The Mystery of the Crystal Portal may have begun life on the PC, but its sight is set on the Playstation Portable (PSP) and PlayStation 3, as a ‘minis’ title. So has it earned its £3.99 price tag or have the developers over estimated the worth of their title?
The premise sees players searching the environment for hidden objects, and this is all the game has to offer; aside from some slight mini games such as matching tiles to a picture and weights to some scales. Each highly detailed scene has a number of key items that require other concealed objects dragging and dropping onto them for completion. You may be thinking at this point that this sounds like the highly entertaining ‘Where’s Wally?’ series of books, but sadly it never reaches these heights.
The main reason is because of the obtrusive heads-up display (HUD) that dominates every corner of the screen and a large portion of the bottom row. This may not sound like a big issue but when you find yourself squinting at the image, especially on the PSP, this soon starts to hurt your eyes. Even though this is slightly less irritating on a bigger TV, if you choose to play it through the PlayStation 3, the HUD scales itself up and becomes far more pixelated. It’s a shame as all this could have been solved by simply assigning a button to show and hide the HUD.
The other main issue is that the game is painfully short with only three-to-four hours worth of gameplay to speak of. Worse than this is the fact there’s no replayability to keep you going after this. Though £3.99 may seem like a decent offer for a few hours of entertainment, you are doing the same task over and over – so really you end up feeling relieved that it’s this short. That said, there’s still gameplay there for hidden object fans to invest a solid amount of time in this title.
Fortunately the game does have a number of things going for it. The scenes that you find yourself searching through are both varied and attractive. From tombs that would make Lara Croft’s mouth water to a dilapidated railway full of disused signs, each location is full of little details and charm. The journal that’s used to navigate the game is a nice touch and offers up a far more engrossing way to check your progress. It even features a basic but acceptable story and sees a journalist, called Nicole Rankwist, searching for her father, who disappeared while looking for the Crystal Portal. It still shows that extra bit of effort has gone into linking the levels together. The sound does let the package down however, with weak music and mediocre sound effects.
Ultimately The Mystery of the Crystal Portal isn’t worth its £3.99 price tag for all but die-hard hidden object game fans. It truly has only one element of gameplay to offer which can become stale very early in its three-to-four hour lifespan. Most won’t even last this long though because of the intruding heads-up display that steals away a large part of each lavishly detailed scene. However for the most part, it’s not a bad game and there is a level of addictiveness that some may get sucked in by.