Hidden object games have become a dime a dozen these days. There are so many of them, and more often than not, they are remarkably similar to each other, even with their stories and settings. In order to stand out, a hidden object game has to either have remarkable graphics, a truly original story, or some kind of gameplay mechanic that mixes things up at least a little, like when morphing objects were first introduced. Paranormal Agency: The Ghosts of Wayne Manor, unfortunately, has none of these features, and in fact, is even more generic than most modern hidden object games, leading to it feeling more like a slog to get through than anything else.
The premise of this game is that you are an investigator looking into the case of Wayne Manor, a haunted manor where there have been disappearances throughout the years. As you’re driving to your destination in awful weather, you crash your car after seeing an apparition suddenly appear. You then go through the mansion and its grounds and learn about the manor’s history and its owner’s dark secret, and try to find a way to lift the curse of the manor. The story itself has been done many times, and if you’ve played adult hidden object games before, you will see most of the twists and turns coming a mile away, though to be fair, the very end reveals are a bit surprising. There are also some minor translation issues that bring the overall quality level down, including a handful of objects that are oddly named that will likely lead to confusion.
The game has very straightforward hidden object gameplay, with a bunch of hidden object scenes (all static and short, with typically only six objects in each scene), lots of backtracking, and many different small objects to find. And by small, I mean small. Especially on the iPhone, it’s very difficult to see the objects you need even fully zoomed into the scene, and in one of the most aggravating features of the game, sometimes you will see objects that are clearly meant to be picked up but don’t become “active” and able to be picked up until you discover the puzzle or task that requires those objects. It would be one thing if this feature meant that your inventory was smaller and not full of seemingly random objects, but that isn’t true. Around the middle of the game, I had something like fifteen objects in my inventory and around seven or eight different active tasks at once, which is a lot. Adding to the issues with the gameplay is that a fair number of the hidden object scenes, including the first one, are very dark and blurry and make the experience more frustrating than fun.
Occasionally, the logic of the game doesn’t make sense. One early puzzle has you needing to fix a staircase but apparently, you need to go up at least the first flight of stairs to use a clock sitting up there to continue and do so with no problems. There are also issues with the interface of the game on the iPhone; the inventory window often takes up most of the screen, and it’s easy to accidentally hit the back button when you’re trying to close the inventory. These interface issues would likely be made easier on a platform with a larger screen, like a tablet or personal computer.
I’ve been doing nothing but pointing out the negatives, so I should highlight some positives. You do have the chance to switch between Casual and Expert gameplay on the fly, which is nice when you want a challenge but get confused as to what to do next in a scene. The mechanic of using clocks to manipulate time is interesting, and the interactions with the various ghosts in the story are intriguing. There are also a number of logic puzzles that, while generic and in some cases copies of classic puzzles like the Eight Queens chess puzzle, are well done and are actually quite challenging.
Paranormal Agency: The Ghosts of Wayne Manor is disappointing. Its time manipulation mechanics, story, and setting are all solid starting points but aren’t used effectively, and the hidden object scenes are ho-hum and often difficult to complete because of contrast issues rather than actual challenge. There are also pretty serious interface issues with the iPhone that make the game difficult to play through at times. Overall, I can’t recommend Paranormal Agency: The Ghosts of Wayne Manor unless you have a need to play through every hidden object game out there regardless of how generic they are.
Tested on iPhone 5. Final Score: 4/10