A game sporting a name like Snark Busters: High Society should be enough to perk the interest of pretty much anyone – you can’t help but let it spark question after question in your mind. What the hell’s a Snark, why does it need busting, and most importantly, will there be top hats? Should all of these questions push your interest to fever pitch, then prepare to be disappointed, as it’s time for another hidden object puzzle game.
Elizabeth Hughes has got a lot to feel good about: not only is she a famous photographer, but she’s also just got engaged to Nicolas Fortright. That feeling doesn’t last, though, as not long after the news of her engagement hits, her suitor is accused of stealing a locket from his employer – Duchess Daffington – and placed under arrest by the local constabulary. Knowing that something’s amiss, Elizabeth sets off to prove her fiancé’s innocence by solving the crime – and recovering the stolen property.
To get to the bottom of these curious events, you’ll need to guide Elizabeth around the game’s steampunk world, taking in a number of locations, all of which are rendered in mostly static 2D paintings, sporting the odd animated touches. Whether it’s Duchess Daffington’s residence, or a park filled with robotic attractions, you’ll need to scour each location for a variety of hidden items by guiding your cursor around the screen.
The items that you’ll be picking up generally make up a set that, when grouped together, trigger a change to the scene in front of you. Most of the time this reveals another item, which in turn forms part of another set, and you’ll be repeating this chain of events pretty much all the way through your investigation. It’s hardly the most engaging gameplay, and if you’re not bored by the end of the first hour, then you probably will be by the time that you’ve reached the end of your quest.
If there was a decent story to keep you running through its gameplay loop, then that would at least help, but unfortunately, all Snark Busters: High Society has to offer is a poorly voiced, predictable affair, that’s disappointingly light – to the point of non-existence – on both Snarks and busting.
There are attempts to break out of the item hunting routine by throwing in a few puzzles here and there, and while these do provide a welcome distraction, they’re not exactly challenging, with you being able to work out their solution in no time at all.
As a positive, at least the game tries to remove any frustration from the experience, by not only having the cursor change shape when you move over an item that you need, but also by including a helpful hint system. When activated, this shows the next move that you need to make, and really does stop you from hitting any annoying roadblocks – especially when you can’t quite find that last item on a particular screen.
That said, it doesn’t let you have it all your own way, as the hint system has to charge up after every use. The game also stops you from collecting items by sweeping your cursor around the screen and hammering the X button repeatedly, by filling your view with bubbles and stopping you from doing anything else until you’ve popped most of them. This is a clever way of preventing the player from employing a common exploit in this sort of title, and you can’t help but admire the simplicity of the solution.
If you want more of a challenge, you can up the difficulty to advanced, which, in addition to reducing the frequency that you’re able use the hint system, also removes all of the hotspots from the screen. With your cursor no longer changing shape when you scroll over a point of interest, you can’t help but feel that this adds needless frustration, and as a result, this option’s only likely to appeal to those chasing the Trophy for completing the game in this way.
With only a few top hats, and not a single Snark in sight, Snark Busters: High Society fails to live up to the promise of its title. By delivering what, at best, is a middling example of the genre, this title’s complete absence of any meaningful story or mental challenge makes it hard to recommend. While fervent aficionados of hidden object titles may well squeeze a drop of enjoyment out of its item collecting, most will be better off spending time hunting for a more worthwhile title to play.