The Journey Continues…to Nowhere in Particular
Having just escaped the titular Dreamless Castle from the previous Awakening game, Princess Sophia begins to realize what makes her most significant in the world; she is the only human left in it. Her only hope to finding out what happened to her people, and hopefully finding more of them, is to seek out her mysterious benefactor, the Fairy Queen. So she sets off alongside her fairy companion, Mira, into the forest of Moonfell.
That’s the story of Moonfell Wood, the second game in the Awakening series. It picks up where Dreamless Castle left off, though you don’t need to have played that game to understand this one. Dreamless Castle did not exactly have the best story out there, but Moonfell does, thankfully, pick up the pace, if only because it at least defines the central conflict for us, something that the previous game strangely lacked.
Sadly, it’s still not very strong, and is pretty straightforward all around. There’s not even much in the way of decent characterization, with Mira still being little more than a hint system with wings, and Sophia being your typical silent protagonist. And like Dreamless Castle, this one also ends on a sequel hook. How long a plot with so little happening can be dragged out is anyone’s guess.
An Enchanting Forest
But, on the other hand, story is really only a secondary concern. The plot may go nowhere, and the main characters may lack personality, but that’s okay. The world itself is the real star of the show.
Like Dreamless Castle, the visuals are gorgeously detailed and colorful, looking as though they were ripped right out of a fairy tale storybook. In some ways, they’re even better than before, as we’re no longer exploring a somewhat dilapidated castle, but a green forest with trees, rivers, and all sorts of animals, both mundane and fantastical.
Even more impressive are some slight details added in just for good measure. For example, when looking directly into a puddle, the water will ripple gently as your cursor moves over it, and ripple strongly if you click on it. A lot of care definitely went into the look of this game.
Characters have improved slightly since Dreamless Castle. Most of them still sit still in the background, almost imperceptible from the many statues you’ll come across, but their portraits do at least come with some animation in the form of blinking eyes and some rudimentary lip-synching to their, albeit voiceless, dialogue. And even then, a few character come with more vibrant motions, such as one angry squirrel you can encounter early on, or a baby dragon with a ravenous appetite for mushrooms.
Sound is also of a similarly high quality. The music consists of some largely mystical tunes that befit the magical forest setting of the game. Listening to it is very relaxing. Sound effects are largely recycled from Dreamless Castle, which is perfectly fine, because they were good then too.
Many Secrets Abound in Those Woods
Like its predecessor, Moonfell Wood is very content-thick when it comes to puzzles. About the first thing you’ll have to do is set off on a boat. In order to do that, you’ll have to put together an oar, play a standard HOG, locate several painted tiles on the shoreline, and arrange them in the correct order to open a box to acquire a special magical card. Okay, it does sound a little weird and overdone, but it all of this takes place on the first three screens of the game. It goes on from there, with the puzzles fired out in rapid order to keep any lulls in the action to a minimum.
There’s a nice variety of puzzles to be found here as well. There are assorted hidden object games, both the standard clutter-filled ones that are usual in the genre, and more contextually-fitting ones where you search for a specific number of items on the screens on which you travel.
There are jigsaw puzzles, which now have a rotation feature that makes them even more challenging, tile-swaps, matching games, sound-based memory sections, and even some unique set puzzles that don’t fit any sort of mold. One that stands out involves rearranging some flowers so that their vines do not intersect or get tangled; what makes it interesting is how open-ended it is and has multiple solutions.
Not all is fair in these lands, unfortunately. Though there is an overall good amount of puzzles to engage in, some types get used a little more often than should be acceptable. Tile-swapping puzzles seem especially guilty of this. Another slight issue is that some clickable areas are not nearly as visible as they should be, and hence can get easily missed.
Help or No Help
But just like most adventure games, including the previous Awakening, there are plenty of tools at your disposal to help you. Your journal stores clues of what certain things and places you find could entail. Items include a description hinting at their use. And perhaps most impressively, Sophia herself will comment on scenery that you click on, often explicitly saying what items she’s currently holding could help for the current situation.
You also, of course, have Mira to turn to for any hints on where to go, or where to find some obscure item in a HOG. As should be expected, she needs time to recharge every time she does her thing. Puzzles can also be skipped outright, though only after a certain amount of time has already passed in order to ensure you at least try to solve them on your own.
The hint system works overall, and never makes anything too obvious. Mira, however, can sometimes be useless, as she may only tell you what you already know without exactly pointing the way. However, one nice addition to Moonfell Wood is that it has two difficulty modes, Normal and Casual, with the latter providing shorter hint cool-downs and a generally more guided approach to gameplay, while the former leaves you to your own devices. If you’re just here for the story, or can’t quite handle the advance stuff just yet, it’s a nice option to have.
More Games to Play
Like Dreamless Castle before it, Moonfell Wood rewards you by unlocking a mini-game that can be played outside the story. This time around, it’s a form of Solitaire called Tripeaks. It’s an alright addition, fun and addicting, though not quite as good as the previous entry’s Mahjong knockoff, Goblinjong, which is sadly absent this time around.
Though Moonfell Wood may continue the series’ weak story, it’s nonetheless a very pretty adventure game. It has oodles of puzzles and tons of variety, even if it overuses some to its slight detriment. But overall, it’s a marked improvement over the original, being an even longer game that can easily clock you about five hours.
If you enjoyed Dreamless Castle, enjoy adventure games period, or are looking to get started in the genre, then you definitely owe it to yourself to take a walk in magical forest of Moonfell Wood.
Review by David Galvin
Dave Galvin is a freelance writer and avid gamer. Somehow, he managed to find a way to combine the two passions.
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