Game Review by Debbie Winkler
Publisher: Alawar Games & V-Games (October 2008)
Target Age Group: 10 and up
Average Game Play: 2 – 6 hours
Type of Game: Hidden Object Computer Game
My Rating: 4/5 stars
“Catherine had just finished taking her exams at the Academy for Magic when she received an urgent message born on the wings of a paper bird. Curious, she opened the note and was instantly transported to a strange jungle, where she began her whirlwind adventure to stop the awakening of a terrible dragon. As Catherine’s guiding hand, you’ll travel around the world, collecting various objects and then using them to solve cunning puzzles. Featuring hand-painted scenery, addictive mini-games and a spellbinding story, Magic Encyclopedia offers a seek-and-find adventure you’ll never forget!” – Alawar Entertainment
This is a pretty fun hidden object game that is the start of a series. The goal of the game is to find all of the pieces of objects (4 – 10 pieces per object) that you will then need to use somewhere in the scene to find new pieces or unlock new areas. The first couple of scenes are quite easy to solve and will give you a false sense of confidence as the later scenes are pretty challenging. The game creators are awfully fond of having you find things like little twigs, strands of rope and the like that are long, skinny and very hard to find. Of course, these skinny objects are chopped up into a ton of pieces so you have to keep a sharp eye out! You also have to find little jewels in every scene before you can advance. These gems go into amulets that you supposedly use at the end, but I just found them frustrating to find as my focus was not on the jewels, but on the objects that you need to use to complete the game.
I liked the game, but there were a few things that I found frustrating about it. Firstly, it is very difficult to rack up enough hints to pass some of the levels, in my opinion. You have to find 3 question mark (?) circles to get one hint and you don’t get to choose what the hint is going to find. The hint could pull up a jewel (useless) or the first piece of an axe when you were hoping for the last piece of rope. You can really only pull up 2-3 hints per level so you need to be very careful about using them as you can find yourself stuck and needing to look for online help. Secondly, the cursor is a custom, bejeweled, ornate-looking thing that makes it a little bit more difficult to click on things. You can be right on top of it, but, unless the tip of the cursor is resting on the object, it won’t pick it up for you. Be careful and specific with where you click, but don’t be afraid to click around in a little circle over something you feel should come up as there is no penalty to click multiple times like most other hidden object games. Thirdly, you have to play game challenges in most levels to find pieces of objects. You are timed on these mini-games, but not on the game as a whole. If you run out of time, you have to start the challenge over from the start. These mini-games include match 3, matching shapes on a conveyor, puzzles (square blocks that are pretty easy to assemble), round puzzles where you have to pull the different circles into the proper alignment, pulling dots into a formation so that there are no lines crossing and placing stars into constellations on a blank piece of paper (a guide is provided, but you have to get the picture started before the drawing shows up on the paper a little bit at a time). Important note – you cannot skip any of these mini games. I thought that this was an oversight as I play hidden object games to find the hidden objects, not to be frustrated over a mini game that I am not that good at. Luckily, I was able to get through all of the games (sometimes it was just a matter of moving stuff around on the board until the stars aligned and I passed), but I did have to cheat on one of them and look up the picture online. Lastly, there are really no instructions for you on the mini games or on the game as a whole so don’t get frustrated, just keep looking around and you will figure it out (except for that stupid quilt puzzle!).
All in all, I found this game worth playing and will recommend it to friends and family, but I do anticipate that the sequels (there are currently 2: Magic Encyclopedia: Moon Light & Magic Encyclopedia: Illusions) will be better and that some of these problems will be fixed. If I had known about the lack of hints and unskippable mini games, I probably would not have purchased this game, but I am glad I did as it made me really work for my victory!
Appropriate for players of all ages but recommended for ages 10 and up without assistance.