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Good luck finding that thimble...

Dark Strokes - Sins of the Fathers review

You know as soon as Ethan and Clair postpone their wedding to visit Ethan’s father, after receiving a frantic letter in the post, that bad things are afoot. Ethan pretty much confirms it when he reassures Clair that it’ll be a quick, uneventful trip, and they’ll be back and hitched in no time at all. Sure enough, one dramatic train derailment later, Clair is kidnapped by a masked phantom and Ethan finds himself stuck in a sinister near-deserted town, desperately searching for his fiancee.

As if the title wasn’t clue enough, it appears that Ethan’s dad has a dark, mysterious history, which is gradually uncovered over the course of the four-hour game. Although Dark Strokes is billed as a hidden object game, there are adventure elements separating out those segments. You’ll solve puzzles, build an inventory and combine various items to gain access to new areas. Finding journals and talking with the kooky cast reveals more of the plot, and gives you hints on how to progress to the next hidden object search.

Newcomers to hidden object games will appreciate Dark Strokes’ gentle introduction to the game mechanics, as well as the helpful hint system and generally simple gameplay. We rarely struggled to find an item, even when having to manipulate the environment - for instance, if you need to find a spring, you might have to cut open a sofa cushion with a knife. The variety in locations keeps these searches interesting and there’s very little repetition, while the excellent attention to detail adds greatly to the overall fun factor.

Dark Strokes’ puzzles are of the Resident Evil ilk, in that you’ll be solving sliding tile puzzles to open doors - it makes no sense, so just switch off your brain and go with it. Many of the brainteasers are easy to solve, with the occasional fiendish one (such as a brain-numbing block rotation effort) thrown in to catch you off-guard. Thankfully you can skip over any stumpers, which gives you total control over the pace of the game and keeps you from quitting in rage if you’re totally flummoxed.

Graphics are crisp and colourful, with unique and appealing cardboard cutout animation that stands out compared to many rival titles. The music is a little repetitive but well produced, as are the sound effects. It’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into the entire package, and we recommend Dark Strokes - Sins of the Fathers to anyone who likes a good puzzle or hidden object game. The simple nature means it will appeal to families or younger gamers, but fans of the genre will also find plenty to enjoy.

Must be the cleaners off day