The geniuses behind those classic Tex Murphy adventures made the leap to Hidden Object (HO) games a few years back, and 3 Cards To Midnight was the result. Actually, to call this a HO game is kind of a fallacy – the objects are all in clear sight, and you aren’t given a list of stuff to find as usual. Instead, you’re dealt a number of ‘hot words’, and the trick is to work out which items can be linked to them. For instance, if one of the hot words is ‘baby’, you may have to click on a doll (baby doll), some shoes (baby shoes) and so on.
Harder than a concrete Jason Statham
Of all the HO games we've reviewed, 3 Cards to Midnight is the hardest for sure. Some of the word associations are a little obscure – for instance, we had no idea what a ‘baby grand’ was until we looked it up online. We had to use some or all of our limited hints on every level, and you can only mis-click ten times before failing, so you can’t simply click on possible targets if you’re stuck. Non-Americans will be stumped by some of the associations too – ‘Key Largo’ being just one example that confuzzled us. The graphics are also the weakest in this round-up, lacking the crisp, quality artwork that Madame Fate and Abandoned enjoy. Occasionally we struggled to work out what an object was, because of less-than-stellar graphics.
The HO sections make up a great chunk of 3 Cards to Midnight's gameplay and aren’t as fun as we’d hoped, but you also have to regularly solve a variety of brainteasers, from maths conundrums to spot-the-difference and jigsaw puzzles. Instructions are mostly clear and the solutions can usually be reached in a logical manner, so these fast became our favourite sections.
Even though we weren’t huge fans of the HO gameplay, we wanted to play to the end thanks to the excellent story, which is gradually revealed through teasing little segments. Aaron Conners has produced another winner, involving an amnesiac girl’s quest to discover what happened to her parents, who have mysteriously vanished without explanantion. The tale is told via animated cutscenes, with a new scene your reward for finishing a puzzle. You actually get one of multiple endings depending on your performance too, which adds replayability value – providing you aren’t too fed up with the HO bits by the time you finish.
With a strong plot and some excellent puzzles, we really wanted to love 3 Cards to Midnight. Sadly the HO action isn’t as fun as it should be, and the game is far too hard for our liking.