Adam Wolfe – Episode 1: The Ancient Flame PC Review
Hidden object games are favourites among the casual market. It’s a genre that has managed to capitalise on the mass appeal to discover things. Just look at the past 10 years of popular TV shows and it is clear that people have a love for watching crime drama TV, like CSI. People want to have their own ‘enhance‘ moment, and these hidden object games do that for those people, while being mildly challenging to make players feel like a genius. Adam Wolfe is one such game that takes elements of the hidden object mechanics, but puts an emphasis on story, to the point that it feels similar to a few visual novel games from Japan that have released in the UK over the past few years.
Adam Wolfe is releasing in an episodic format, with the first episode purchased separately for £4.79, and the other three episodes in a bundle for £11.99 that makes up a composed four episode season. The first episode, titled The Ancient Flame, introduces the titular character as a detective who works in the area of the paranormal.
The game doesn’t waste anytime to get going, as it starts with Adam investigating random fires happening around the city. This ends up leading him to a chase with an arsonist within the dark damp sewers of San Francisco, but soon takes a turn for the worst when there are supernatural elements in play that reveal that the arsonist is more than just a person who loves playing with fire. This leads into the episode’s self contained plot, but the episode is also building up the overarching story with the disappearance of Adam’s sister that happened before the game – the player is reminded about this through repeated haunting dreams that Adam keeps having. This experience is also the event that pulled Adam into investigating the supernatural, and like any good detective, he keeps a board with all his hints to her disappearance.
With my playtime around 1 hour 40 minutes, the first episode is around the average length for the episodic format, but being the first episode, The Ancient Flame has to do more than being good, it has to sell you why you should buy the season pass, it has to capture the player, it has to be able to make you want to see what is interesting about this world and why you should stay. Adam Wolfe manages to make things absorbing enough. Sure, the plot is rather cliché in its mixture of cop and supernatural drama, but it’s adequate enough to get an understand of Adam’s edgy, cool-cop characteristics, the rules of this world and its diverse characters. Plus the mixture of story scenes and puzzles allows the game to move at a good pace, and of course, if that hasn’t twitched interested for playing more, there is a cliffhanger at the end to push you that bit more.
It helps that the artwork is high quality. The hand-drawn visuals feel ripped from a dark and gritty Gothic graphic novel, offering a slick atheistic that works with the detailed environments and character portraits. Animations do slightly spoil this, coming off unusual and stiff, feeling rushed compared to the rest of the game’s lovely presentation. Audio holds itself well too, with the voice actors performing a competent delivery. You will hear Adam a lot, as he narrates the scenes when he isn’t talking to people. He likes to think to himself a lot, which often is masked as hints on what to do next. While the music might not stick with you, the score and ambient sounds fit what is happening in the game.
But even with a focus on story, let’s not forget that this is a puzzle game, and with that comes all the genre’s tropes. Clicking around the environment for interactive objects is a basic feature of the genre, and that doesn’t change here. Some areas are easy to discover, while others are nothing but vague points in the scene. There is, however, an highlight button just for those issues, and it helps players be pushed in the right direction, so one can never be truly stuck unless they refuse to press it.
Puzzles are a stopgap between moving location or getting more dialogue, they are embedded with the story and make for some enjoyable solving. I found most of the puzzles to be easy to figure out, using common knowledge is often the correct way to go about solving things, such as using a cloth to hold a hot door handle or find a blueprint to rebuild a model ship, but then maybe that’s a good thing that these puzzles click, as it keeps frustration down and the flow going.
What was nice to see is that Adam Wolfe does more than just be a run-of-the-mill hidden object game. Yes, there are those parts where players need to click around on objects, but it seems the developers wanted to do a bit more to spice things up and move it away from having the game be a matter of finding things. Puzzles often fall into other categories, more in line with point-and-click games, where something is required to solve something else to proceed. Away from puzzles, there are recreation scenes where one must figure out the order of how things transpired with scenario boxes that need shuffling into the correct order to re-enact a crime. Even a couple of boss fights are include, but these aren’t exactly taxing, as it’s a point and shoot mini-game, but it’s enough change to break up the puzzle solving.
Adam Wolfe Episode 1: The Ancient Flame does well as an introduction, and does the right things to keep you clamming for more of its mystery. Evidence from the first episode has Adam Wolfe more than just an average hidden object game, mixing up the solving element with various puzzle types, but throwing in small alterations to the formula that break away from puzzle solving. With a focus on story, Adam Wolfe is branching out for a new audience, maybe those that are interesting in games with a big focus on story, such as Telltale Games’ latest titles, and while its presentation is different to those games, Adam Wolfe has the looks, a somewhat cliche, but intriguing story that keeps things moving to make for a decent mixture of adventure and hidden puzzle solving that might be enough for it to branch out from the genre’s main audience.