Vampire Moon: The Mystery of the Hidden Sun Review

Vampire Moon is short on story but high on hidden objects.

By Andrew Hsieh. Posted 12/06/2010 18:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
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1-Up Mushroom for...
Easily accessible controls; quick play mode great for hidden object enthusiasts
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Poison Mushroom for...
Lackluster creative direction, both in art and writing; very short story mode

I hadn’t realized it until playing Vampire Moon: The Mystery of the Hidden Sun, but hidden object games seem to be making a comeback, assuming they ever really had a heyday at all. Presumably, they were hiding in bushes, castles, tree trunks, stretchers, hospital beds et cetera, as are so many objects in these games, waiting for somebody to pull them out of obscurity. Fortunately, City Interactive, developers and publishers of, among others, Crime Lab: Body of Evidence (NDS, 2010) and Sniper: Ghost Warrior (360/PS3/PC, 2010), seems just the kind of company who would do this kind of thing, and Vampire Moon: The Mystery of the Hidden Sun is the result of those endeavors.

Full disclosure, first off: this is actually my first time playing a hidden object game, at least in a video game– as opposed to a children’s activity booklet, or the back of a cereal box– and so I understand that hidden object games may hold a good bit more or less appeal than Vampire Moon: The Mystery of the Hidden Sun shows. That being said, however, Vampire Moon doesn’t seem to bring anything particularly¬† new to the table– nor does it seem particularly entertaining. The main premise of Vampire Moon, like other hidden object games, is that you are constantly presented with a large, highly detailed image on the bottom screen– one that, on the Nintendo DS, takes up several screens’ worth, making it necessary to scroll up, down, left and right– in which you must find all¬† the objects on a list cheerfully presented on the top screen. Though the list only holds ten lines or so worth of objects (more than enough objects for the non-hidden object game enthusiast) later on in the game, City Interactive lengthens the already very short game by making players find more than one of the same object. One watermelon slice becomes four slices, one cucumber becomes six cucumbers, and so on.

And of course, hidden objects are never where they should be. Buckets constantly fly up with the clouds, and pickaxes hide amongst the tree branches. (In one instance, the list called me to find Dracula, at which point I thought the game was already over.) Rubies and scrolls, which are scattered about the game and give you extra points, are a little easier to see, but then again they aren’t the items you’re looking for in the game’s story mode. What’s worse (or better, depending on your lookout), City Interactive has seen fit to add objects into these (admittedly quite pretty) locales that are not on the list, so players cannot click willy-nilly hoping to get something right– especially since they lose precious points for clicking incorrectly. Fortunately, players cannot lose time, though even the worst hidden object player (read: me) should be able to find each object by the allotted time of ten minutes per stage, especially with Vampire Moon‘s very generous hint feature: clicking on the hint button sends the bottom screen careening towards one of the remaining hidden objects, upon which a sign is placed reading “click me”. Okay, not really, but it’s very difficult to miss an item when the hints (which are unlimited) bring you straight to it.

The controls, meanwhile, are as simple and as intuitive as they come. Like The World Ends with You, the game naturally allows for both right-hand and left-hand play by relegating scrolling to both the directional pad and the A, B, X and Y buttons. Because of this, players don’t need to go into an options menu to switch playing styles a la Brain Age, which I very much appreciated. Furthermore, though the bottom screen shows a close-up of the current stage, the top screen shows the literal big picture, which is more useful than it sounds when you’re busy ignoring the forest for the trees. (Or cucumbers.)

As for the story, you play as– or rather, you journey with, er, watch the adventures of– the journalist Emily Davis, who is completely non-interactive, and in fact is merely a vessel of hidden-object finding. Sent to Transylvania to investigate an endless solar eclipse, Emily Davis’ adventures are relayed to the player via handwritten text on the bottom screen, given slice by slice as the game progresses. Once the game is done, players can read the entire adventure as a whole in the game’s storybook extra. On the other hand, players can skip the adventure and go straight to hidden object-finding via Quick Play.

Unfortunately, the game’s other extras aren’t gameplay-based at all, but are rather awards like “Twiddle-Fingers” (finding three objects in ten seconds or less– not as easy as it sounds) that come with pictures that don’t really have anything to do with the game at all. But considering Vampire Moon is first and foremost a hidden object game, this is unsurprising– it almost seems as if City Interactive wanted to make the simplest game possible, and threw on a threadbare story simply to make it seem like a legitimate adventure game.

But that’s a little harsh. The environments of Vampire Moon are well-drawn, if generic, though they are very often very dark (probably to add to the whole vampire-y feeling of Transylvania, but nevertheless). Though characters are few, they, too, are drawn well, though honestly the art design overall could have used a little more originality. In fact, that may well go for the entire game: yes, City Interactive has attempted to resurrect a genre with Vampire Moon: The Mystery of the Hidden Sun, and it has even tried to cash in on the hip-and-happening vampire craze. Unfortunately, the two extremes just don’t mesh. Unlike Chronicles of Mystery: Curse of the Ancient Temple (NDS, 2010), a City Interactive game that is truly an adventure game, Vampire Moon is too short and too limited in scope to be anything more than simply a hidden object game. But considering that’s how the game is marketed (the back of the box enthusiastically reads “Endless replay value thanks to a system of random item placement!”), that’s probably all it needs to be.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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