iPhone Life magazine

The Ghost Archives: Haunting Of Shady Valley HD Game Review

Well, it’s time for another review of a G5 hidden object game. Don’t worry, though, because this won’t sound just like the last few that I wrote. It’s not that I didn’t like The Ghost Archives: Haunting Of Shady Valley HD (Free with $6.99 unlock), because I am enjoying it so far. Compared to a number of their other releases in the last couple of years, however, this one is fairly average when it comes to game play. There was also an odd bug that I ran into that did not make me very happy, but more on that later.

In this game you belong to something called S.O.U.L., though you’re sort of thrust into the middle of things with no explanation as to why you do what you do. Your task is to try to set the minds of several departed residents at ease so they can migrate to their final resting place. Your guide is a deceased miner named Norman Macabre, and you’ll meet several other interesting characters along the way. I like the idea that you’re actually trying to help ghosts instead of capture them, but in the end it really feels just like you’re helping humans, especially since there is nothing in the town besides the ghosts. I think it would have been a much more interesting dynamic had the game mixed the worlds of the living and the dead.

I’ll forego hidden object games 101 this time around, because this one plays pretty much like all the other ones out there. One thing I like about the game is that there is plenty to do. The problem is that much of that “plenty to do” comes from “find 6 of this or 10 of that.” So rather than having to find a bunch of unique items to solve many puzzles, a lot of your searching is to find a bunch of similar objects so you can magically fix something to move on to the next quest. There is also a LOT of traipsing back and forth, which gets to be extremely annoying when you know you’ll need a certain object but the game won’t let you pick it up because you haven’t been told you need it yet. The number of hidden object scenes seems decent enough, but the fact that you have to visit some of them three or more times is a bit much. The most well balanced part of The Ghost Archives seems to be the mini-games which are comprised of a nice mix of old favorites and new additions that work well in the context of the game.

Normally I don’t mention bugs, or if I do it’s just sort of in passing, but this time there was an odd problem that ended up really setting me back. There is a point in act 1 where you’re exploring a barn, and somehow during that investigation I tapped something that transported me to a desolate downtown. I proceeded to solve all the puzzles in the downtown, and suddenly found myself back at the bus stop with the sign to start act 3. The problem was that since I hadn’t actually completed act 1, it wouldn’t let me proceed to act 3. This meant I had to start the game completely over. On some games I wouldn’t mind so much, but certain parts of this one were pretty tedious playing through completely a second time. Moral of the story: be careful where you tap in the barn, unless they find and squash this bug.

For the most part I really like the visuals as everything is well drawn and extremely detailed. The ghosts look really cool, though I’m not quite sure they fit with the overall graphical presentation, but in the few cases where they try to do quick fly-bys and such for what I assume is supposed to be a “jumpy moment” it doesn’t really work. The combination of music and ambient background noises do a better job of providing a creepy atmosphere, but sadly there’s never anything really scary about the aesthetics. Of course for all I know maybe there wasn’t supposed to be. One thing I would have appreciated is voiceovers for the ghosts.

Despite a lot of grumbling, I’m still plugging away at this game, and I’m definitely interested in finding out what happened to the town of Shady Valley. I just think we’re starting to reach a point where the typical hidden object game format is getting a bit stagnant; so if a developer chooses not to veer from that format, the game has to be completely polished—which The Ghost Archives unfortunately isn’t. The game suffers from too much repetitiveness, which I got a double dose of when I had to start over. This isn’t a bad offering, but in the end I could easily list a bunch of other G5 offerings that I’d much rather play.

Overall Score: 3 stars out of 5

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Eric Pankoke has been a gamer for more than 20 years. He began with arcade games, moving to consoles and eventually handhelds and Pocket PCs. Now he spends most of his time on one of his iOS devices. Eric has written more than 700 gaming reviews, which have appeared on a number of gaming websites as well as several issues of both Smartphone & Pocket PC and iPhone Life magazines. He regularly contributes to iphonelife.com and TouchMyApps. Ultimately he hopes to eventually develop games himself for whatever the hot mobile device is when he finally gets moving.