Picking up where the previous Serpent of Isis game left off, super sleuth Robert Higgins continues to finish what his grandfather started. His next stop in the investigation is to meet his friend, Professor Thomas Penroy, in New York City. But things are never easy, for Robert quickly discovers that the professor has been kidnapped. It looks like things are going to get more dangerous for our hero.
Serpent of Isis: The Journey Continues does exactly what its title says, continues the plot from the first game. The mystery deepens and the plot gets thicker, so anyone who enjoyed that will be delighted to see where it proceeds in this installment. It helps that Robert isn’t just some faceless mute protagonist as is part and parcel for the genre, but an actual character that visibly reacts and emotes to things that react before him.
Unfortunately, just like its predecessor, The Journey Continues also ends on a cliffhanger, and a fairly abrupt one at that. Granted, this isn’t too unusual for the genre, but with there being a two year difference between these games’ release dates, it’s easy to understand why some fans might get a little frustrated.
Dirty and Dank, Just the Way We Like It
Your Journey Continues is packing a lot of style. There’s a comic bookish noir feel to the visuals, from the rain-soaked streets of Manhattan that we’re treated to at the beginning, to the numerous abandoned building we’ll be subjected to exploring.
Backgrounds are sharp with plenty of animated details to make the world feel more alive. Speaking of animation, there’s a good amount to be found here, as each new level begins with a brief full motion video sequence introducing us to the next environment to explore.
As said before, Your Journey Continues doesn’t have you play as a faceless protagonist. Every time Robert Higgins speaks up or voices his thoughts, we’re treated to a portrait of him. It’s just as well-drawn as the backgrounds, and even better, it changes expression based on his mood. It’s a small touch, sure, but it’s a very nice one that helps to insert us into the story by giving us a character to emphasize with. Robert’s design has changed, though, which might put fans of the original off a bit.
Music is good overall, consisting of some fairly low-key but surprisingly catchy beats. Sound effects are put to good use as well. Rain can be heard pattering even from inside, old drawers that haven’t been touched for years squeal when Robert opens them, and hidden switches give an audible click when he inadvertently touches them.
One problem, however, can be an annoying shuffling sound that repeats ad nauseum while you’re playing one of the many hidden object games. It might give the sense of digging around through a bunch of random items, but if it doesn’t grate on your ears, it will certainly make you want to check over your shoulder in paranoia.
Not the Usual HOG-Wash
Your Journey Continues, like the first Serpent of Isis, is an adventure game with a strong emphasis on hidden object sequences. These work mostly as you would expect, but there are a few clever innovations that separate them from the rank-and-file of HOGs. One, they’re often designed to be consistent with the setting. If checking something like a messy desk, for example, you’ll see that it’s covered with an assortment of paperclips, envelopes, stamps, writing utensils and thing of that nature. In other words, things that make sense.
Two, there are more items to find on average. The list for each HOG contains 16 objects, but it’s not unusual for you to have to find a set number of certain items, increasing the item count. You might need to find four paperclips in one segment, and five leaves in another. Despite the bigger laundry lists, hidden object sequences don’t take nearly as long as you think; the usual visual tricks are still employed to keep things unpredictable, but most of the items are relatively easy to find.
Three, and perhaps neatest of all, some items are sealed away. In order to get them, you need to find the key elsewhere in the current level. One early HOG requires you to get some gum, which is only available inside a vending machine. To use the vending machine, you’ll have to find a coin elsewhere. This is a seldom seen feature in the genre that does a lot to bridge the hidden object and adventure game aspects together, and is pretty interesting overall.
Problems are Easily Found
The HOGs, however, are not perfect. The game has the annoying habit of forcing you to repeat hidden object sequences on the exact same screen multiple times, and you can be sure that you’ll have to scavenge many of the same things as before. Some items are also more “picky” in what parts of them can be clicked on to be collected. And often, there’s just not a lot of thought put into the different objects you have to find; you might be tasked into finding a bird, but a toy duck will not actually count towards that.
Some of the regular puzzles and minigames aren’t handled much better. They’re not nearly as well designed or logical as other adventure games out there. Many are downright confusing as well, and instruction on how to go about solving them are distinctly lacking. Mind you, puzzles can be skipped, but that’s a crutch, not a real solution.
But the absolute worst thing about The Serpent of Isis: Your Journey Continues happens to be the interface. It’s one of the clunkiest things out there in a genre that has otherwise done well in making its menus as unobtrusive as possible.
Your inventory is accessed from the top of the screen, and can be opened by clicking either an icon at the bottom, or on some very specific pixels at the top, neither of which is optimal. Same can be said for examining items, you have to select a small and specific icon. Doing anything such as equipping or examining items also boots you out of the inventory automatically, so if something goes wrong, such as you used an incorrect object somewhere, or didn’t click on the right area of the screen, you’ll have to open the inventory all over again. This does much to exasperate the other issues, and is especially egregious due to frequent use of item-based puzzles.
Conclusion - Great Style With a Few Problems That Weight It Down
The Serpent of Isis: Your Journey Continues isn’t a bad or even remotely unplayable adventure/hidden object game. It brings a new spin on the genre, oozes style, and is the second chapter to an ongoing saga that is, so far, pretty interesting. But some poorly thought-out puzzles and a finicky interface really bring it down. If you loved its predecessor, or are just looking for something that does a few new things, then it might be worth checking out. But do note that there are probably better games to find out there.
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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