G5 Entertainment’s recently released Sinister City(out now, $4.99) is a Hidden Object game where you will aid John on his mission to save his beloved – Nina – from the sinister Count Orlok. In order to complete his urgent mission, he will have to pursue the nefarious vampire and confront him in his lair within the vampire infested streets of the ominously named Sinister City. However, once John gets to Sinister City, he is going to quickly discover that the town’s name – even if the place is filled with the bloodsucking undead – might actually be something of a misnomer.
Anyways – like with all hidden object games – you will advance the plot in Sinister City by running errands for the various people (and vampires) that you bump into, and this will primarily be accomplished through finding a bunch of random objects in a scene. The nice part about the hidden object sessions in Sinister City is that – unlike some other hidden object games – the scenes are not so clustered with random junk that they devolve into indecipherable noise, and the amount of objects you need to find is kept to a far more reasonable level as well. This still does nothing for the problem the genre has where you get asked to do tasks such as find a hotel manager’s missing room keys, only to then find them all hanging on the messy key rack directly behind him.
One gimmick that Sinister City brings to spice this up is that occasionally there are objects that will be moved if you click on them, allowing you to find things they were previously obscuring. While this does bring more interactivity to the hidden object sessions, I also find that it sometimes muddles the purity of the concept by encouraging you to randomly tap on objects just to see if anything will move. However, for those of you who don’t like to randomly click on things all willy-nilly, these movable objects will begin to glow after a bit if you play Sinister City on easy mode.
Outside of the hidden object sessions that primarily comprise the bulk of the gameplay in Sinister City, the title also contains 15 different mini-games/puzzles that have to be solved at various points during the adventure. The controls for these various puzzle segments, as well as the logic needed to solve them, are far more sound than what was present in Victorian Mysteries: Woman in White. However – for those of you who are just here for the hidden object finding – all of these can easily be skipped with the press of a button, you simply won’t get the achievement for having completed all of the puzzles.
With the matters of Sinister City’s gameplay now out of the way, I’d like to spend some time talking about the matter of the game’s presentational quality. To put it bluntly, the polygonal 3D character models used throughout Sinister City are simply phenomenal and – despite the fact they are often seen from close up – really make you forget the fact that the entire game is running on a portable device the size of a cell phone. Furthermore, every last part of Sinister City is 100% voice acted – during which the 3D character models are fully animated – and this is a game where these is actually quite a bit of conversation going on. However, for some strange reason, what the voice-actors are actually saying almost always deviates from the provided subtitles, and this can be rather distracting if you have a tendency to want to read along while a character talks.
However, the problem with the voice acting isn’t so much that it deviates from the script as it is that pretty much everything said in Sinister City will be the absolute cheesiest thing you have ever heard. When G5 Entertainment made this game they intentionally set out to create a homage to the sort of films that would normally be lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000, so it should come as no surprise that before the plot is over (BEGIN SPOILER WARNING) you’ll have to help your 500 year old vampire father-in-law realize his dreams of being a film actor (END SPOILER WARNING). For some of you out there this sort of knowingly kitschy presentation will be the icing upon a cake that already had solid controls and stellar visuals, for the rest of you this means the plot will cause your brain to suffer an irreparable aneurism. Fortunately, there is a free demo available that contains the first two chapters of the game and if you find the content in it to be enjoyable then you will almost assuredly find the entirety of Sinister City to be a cheesy delight.
iFanzine Verdict: Sinister City brings an absolute A-Game to the table when it comes to matters of control functionality – graphics – and voice acting, making it the title for other hidden object games to beat in regards to quality. On the other hand, the plot of the game itself intentionally brings its B-Game: a deliberate homage to the sorts of movies that would normally get lambasted on Mystery Science Theater 3000. This is somewhat unfortunate as for some people the plot alone will actually work to undermine everything else in the game that G5 Entertainment has done so very right, but at least there’s a free demo so you can see which side of the fence you fall on before you pay for the full product.