is difficult to find a similar story anywhere else on the DS.
The visuals are also very mature (not in the blood and guts way, but in the adult fictional novel way), sticking to a specific palette and showing restraint throughout. Again, what I mean is that it avoids familiar clichés, avoids familiar scenarios, and maintains its artist’s very specific vision throughout. The visuals aim to represent the timeframe in which the game takes place in, and the colors are muted, the characters stylized, and the environments lush. At times, finding items on the screen can be difficult, although this is more a reflection of the low resolution of the DS screen.
Still, the developers could’ve taken that into account in designing the layout of the levels during the porting process (I am assuming this is a port of the Wii version). Overall, it is obvious that the developers had a very specific vision for the game’s visuals, and the game has a very cohesive look throughout. It really does look good throughout, with carefully crafted rooms, nooks and crannies that invite exploration. In addition, the audio just isn’t as unique or gripping as the storyline. In fact, it’s pretty sparse throughout and there are times when you don’t even realize there is any game music in the background at all. The game isn’t very lengthy either, but it is priced lower than most new DS releases.
Overall, Hidden Mysteries: Titanic Secrets of the Fateful Voyage is a fresh experience on Nintendo’s DS, which has always been known for unique titles, but not quite in the same vein as this one. I do have a difficult time identifying a parallel in terms of both mechanics, story, and visuals, and that is an increasing rarity nowadays. The game certainly isn’t perfect, with its sometimes difficult to discern objects and methodical pacing. It isn’t for everyone, but for those willing to try something new, this may just fit the bill. If you are the type of gamer who likes hidden object games, puzzles, and a decent twisting story, Hidden Mysteries: Titanic Secrets of the Fateful Voyage should provide a few hours of entertainment before the ship sinks.