Left In the Dark: No One on Board, by Artifex Mundi and Moonrise Interactive, was featured during a recent G5 sale, and being a sucker for anything nautical, I couldn’t resist diving into this hidden object mystery. A lost ship has been found, but all its crew and cargo are missing! Can you, as Madam Investigator solve the Curse of Devil Island and return peace to Port Providence?
Note: for this review, I used a Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8″ tablet.
Visuals – 4.5/5
Hand-drawn environments and collectible objects are a mainstay of great hidden object titles, and Left in the Dark is no exception. From dark forests to dilapidated ships, each of the 68 levels is unique, engrossing and fun to explore. The rich, saturated colors and excellent use of ambient light draws you into the story and your tasks at hand.
Subtle animations are used to bring each environment to life, such as rolling ocean waves or the easy sway of ropes hanging from the ceiling. Cut scenes are brief and the animations are simple, yet adequate for the genre. I experienced no screen tearing, missing pixels or other issues that would detract from the art design.
The only reason I give Visuals a less-than perfect score is due to a cluttered and distracting Main Menu for the Galaxy Tab A, with Animated pop-up ads overlapping with in-game content, regardless of whether or not you have purchased the complete game. One ad even blocks necessary text links, which I found more than a little annoying. You would think that most hidden object adventure fans would use a tablet to play, so the unfortunate layout on my Android tablet is a bummer. Hopefully iPad users have better luck! (To be fair, this game was released 2 years before my model of tablet existed, so…there’s that.) Update 2/19/16 – per the publisher, this issue has been reported and will be fixed!
Sound – 5/5
Composed by Moonrise Interactive’s Kamil Orman-Janowski and Krzysztof Kowal, the music of Left in the Dark is mysterious with adventurous undertones and utilizes enough loops that it never gets too repetitive. I enjoyed the use of minor keys and one track in particular, that utilized a foreboding piano solo.
Having played many Artifex Mundi games, I recognized their go-to voice actress, Kristin Price. Starring as Madam Investigator, Kristen’s performance is once again, typical for the genre – narrating her observations either calmly or in a slightly more panicked tone. Although I enjoy her voice immensely, I feel that the pacing of voice overs in this game is helpful without becoming annoying. When it’s more important that you remind yourself of a task or obtain a hint for what item to look for, the game reverts to subtitles upon tapping an item. This keeps you from listening to people talk incessantly when you’re just trying to explore an area, for example.
The rest of the voice acting is adequate, in my humble opinion – it’s not annoying and it does the job. All cut scenes can be skipped, even if you’ve never watched them before. All music and voice overs can be muted in the Options Menu.
Controls – 4.5/5
The only controls you need to master are tapping and swiping, so there is nothing complicated to pick up. (I used a combination of stylus and my finger during this particular play through.) There is even a Lefty mode, if you are so inclined. Please note that your selection area is quite small – so to avoid penalties in hidden object scenarios, make sure you use a precise stylus or practice caution while tapping!
In one mini game, a piece of the puzzle wasn’t responding and after several stubborn and varied attempts, I had to skip it. Having to skip a puzzle rather than solve it takes some of the fun out of a game for me, so I was rather disappointed. That being said, this less-than perfect score may be due to my own ignorance, and I am currently playing through the game a second time to find out. (I will gladly update the score if that’s the case!)
Gameplay – 3.5/5
This was a hard section to score for me, because on one hand, I enjoyed the game very much. However, in the big picture and compared to other games of the genre and from this developer, I feel that in some ways, Left in the Dark fell short. For example, a number of the hidden object scenes are smaller and less cluttered than usual, making them a bit easier, compared to similar titles. Although this isn’t a deal breaker and I did admittedly have to use the Hint button a few times, I found myself whipping through mini-games faster than perhaps intended.
The mini-games are pretty fun, but too easy to figure out, in my opinion. (Aside from the aforementioned puzzle I had to skip because it wasn’t responding to my taps.)
Left In the Dark: No One on Board is part of Artifex Mundi’s Premium Adventure Collection, but lacks a bonus adventure that so many fans have come to enjoy. The story, itself is pretty formulaic; someone goes missing, you go after them, you must uncover the truth. (By thwarting an evil spell, in many cases.) This particular story is a bit more unique, however, and without giving anything away, I will say that Left In the Dark strays a bit from the norm.
Value – 4/5
This is really up to one’s opinion – I snagged Left In the Dark for just 99 cents on sale, and for what it is, I really felt that it was a good value. (Full disclosure – the publisher refunded my purchase price in exchange for an honest review.) This game is normally priced at around $5, which has garnered mixed reviews on Google Play. Because of the lack of bonus game or lovely, long list of collectible items as found in Nightmares from the Deep: The Siren’s Call (one of my favorites), many fans have commented that they didn’t care for the normal price tag. However, just as many seem to comment that they love the game, so again – you’d have to download the free demo and choose for yourself! G5 has sales all the time, too.
Replay Value – 3/5
You won’t get any alternate endings, but there are 3 difficulty settings and 13 achievements, making Left In the Dark a game that you could come back to later to explore. The game is fun enough to revisit at another time, which I often do with hidden object games after I’ve waited long enough to forget where everything is.
Overall – 4/5
Left In the Dark: No One on Board is a fun, casual title that entertained me quite successfully for a few hours. The puzzles aren’t too hard or too easy, and the story differed slightly from the usual, hidden object adventure plot formula. The game was released in 2013, which could account for the lack of features that we find in more recent games from Artifex Mundi. However, despite not having a bonus game, I really enjoyed the art design, music and pacing of this little gem.