Review: Nightmares from the Deep: The Cursed Heart
It’s such a rare thing for a hidden object game to get everything right. Invariably the story is lacking or the graphics are muddled or it’s just plain boring even for the genre. That’s why titles like this should be treasured, because there’s a rare level of artistry put into creating them. Nightmares from the Deep goes significantly beyond the standards of hidden object games to create a journey perfect for new and experienced players alike.
I absolutely adore the opening to this game, and no one can take that away from me. You’re the curator of a Caribbean history museum that just got the body of an infamous pirate, fresh from the ocean floor. Dark magic brings him back to life, and instead of keelhauling you or looting your museum, he kidnaps your daughter and drives his goddamned ghost ship straight through the building. From that totally metal setup you’re tasked with exploring the ship and their secret pirate isle to uncover the story of your undead antagonist and a way to stop him.
You’ll run across plenty of roadblocks in your travels, whether they be locked doors or deep water or broken equipment. These roadblocks are more sensible than the foot-high fallen trees and dusty cobwebs that hold you back in other such games, and this attention to detail deserves to be noted. Your challenges are, for the most part, logical and approachable and tie in well with the story, which itself is a cut above most dreadful plots you might find yourself dragged along for. There’s characterization and pathos to uncover and an ending you might not be expecting at first.
This is all meaningless if the puzzles are garbage, but here again Nightmares from the Deep shines. The hidden object scenes are crisp and detailed, with your objectives clearly displayed for your clicking pleasure. There are multi-part items to find like ones inside of other objects, and side scenes with components to assemble to make new items. Each scene earns you an inventory item needed to progress or solve one of the game’s many other puzzles. These are almost always creative and engaging, keeping away from safe, banal options like chess puzzles and Tower of Hanoi so often seen in other games.
I can also call this one of the few hidden object games for people that hate hidden object games, because as it turns out the object scenes are even optional. During any scene you have the option to toggle a Mahjongg mode where, instead of sniffing out items, you match tiles to earn the items needed. You can even flip back and forth between modes if there’s a particular item you can’t find OR a pair of tiles you can’t match. This is an incredibly novel addition that contributes so much to the enjoyment, as you’ll never be stuck for long on a single scene. As if that wasn’t enough, the game offers robust hints and skip functions to keep frustration as far away as possible.
There are minor complaints I can make, such as a surprising amount of backtracking being necessary or the terribly low-res cutscenes being almost unintelligible. But honestly, the shocking level of care and quality that Nightmares from the Deep is crafted from leads me to wave these objections away. This is very much one of the best hidden object games I have ever played, from the mechanics to the story to the graphics to the sound. It’s an automatic recommendation from me, even to those who profess a dislike for the genre.