Fear for Sale: Phantom Tide
In ElefunGames' hidden-object adventure Fear for Sale: Phantom Tide, the latest problem property is literally underwater. Ever since his wife's death, Adrian's home has been having some... unusual issues, with water appearing from nowhere to flow up the walls, cryptic handprints on the windows... you know, the usual stuff that most insurance policies won't cover. You've been called in to investigate, just in time to see Adrian swept away and sealed behind a door of watery runes. This is one freaky, fiesty poltergeist... but is it friendly, or does it have something more sinister in store for the grieving family?
Any good paranormal investigation worth its salt sticks to the basics, and this one is no different. Find and use items to open locks and bypass obstacles, rummage through hidden-object scenes with self-contained puzzles, uncover the skeletons in the closet... the usual. If you hate hidden-objects, however, the game will give you the option of assembling a jigsaw puzzle instead, so it also doubles as a Friday Night With Granny simulator. Hey, I'm even going to choose to view "feed the canned food to the crustacean so it fetches you an item" craziness as an homage to Phantasmagoria 2. All of it is just a little bit kooky and a lot bit exaggerated, but in this case, that works in the game's favour since it keeps otherwise straightforward puzzles and object combinations entertaining for the sheer weirdness of them. Phantom Tide doesn't really do anything new with its gameplay, even if it does give you a magic conch that can drain water, but... okay, hang on. OH MAGIC CONCH. DO YOU ACTUALLY ADD ANYTHING SPECIAL TO THE GAMEPLAY?... "It seems unlikely, since I only work when the plot requires me to, and not for any useful purposes." THE CONCH HAS SPOKEN!
But I tease. Because as silly as Fear for Sale: Phantom Tide can be, it's also extremely fun and engrossing. From a simple haunted house trail, the plot takes a turn in several different directions, with conspiracies and twists and turns aplenty as you explore the town. Julia, it seems, died when her boat exploded, but you quickly discover that this marine biologist may have stumbled into something she wasn't supposed to find. The watery specter isn't the only danger you'll have to face, of course, and you'll need to prepare yourself for more than your share of cryptic people popping up to say cryptic-er things throughout your adventure. Through in some gorgeous artwork and top-notch voice acting and you have an exciting and cinematic game that embraces its strangeness for all its worth. It's on the easy side, unfortunately, regardless of your difficulty setting, so most players will find themselves sprinting through both it and the bonus chapter in the Collector's Edition in a matter of hours. It's crazier than it is creepy, with what feels like a real focus on mystery solving and exploring to balance out all the cinematic scenes, and makes for some easy yet satisfying evening gaming, even if it does have unrealistic expectations of plastic scuba toys.
Note: Currently, only the Collector's Edition is available. It contains a bonus chapter, art gallery, strategy guide, and more. Remember that Big Fish Game Club Members pay only $13.99 for Collector's Editions (or 2 club credits), and collector's editions count 3 card punches of 6 total needed for a free game.