I’m a big fan of hidden object puzzle games, but not all are created equal. Mad Head Games‘ Adam Wolfe turns the genre on its head—using puzzles to tell a cinematic story with multiple layers that kept me intrigued until the very end. It’s not perfect, as few games ever are, but Mad Head definitely raised the bar for what hidden object puzzle games can be.
Visuals – 5/5
The art team at Mad Head, led by Nikola Avramović has literally painted a vivid world of a seedy and supernatural San Francisco. While many talented artists worked on the four-part series, the art style remains consistent throughout each scene. I especially enjoyed the use of deep shadows paired with saturated colors to give Adam’s world a look of the surreal. Cinematic animations are on par with what you’d expect from the genre and aren’t so rough that they detract from the story.
I’m not a fan of games that throw real occult symbols around like decorations, so I was pleasantly surprised to see how Mad Head cleverly designed puzzles that convey the idea of the occult without resorting to what I consider lazy and dangerous practices. Despite this, the overall theme is dark and at times a bit creepy, which may be disturbing to some players. This game was intended for mature audiences.
Controls – 4.5/5
As is customary in the hidden object genre, one must only point and click (or tap for devices) to interact with the game. The only reason this section doesn’t get a perfect score is because on one puzzle in Chapter Four, I had to move my mouse so precisely that the game wouldn’t accept my movements. I play with a SteelSeries Sensei gaming mouse—which may simply be too sensitive for the puzzle—but it’s worth noting in case others run into the same problem. After what felt like 10 minutes, I finally had to skip it. I hate skipping puzzles.
Difficulty settings range from Easy to Hard, but can also be custom-created from within the menu. (For example, if you don’t want clues but still want the ability to skip puzzles.) My first play through was on Medium, which was a good, middle-of-the-road mix between easy for someone who plays this genre a lot and still getting stumped a few times.
Gameplay – 4/5 (SPOILERS)
Classified as “neo-noir,” Adam Wolfe is along the vein of your classic, hard-boiled detective story. He narrates his tale in sarcastic monotone, as one would expect from the genre. The supernatural element reminds me of The Dresden Files novel series or the DC comic character, John Constantine, except that Adam isn’t a magic practitioner, himself. Although he specializes in the supernatural, we never learn why or even receive a hint, which I found disappointing. Being a writer myself, I appreciate not spoon-feeding me his entire back story—but a sprinkle of subtext on the matter would have gone a long way.
The hidden object puzzle game genre usually has the same core plot structure: 1) someone goes missing, 2) you set out to find them and 3) there is something sinister and usually supernatural at work that you have to stop. While Adam Wolfe certainly follows this formula, it is how Mad Head follows it that intrigued me.
I truly enjoyed how many stories were intertwined, with Adam’s missing sister at the nucleus of them all. While the tension builds and the stakes are raised, the very end of the game was a tad abrupt for my taste. The twist was awesome, but I waited patiently for an epilogue that was never delivered and thus, the story felt unfinished.
Puzzles are spread throughout, but not in the usual way. Adam Wolfe includes puzzles for not just clues but hand-to-hand combat, shooting and driving, as well. Even hidden object puzzles have unique twists, like selecting items as Adam reminisces about them or locating them based on silhouettes or key words from a story. Sometimes the player has to select items just to move the story forward in a comic book-style art sequence. The constant interaction kept me glued to the task at hand.
Bugs: The game crashed once, but never again so I can’t blame that on a bug without recreating it. When I launched the game again, it had saved my progress, so no harm done. A minor annoyance occurred in Chapter Two, in which I had to select “hidden” objects based on key words. The item you’re looking for is in all CAPS but for some reason, it was also surrounded by “%” signs, as well. This in no way affected the the puzzle, but I could tell it didn’t belong. Lastly, I found myself sighing in exasperation during Chapter Four. One puzzle had me looking for candy but there was a ton of candy in the picture, so I had no idea which ones the game wanted. Some hidden object games penalize you for incorrect selections, so this could be an issue when unlocking achievements, if applicable. That one’s not technically a bug, but a potential design flaw.
Sound – 5/5
Hidden object games usually have “good enough” voice acting to get the job done—while not terrible, it’s not on par with a AAA console title. I was pleasantly surprised with Adam Wolfe, however. Petar Jandrić did a fantastic job in his portrayal of Adam—his performance conveyed a lot of emotion (or apathy) where it was appropriate. I found it very believable and enjoyable to listen to. Every voice was convincing, in fact, so hats off to Jovian Audio for some real, top-notch VO direction, as led by Jovana Karajanov Nikolić. The same studio also provided the music, which is fantastic—from ambient sound effects to the beautiful and mysterious scores flowing with mournful, electric guitar.
Replay Value – 3/5
Those who play Adam Wolfe on Steam can unlock and collect cards to trade or cash in for gems, if you’re so inclined. Achievement hunters may also enjoy playing the game on harder difficulties to give their brains a workout. I enjoyed the story, as I said, so I will most likely pick it up again in the future.
Value – 4/5
The entire game is pretty much $20 no matter which way you slice it.
On Steam, you can purchase each episode of Adam Wolfe separately for $5.99 each, or get all four chapters for $19.99. If you purchase the game on Big Fish Games, the chapters are divided into two parts (1-2 and 3-4) at $9.99 each. On iOS devices, however, all four chapters can be unlocked for $11.99 if you play the demo and choose the season pass. (Otherwise, it’s still $3.99 each if bought separately.)
For a game that kept me entertained for a good five hours or so, that’s a great value—although it might seem steep for those used to paying $2-5 for an entire hidden object game for their phones. This game is longer and more interactive, making it (in my opinion) worth the price.
Disclosure: VGNS received a free copy of this game in exchange for our honest review.
Overall – 4/5
For hidden object game enthusiasts, Adam Wolfe provides all the entertainment you’d expect and more. If you don’t mind a little creepy supernatural imagery, this four-part series is sure to keep puzzle fans entertained for hours. I, for one, hope to see more from this character, but will at least check out more titles from Mad Head Games with the hope that they are all this well executed.