STAFF REVIEW of Nightmares from the Deep 2: The Siren's Call (Xbox One)

Monday, September 12, 2016.
by Adam Dileva

Nightmares from the Deep 2: The Siren's Call Box art Artifex Mundi is arguably the best current developer of hidden object games (HOG’s) on consoles today. Sure, there aren’t many developers these days that dabble in the genre, especially on console, but Artifex Mundi have seemed to find their stride and are bringing their engaging and fun titles from PC and mobile to the Xbox One, with success. It wasn’t until I got to review their last title on Xbox One, Grim Legends, that I realized I really enjoyed the genre for its laid back gameplay, allowing me to relax, solve some puzzles, and enjoy its beautiful artwork.

While some might scoff at playing point and click adventures like this, if you’ve played any of their titles before, you know exactly what’s in store for you with Nightmares from the Deep 2: The Siren’s Call. Sometimes you simply want to take a break from shooters and action games, and for times like those, The Siren’s Call is a great title to relax with and solve some puzzles.

The Siren’s Call is obviously a sequel, and while I’ve not played the original title, there’s a very brief attempt of catching you up on what’s happened so far. Given that titles like these aren’t generally story intensive, it’s appreciated that there’s at least an attempt to include an intriguing narrative, even if it sometimes falls flat in some parts. You play as the returning protagonist, Sarah Black, who works at a museum and receives a mysterious package one night from a shadowy figure. As you solve the puzzle of opening the package and obtain the artifact within, you’re instantly assaulted and robbed.

Thinking her crazy adventures were behind her, she's thrust into a new adventure in the town of Kingsmouth, whose population is filled with fishmen. You must retrieve the artifact and save a siren to prevent the evil mayor from summoning the Kraken to do his bidding. It’s a little out there for its' story, but fitting for the whole Davy Jones mythology. While the voice acting isn’t perfect by any means, it’s at least passable. Sure the story is cliché and predictable at times, but in a game like this, the story is simply there to string you along from puzzle to puzzle.

You begin by first choosing between Normal or Expert mode, with the main difference being that normal allows you to use hints after a certain amount of time and your map shows you where you have to go next. On expert you get none of these assists. The first handful of puzzles start off quite easy, easing you into the gameplay and teaching you the basics you’ll need to continue your adventure.

Most of the puzzles are either a HOG, tasking you with finding a shopping list of items in a messy area, or having you use and combine items in your inventory to solve other logical puzzles. The bigger puzzles are generally some sort of tile moving or rotating gears type, nothing too difficult that I ever became frustrated or stuck, but varied enough to keep things from becoming stale. Most scenes you come across will require you to inspect items, only to find out that you don’t have the pieces you need to progress before solving puzzles in a different area.

If HOG’s aren’t your thing, you can alternatively play a quick game of mahjong instead. Why mahjong I’m not sure, but at least there’s an option for those that would rather not sort through messy items. There’s even an achievement for playing all the mahjong games rather than HOG’s, so two playthroughs are required for those achievement hunting.

You eventually gain access to a map, not only for showing you how the scenes are connected and allowing you to fast travel to and from any scene, but it also gives you a hint of where you have left an unsolved puzzle (on normal mode) to prevent becoming too lost. While The Siren’s Call is easily completed in a single sitting if you’re a puzzle aficionado, especially if you’re relying on the built in hint system, it’s still a fun experience to be had. There’s an epilogue included as well that’s playable once you complete the main game. While it’s a very short addition and nowhere near as challenging as the main game, it’s still a welcome addition that adds another hour or so to the experience.

The art style that Artifex Mundi uses for their games is absolutely beautiful. While the voice acting and animation could use some work, the visuals alone is quite impressive with its' colorful and vibrant style, making for a charming experience. Every scene feels as though it’s been hand painted and fits the overall tone of the game and backdrop. While the music itself isn’t as prominent and featured as the visuals, it’s subtle and adds to the overall mood of the scenery.

Loading times are minimal when moving from scene to scene, and I never had to struggle with the controls clicking the wrong items in the HOG’s. Given that the reticule is quite large, it’s accurate for the most part, when trying to choose a specific item. Thankfully the framerate issues I encountered in Grim Legends seems to have been fixed and is none existent in The Siren’s Call, so good on Artifex Mundi for solving that nagging issue with their previous titles.

Sure, the game is only a handful of hours long (or much longer if you’re not great at puzzles), and the story is basic, but the gameplay though is fun and never becomes frustrating to the point of wanting to give up. If you’ve played any other games in the genre before you know exactly what you’re getting into, but even if you haven’t, or you don’t think it’ll be your thing, still give it a go. You might be surprised like I was and find yourself really enjoying the genre.

The Siren’s Call, and the whole Artifex Mundi catalogue as a whole, is a great ‘filler’ when you need a break from shooting enemies, squealing tires, or the cheeer of the crowd in any sports game, as it can easily be played in short bursts. My wife, who isn’t even much of a gamer, really enjoys helping me in the HOG’s, and I’m hoping that Nightmares from the Deep 3 comes to Xbox One soon so I can finish the trilogy. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a bunch of items to click and a game of mahjong to complete.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 6.5 / 10


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