There’s something charmingly retro about the new Mac adventure game Age of Enigma. It doesn’t have state-of-the-art graphics or cutting edge game play. What it does have is a great story, terrific puzzles, and an engrossing whole package that’s much greater than the sum of its parts.
Age of Enigma puts you in the shoes of Ashley Reeves, a medium who specializes in helping the dead find peace. As the game begins, Ashley has a horrific nightmare about a house fire. When she wakes, she finds a summons that brings her to the very house from her dream — a mysterious, haunted place that’s home to five spirits who haven’t been able to find rest in the afterlife. Each spirit comes from a different part of the world and historical time period. One by one, Ashley is tasked with earning the spirits’ trust, after which she must venture into the events of their lives to find a way to set right their worst mistakes.
But there’s more happening than just the spirits Ashley must help. The story’s undercurrent is about Ashley herself and her own journey to discover the extent of her abilities and her destiny with a shadowy organization called the Fraternity. Along the way, she meets a guide named Nathan, who appears to be helping to point her in the right directions so she can help each of the lost spirits, but who has a surprising agenda of his own.
The game progresses as you solve its puzzles, which represent a wide variety of mini games. There’s a mosaic tile game, matching games, word puzzles, and much more. And then there are practical puzzles, like finding the key to a room you must enter to continue the game. There are several of these interspersed with the mini game puzzles, and I found the puzzles and story elements to be well balanced.
It’s never frustratingly difficult, but Age of Enigma provides some very satisfying challenges. Most of the puzzles randomize their variables, giving the game some replay value. This actually comes in handy, since you can go straight to any of the 26 mini games and play them again after you defeat the campaign mode. And many of these mini games are worth playing more than once.
The art style used by developer Casual Box adds to the retro feel, falling somewhere between a cartoon and a comic book. But parents should be warned that given the game’s subject matter, it contains some occultish imagery, so it’s probably best to keep the kiddies away. French composers the Cleophas Brothers contribute the haunting original soundtrack (which you can buy from iTunes), and there’s both the standard Adventure mode, there’s also a Casual mode that makes it much easier to solve the puzzles and progress through the game faster, for those more interested in the story than the gaming.
Although this version of the game is for the Mac, an iPad version is currently in the works. (The game began its life a few months ago as a boxed CD-ROM game for PC called Age of Enigma: The Secret of the Sixth Ghost, though Casual Box created it almost entirely on Macs.)
It reminds me of old school point-and-click adventures like Grim Fandango or The Longest Journey. Frankly, I sorely miss those kinds of games, and hope that Age of Enigma will mark their return. It’s not a perfect game, but it’s engrossing and addictive, and adventure lovers will adore it.