Review: Frankenstein: Master of Death
Everyone has their limits, and one of mine is when a game is just too dumb. I’m not talking about dumb fun or dumb jokes, I mean when a game expects you to be way stupider than you are. You’ve got to dig pretty deep to hit that point with me but if any genre is going to do it it’s hidden object games, and in that particular pit of despair we find Frankenstein: Master of Death. By all accounts this one SHOULD be a classic, with polished graphics and elaborate cutscenes. It’s just when you get past that, the game appears to be tuned for players who are literally braindead.
I’m not going to get real precious about the plot here, so if spoilers are going to ruin your object-clicking then skip to the next paragraph. Master of Death puts a new spin on the classic mad science tale, casting Frankenstein as the hero and his fiancee as the victim in a dastardly plot cooked up by his assistant and wealthy patron, Igor. He’s developed a machine that can restore life to the unliving but leaves them in a state of agonizing, maddening pain, as evidenced by his humanoid monster Kool-Aid-Manning through the walls of the estate. You, as his long-time friend and confidant, must collect crests and open cabinets in your quest to free Victor from his mistakes.
Most scenes open up with a fairly detailed cutscene, showing one of the principal players stalking around or the monster pushing over a tree or something. The herky-jerky camerawork tries to startle but it’s pretty adorable, especially paired with the stiff, waxen characters and passionless voice acting. The creature itself looks remarkably like Raziel from Soul Reaver pre-jaw loss, and he crackles with electricity that never seems to bother anyone else. The story does what it needs to do here, which is shuffle you along and justify the constant annoyances falling in your path that you’ll need to item-hunt to clear.
With perfectly solid graphics and tolerable presentation, it’s entirely the mechanics that slay the beast here. It’ll be apparent right from the first hidden object scene, which lists only four items to find at a time and challenges you to locate teapots and frogs that take up nearly a quarter of the screen. Most scenes can be passed just by clicking at random, with only one or two drawn out by some truly assholish item placement. Somehow the adventuring scenes manage to be even worse, all at once limited in interaction, nonsensical in design, and painfully repetitive in flow.
Most locations will only have two or three interaction points, but you’ll need to return over and over just to clear certain obstructions. One shack is boarded up, padlocked, and has a panel that must be unscrewed inside, and each of those must be resolved one at a time to get new items and then backtrack to later. You’ll also have puzzles with several apparent solutions but only one valid one, like the tongs that can’t be used to extract an item from broken glass or the hacksaw that can only be used to cut chains, not grates or padlocks. And nearly everything is locked with crests, so many damn crests you’d think the place was an Umbrella Corp showroom.
I have a lot of patience for hidden object games, but Frankenstein: Master of Death still manages to be too stupid for me to take. It’ll last you a full 2 hours but not a moment of it will be taxing or engaging, just leading you around by the nose to the next collection of crests. The graphics are the only admirable part, going so far as to have some fully animated 3D creatures guarding some of the crests, but if anything they deserve to be attached to a better game. There are good hidden object games, there are passable ones, and then there’s vapid wastes like this one. Do yourself a favor and demand more of your entertainment than this.