Nightmares from the Deep: The Cursed Heart Review

By Rebecca Smith, 10 months ago
When it comes to hidden object titles, the platforms of choice are usually mobile phone, tablet or PC due to the ease with which the games can be played using touchscreen or a mouse. Very few have made it onto Playstation consoles; in fact, while Point & Click games are available on the Playstation 4, none have a focus on hidden objects. Developer Artifex Mundi doesn't seem to care about this. The hidden object veterans have released over 40 Adventure titles across many different platforms and the first of these has finally been released on Playstation 4. Don't worry; Nightmares from the Deep: The Cursed Heart is as good a place to start as any other.


During the 18th century, Captain Remington terrorised the Caribbean Sea. Rumoured to have made a pact with the devil, the pirate plundered, pillaged and murdered his way to notoriety. Eventually, the armed forces managed to capture him and he was forced to walk the plank, where he subsequently drowned. Or so they thought. Three hundred years later, his body has been found and is on its way to the Caribbean Naval Museum where it will take pride of place in their new display. On a typically dark and stormy night, you are tasked with making the final touches to the exhibition so that it is ready for its grand opening.

You can probably guess where this is going. After all, if everything went according to plan then you would be left with a very boring concept for a game. Luckily, things don't go to plan and players are taken through a solid story that involves pirates (of course), the supernatural and kidnapping. The game will take just 3-5 hours for a single playthrough, but this means that it doesn't outstay its welcome. The hand-drawn locations and characters create a suitably eerie atmosphere and a satisfactory sense of foreboding throughout the story. On the contrary, the voice acting is a little sketchy, although this could very well be a result of the game's localisation from the developer's native Polish language. The dialogue for the majority of the characters is at best delivered in slightly stuttering sentences and at worst is delivered in a tone that almost seems bored.

It isn't just Captain Remington who isn't quite looking his bestIt isn't just Captain Remington who isn't quite looking his best

Nightmares is a simple Point & Click title where players will need to search a variety of locations for clues or items and solve simple puzzles to progress further. While there are objects that can be acquired just from browsing an area, most of the searching takes place through two types of hidden object games. First is the standard hidden object games where there are just enough objects to provide a bit of a challenge when trying to locate the listed items, but not too many that the scene becomes a cluttered mess. Then there are occasional picture-based fragmented object games where players must search smaller scenes for pieces of an object to create a whole. The two types create variety and prevent the gameplay from growing stale, although the latter can be a bit too easy.

If players start to tire of the hidden object games, the game offers an alternative that removes the need to search meticulously through a jumbled pile of items. With just a single button press (cn_down), players can swap any of the standard hidden object games for a mahjong board. If players make a mistake and run out of matching pairs, the game automatically shuffles the remaining tiles so that the board can be completed and failure is impossible. However, players must navigate across the board using cn_LS and this can be clumsy. It is here that the d-pad or even the touchpad would have been much more useful, but with other important gameplay features tied to those buttons, these can't be used. The game can also fail to recognise unmatched tiles that are sitting at the edges of the board, making them impossible to select without taking a strange roundabout route. Fortunately, the most frustrating part of the game is optional.

You'll definitely need those fuses and possibly the crowbar, but definitely not the stamp collectionYou'll definitely need those fuses and possibly the crowbar, but definitely not the stamp collection

Every item serves a purpose, although it is up to the player to work out how it must be used. The objects are often triggers for simple logic puzzle mini-games that must be completed to gain access to more items or to another location. None of these mini-games is too difficult, and the player does have the option to skip them if he or she hits a wall. Be aware, though, that you will cheat your way out of a trophy if you choose to do this. The game does offer two difficulty levels, Normal and Expert, but all that this does is to change the availability of hints and HUD clues. Most players will easily complete the game on Expert difficulty. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and it makes the game much more accessible to a wider audience. You don't need to be a veteran of the genre to be able to reach the end of the game.

The story takes place on a map that gradually grows larger as players discover more locations. Each of these locations remains open for the entirety of the game once discovered, and players will find themselves revisiting the same scenes numerous times. Players have a couple of handy maps that remind them of the game's layout, but the game is devoid of a fast travel option. A lot of time is spent backtracking through locations just to reach your intended destination on a different part of the map. Several of the hidden object locations are used two or three times apiece, meaning that those who are playing on expert will also find themselves revisiting locations to try and find the one hidden object scene that has regenerated as players won't get a notification on the map for available actions.

Yes, you need to find some way of reaching that dilapidated lighthouseYes, you need to find some way of reaching that dilapidated lighthouse

Upon completion of the story, players will unlock a bonus chapter that tells the events that immediately follow the conclusion of the main story. The chapter will add an extra 30-50 minutes to your play time and offers more of the same gameplay, but also offers a new selection of locations and characters. Unfortunately, this bonus chapter suffers from a few basic problems with misspelt and just plain incorrect hidden object clues. While searching for a "cylinder", a top hat was certainly not what I had in mind and this object was only found through the frustrated use of the hint button. It's a bit of a letdown seeing as the main game was a lot more polished.

To get all of the game's 16 trophies, players will need to complete the main campaign twice (once on Expert difficulty) because it is impossible to complete all of the Hidden Object Games at the same time as completing all of the mahjong games. You'll also need to complete all of the puzzles without skipping and complete the bonus chapter once. Apart from the completed game trophies, only one is an unmissable trophy that is tied to the game's story, so don't confuse the cursed coins for collectibles, of which there are none. The game is a simple completion, with the most challenging trophy being to complete a mahjong board in less than a minute, a challenge only because of the poor controls.

Summary

Nightmares from the Deep: The Cursed Heart is a solid adventure game from Artifex Mundi although there are some minor problems. Their experience with the genre produces well-balanced hidden object gameplay that is coupled with puzzles that never feel frustrating. The clunky controls make the alternative mahjong boards a bit of a chore, but these are an optional part of the gameplay. The bonus chapter also suffers from confusing hidden object clues, but the main game has no such issues. As such, adventure fans shouldn't pass up the chance of an easy completion. Those who don't normally play this type of game should perhaps consider this game to be a great starting point for their entry into the genre.
3.5 / 5
Positives
  • Simple and accessible gameplay
  • Mahjong games offer alternative to hidden objects
  • Solid story that doesn't outstay its welcome
Negatives
  • Clumsy navigation of the mahjong boards
  • Hidden object description errors in the bonus chapter
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent six hours avoiding seasickness and danger in the Caribbean. So that she could earn all 16 of the game's trophies; she did this twice. A Playstation 4 copy of the game was provided by the developer for the purpose of this review.
Rebecca Smith
Written by Rebecca Smith
Rebecca is the Newshound Manager at TrueGaming Network. She has been contributing articles since 2010, especially those that involve intimidatingly long lists. When not writing news, she works in an independent game shop so that she can spend all day talking about games too. She'll occasionally go outside.