by Ingvi Snædal
reviewed on PC
A Vast Improvement
Tales from the Dragon Mountain 2: The Lair is the second game in Cateia Games’ series of hidden object games and it is an immense improvement over the previous instalment. The first game, entitled The Strix, featured bad voice acting, sub-par visuals, extremely simple and unimaginative puzzles, a bland story, and unbearably flat characters. In a story driven hidden object game, one does not expect too much from the graphics, but the quality of the story bears all the more weight for the player's enjoyment of the experience. The sequel, although not perfect by any means, is a lot better.
You are Mina Lockheart, the human protector of Dragon Mountain and its mysterious and magical inhabitants. Having assumed the responsibilities 17 years after the death of your grandmother, the previous protector, and vanquishing the evil Lord Strix in the previous title, dark forces are again rearing their ugly heads on Dragon Mountain. A familiar friend shows up at your door one day carrying a message suggesting that Lord Strix is gathering his forces for another attempt at enslaving the entire population. It is up to you to find his secret lair, gain access to it, and stop him before it is too late.
A More Polished Design
Right off the bat, you'll notice a much more polished approach to the visual design of The Lair. Not only do you get the option of a high definition interface, you'll also notice that the characters are actually animated, which lends an extra layer of polish over its predecessor. The Strix also suffered from another problem that plagues many hidden object games but has been rectified this time around, and that is the problem of interactive objects standing out in scenes. One of the reasons The Strix was so easy was that the collectable objects were so drastically different than the background that you'd immediately see most of the items you needed to proceed. Even though the mouse cursor changes when you hover over items in The Lair, they look like they belong in the scene, leading to a much more natural feel to the whole thing.
Another problem that has been rectified is the quality and difficulty of puzzles in the game. While its predecessor featured some of the easiest, most obvious puzzles I've seen in a long time, The Lair features more complex, taxing puzzles that ultimately lead to a much more satisfying feeling of accomplishment when solved. There is also more variety in puzzle design and that, coupled with the vastly improved visuals, voice acting, and story of the game yield a much better product on every level.
Although the game is much better than its predecessor, there are still some issues that may bother some players. Although the writing has been improved, it is still fairly obvious that it is not written by a fluent English speaker, as clumsy sentence structures and, in some cases, blatant grammatical errors will be noticed by the more pedantic players, such as me. Also, the voice acting and story may be much better this time around, but neither is all that good. Luckily though, the puzzles and the colourful worlds you must go through are interesting enough to keep you engaged throughout. The biggest issue I have with the game, however, is the ending. Without spoiling anything, I can say that it is obvious that the developers intend to release a third game, and that fact can be determined by the lack of closure in the game's ending. The point of all the puzzles is to reach the story's conclusion and when that lacks a sense of satisfaction, it almost makes the whole experience seem fruitless.
I had a lot of fun scratching my brain over this game and will recommend it to anyone who enjoys relaxing in front of their screens with a mouse in one hand and a hot cup of coffee in the other. It does have some issues, but those are easily overlooked in the light of the game's variety of puzzles and brain teasers.
Colourful world, vastly improved visuals, interesting and varied puzzles.
Voice acting and story still sub-par, unsatisfying conclusion.