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The Mystery of the Crystal Portal

 

 

SCORE: 86

 

The Mystery of the Crystal Portal 

 

Every now and then a little known game comes along that turns out to be a rare treasure. The Mystery of the Crystal Portal by G5 Entertainment, with its brilliant artwork and unique game style, is definitely one of those games. When your father goes missing you, as Nicole Rankwist, must embark on a bizarre quest to find him following vague clues found in his archeological journal which hints at something known as the Crystal Portal.

The Mystery of the Crystal Portal has the best art work I’ve seen in an iPod game hands down. The fantastic attention to detail cannot be ignored once you start playing. The images are so lifelike that you can’t help but get drawn into them. The game will take you all over the world on your quest and each area you explore has its own charms that are sure to hold your interest. Essentially, the game is like an interactive work of art that you get to discover layer by layer. The imagery used in this game is wholesome and safe for all ages. There are some religious symbols found around the locales which represent both Christian and non-Christian faiths. None of this imagery is what I would classify as offensive by any means, but there are idols and other object representing the faiths of the various cultures that you encounter on your journey.

You won’t find much music in The Mystery of the Crystal Portal, but in this case it works to the game’s advantage. As you spend your time in the game searching the beautiful environments, you will have no distracting background music to hinder your sleuthing. Instead you will notice the ambient sounds that help to create a more immersive experience. Each location will have its own calming set of sounds that fit the setting perfectly. Some of my favorites included old clocks ticking, birds chirping quietly in the distance, wooden doors gently opening and closing, and of course the ever popular crackling fireplace. The game also has some fun sound effects that resound as you tap items and put them in place. None of the dialog in the game is voiced which would have been a nice touch, but in the grand scheme of the game it does very little to detract from the game. Happily there is no foul language (spoken or written) to be found in the game which adds to its appeal for families.    

Players won’t find much in the way of extras or unlockables, but considering the entire game is based on searching for hidden objects this would probably be redundant. The game does feature the ability to post “medals” on Facebook as you progress through the game. This feature held no appeal for me, but others may find it useful. Once completing the game players will have little motivation to replay it other than to experience the artwork again or perhaps to see how fast they can blast through the entire game.

The Mystery of the Crystal Portal is perhaps the pinnacle of pixel poking perfection. Think of this game as a sort of “Where’s Waldo” for an older generation. In this case, however, you won’t be searching for a scraggly little man in a striped hat. Instead you will be looking for the most random assortment of objects imaginable. Each area you explore holds another piece of the puzzle to help you locate your father and perhaps the mysterious Crystal Portal. I will warn you up front that you will enjoy this game much more if you throw logic to the wind and just enjoy the game for what it is; a digital scavenger hunt. The items you will search for and combine with other objects are devoid of any discernable relation to one another. MacGyver himself would be hard pressed to find a reason to put these random items together. Basically I’m saying that if you choose to play the game don’t get hung up on why you would combine a telephone, a microscope, eyeglasses, and a framed spider in order to locate a missing journal. The point is to “look ‘n’ find” things and have fun doing it. At the completion of each world players will also need to complete a puzzle using special objects they’ve collected. These puzzles are somewhat challenging but not difficult enough to cause frustration. There were some things about the controls that I found irritating though. For example, it is difficult to see objects on the iPod screen so you must zoom in and out frequently. This works fine, but it is tricky to get the hang of dragging the objects around while zoomed in. I see no way around this design on such a small screen and I will say that playing the game on PC (and presumably the iPad) is much easier as zooming is not necessary thanks to the larger screen area. All in all the gameplay is a very enjoyable experience regardless of the platform you play it on and one does master the iPod controls after enough practice.

I was also impressed with the degree of family friendliness found in this game. Many times these smaller indie type games make no effort to keep offensive content out. Players will not be exposed to any violence or foul language whatsoever in The Mystery of the Crystal Portal. There are however some cultural references to “the gods” as well as one location that is “haunted by a spirit”. These things are lightly touched on but still something some players may like to be aware of before playing. This game was a pleasure to review and I look forward to a sequel and the release of similar games in the future.
-Roger

 

Graphics: 90%
Sound: 84%
Replay/Extras: 83%
Gameplay: 89%
Family Friendly Factor: 83%
System: iPhone/iPod Touch
Publisher: G5 Entertainment
Rating: '4+' for 4+

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Roger@familyfriendlygaming.com