Currently, there are dozens of hidden object games available on the Nintendo DS, covering scenarios that range from solving cases of international art theft to planning weddings. Even though it seems a little illogical that being able to find a hammer, three insects, a bottle, and a fleur-de-lis in the middle of a busy metropolitan area would be able to accomplish anything, when hidden object games are done well, they’re entertaining casual games that can be extremely addictive. Because of this, City Interactive’s new hidden object game, Vampire Moon: The Mystery of the Hidden Sun, was a title which really had the potential to be a fun game that made good use of its supernatural themes. Instead, however, it comes off as a rushed and over-simplified attempt to cash in on the current popularity of vampires.
Vampire Moon: The Mystery of the Hidden Sun does not at all attempt to make any innovations in the gameplay department. A screen full of hidden objects is presented, and then you have to find them. It’s a very simple concept, but it isn’t helped by the controls being so spotty that you can click on an object four or five times before the game realizes what you’re trying to do, leading to a lot of second guessing and needless frustration. There are some brief adventure game style puzzles found at the end of each level, too, but in order to solve several of them, it’s likely that you’ll have to resort to hitting the hint button or randomly tapping on things until time runs out. I am not sure who decided that most gamers would be able to deduce that fruit pickers ought to be used to move something that I think was either a frog or a lily pad in order to find a watch that never gets mentioned again underneath, but, evidently, they were on this game’s development team. Since these puzzles are often entirely useless in regard to the game’s story and gameplay, they seem even more pointless.
The biggest problem with Vampire Moon, however, is that it really doesn’t offer anything other than hidden objects for gamers to deal with. Most hidden object games that I’ve played spice up the gameplay a bit by including piles of interesting puzzles and minigames between levels. They usually aren’t things you’d beg for a full cartridge of, but they’re fun for as long as they’d last and go a long way towards breaking both the monotony and the eye strain of searching for screen after screen of objects. In Vampire Moon, however, the 47 hidden object screens are interrupted by one reconstruct-the-image style puzzle, two simple and nearly identical mazes, and one door unlocking sequence ripped directly from City Interactive’s recent adventure game, Crime Lab: Body of Evidence. This lack of diversion is disappointing and makes playing through the entire game an incredibly monotonous affair.
In order to be playable, hidden object games need to have fairly good graphics, since the entire game revolves around looking at things very closely. However, this is another department in which Vampire Moon doesn’t quite succeed. The character portraits you have to look at between levels are sufficient, if not a little boring, and for the most part, the environments you’re looking for objects in aren’t that bad, either. The objects themselves are a bit problematic, though. A lot of them are confusing in appearance, such as the chocolate bar that looks like a piece of gingham fabric, the handkerchief that’s clearly a doily, and the staff that sometimes appears as a walking cane. I suspect that some of this has to do with a strange translation, since the knight from chess is labeled as the “chess horse,” but it still doesn’t do the game any favors.
Sound is often less crucial than the visuals in hidden object games, which is definitely a good thing when it comes to playing Vampire Moon: The Mystery of the Hidden Sun. The music in this game is average, at best, with lots of violins and bizarre choral howling used with such prevalence that all of the songs start to run together after two or three levels. Any lack of creativity in the musical department, however, is wildly overshadowed by one sound effect found in one area that you have to visit multiple times, which consists of a person pretending to be a screeching bird. It is one of the worst sound effects that I’ve heard in any video game, and it is both horrible and really awesome. The fact that it’s indicative of the lack of effort put into the music and sound effect in this title does not speak well for it, though.
Vampire Moon: The Mystery of the Hidden Sun is the sort of game that may have been able to make up for its shortcomings by being budget priced, but since every hidden object game on the Nintendo DS is budget priced, it really has no excuse. It’s only two and a half hours long, doesn’t offer much in the way of new or interesting gameplay, has limited replay value, even with the awards system and rubies to find on every screen, and isn’t nearly as good as a lot of the hidden object games that have preceded it, such as Mystery PI: Portrait of a Thief or Mystery Case Files: Millionheir. If you’re a fan of both hidden object games and vampires, it might be worth your time, but otherwise, there are dozens of more interesting games you could be playing.