What’s a girl to do? Her man’s taking his sweet time proposing to her, and she’s getting bored of waiting for him. You could probably think of any number of sensible courses of action in this situation, none of which involve picking up a book on witchcraft so that you can perform a love spell. Still, in PlayStation 3 puzzler Sacra Terra: Kiss of Death, this questionable direction is exactly the path that its desperate protagonist decides to adopt.
Predictably, things go wrong, and before she can cast the spell, her boyfriend finds the book – ironically on the night that he’s going to propose – and summons the demon Lillith, who promptly spirits him away to the isle of Sacra Terra. Rather than cut her losses, the heroine decides to prove that love conquers all, by getting her other half back and saving him from becoming the centrepiece of a devil summoning ritual in the process.
In order to complete your quest, you’ll need to solve a variety of puzzles across Sacra Terra island. All of the locations that you visit are represented by two dimensional pictures that, while basic, have a few animated touches to bring them to life. These do a nice job of evoking the occult atmosphere that runs throughout the game, and are by far the strongest part of the visuals. It’s a shame, then, that the rest of the package’s presentation is a major let-down. On top of the cringe-worthy story, the few characters that you can interact with are poorly animated with horrible voiceovers that are so stilted that they’re devoid of any feeling at all.
The main thrust of the game is its puzzles, and these fall into three categories. The most common are those that require you to use an item – or items – in a specific place to trigger an event. The second are mini-games that have you sliding blocks, moving tokens, or generally trying to manoeuvre objects into specific positions. Finally, the last are hidden object puzzles, where you need to find certain items in a cluttered picture.
These conundrums aren’t particularly challenging, with none of the solutions requiring massive leaps of logic or any serious thought. As a result, anyone who’s paying attention to the scene in front of them will be able to puzzle out the correct answer in pretty short order. This also means that things move at a really fast pace, and you’ll blast through the story and its bonus chapter in only a few hours, leaving nothing to do unless you want all of the Trophies.
Should you want a bit more of a challenge, you can switch the difficulty to the higher of the two levels. Unfortunately, ramping things up in this way doesn’t open up more complex versions of the puzzles, but instead removes the glowing highlights around points of interest, and reduces the frequency with which you can use the hint system. Rather than testing your mental agility, this only serves to increase the chances that you’ll miss a key item. Should this happen, you’ll have to frustratingly scour a location in search of the one thing that you might have overlooked, before you begrudgingly request a tip.
Despite the odd problems on the harder difficulty, the game actually does a really good job of keeping you on the right track, using its excellent map. This chart shows all of the locations that have actions that you can complete, and pretty much eliminates the aimless wandering that can be the bane of this sort of title.
Sacra Terra: Kiss of Death is a puzzler that has a healthy respect for your time. With its useful map keeping you focused on the path ahead, it really minimises the frustration that could so easily sour the experience. While the quality of its horribly basic presentation really lets things down, you’ll at least get some satisfaction from exercising your brain cells – even if it’s more of a jog than a sprint.