STAFF REVIEW of Grim Legends: The Forsaken Bride (Xbox One)

Thursday, June 16, 2016.
by Adam Dileva

Grim Legends: The Forsaken Bride Box art I don’t know if it’s because I’m growing older or if my gaming tastes are changing, but I used to scoff at games like Grim Legends: The Forsaken Bride when I was younger. I never really took them serious, as I didn’t see the appeal in object finding games, but I found myself really enjoying my time with Grim Legends, regardless of its faults. Then I figured it out; after a big gaming session of The Witcher, Halo or The Division, I simply want to lay on the couch and relax with a completely different pace where I don’t need to worry about my reflexes and can let my mind solve some puzzles.

Developed by Artifex Mundi, a developer who have quite a number of games released on PC over the years, and who have made a name for themselves, specifically in the puzzle genre. They now have a handful of their titles on the Xbox One, but this was my first of them that I got to experience. I wish I found their gaming library earlier, because if there games in general are anything like Grim Legends, I know I’ll enjoy myself for the few hours it takes to complete. If you’ve played one of their games before, Grim Legends follows suit with familiar mechanics, but in the Xbox One version there are a few new mechanics to keep things fresh for the veterans.

You are returning home for your twin sister’s wedding, whom you’ve not seen in quite some time. Just before the wedding a ferocious bear crashes the party and kidnaps her, so you set out alongside her husband-to-be to find and rescue her. Something seems not right though, and the nearby bottomless pit, known as the Abyss, is a place the local villagers fear.

There is more to the story, with unforeseen events and twists, and it has potential, but it feels a little thin, only really serving as a gateway to go from one puzzle area to the next. While the voice acting isn’t perfect, it’s passable for the most part to make you believe in the characters. It’s a shame the story tends to be cliché at times, with certain events being obvious and predictable if you follow along.

As you begin Grim Legends you have the choice to play on Normal or Expert. The only real difference between the two is that expert mode takes longer to refill your hint meter and you aren’t given clues on the map of where to go next. I was expecting the puzzles to be much more involved on the harder difficulty, but it doesn’t seem like they were from what I could tell. As you begin playing you’re given a brief tutorial of how to inspect the environment, gather items, and you are 'handheld' as you get through a puzzle or two to get your feet wet. What I enjoyed was that the bulk of the puzzles tended to make sense and there weren't any solutions that were super wacky or those that required inventory items to be combined. If you need to cut a rope, you’ll need to find scissors or a sharp blade. Need to get an object out of reach? Then you’ll have to find rope or something to pull it towards you. Common sense for the most part.

You also get a companion very early on, an adorable cute kitten in fact, that at times needs to be used to solve certain puzzles by reaching specific items or scaring away a rat or toad here and there. The kitten doesn’t get used often, but when it does you get to watch a short little animation of him doing something adorable before handing the controls back over to you.

You’ll come across many different scenes, each of which need to be explored by clicking and inspecting, allowing you to gather items or solve puzzles which give you items to help you in you quest to solve the next puzzle. Many items can simply be found, but others will only be rewarded when you play through the numerous and unique puzzles or with the common hidden object games (HOG’s) which Artifex Mundi is known for. If you’re like how I was, and roll your eyes at the thought of the HOG’s, there’s an alternative mini-game you can play should you desire.

Instead of sorting through a table full of jumbled items, searching for the ones on your list, you can opt to play a game of dominoes instead. You are tasked to eventually place a domino in specific areas by chaining them together. These domino games can be challenging for the simple fact that if you make a ‘wrong’ move you can actually fail the game since there’s no way to reset the board or clear tiles that have been placed, forcing you to play the original HOG instead.

As you complete puzzles and progress from one scene to the next, unveiling small story snippets as you go, you’ll gather new items that can be used in previous scenes, allowing you to progress elsewhere or gain a new item for the next puzzle. You eventually have access to a map which allows you to fast travel from scene to scene should you desire, though you never generally have to move more than 2 or 3 areas at a time, but it’s a welcome addition.

There seems to only be a handful of puzzle types throughout the course of the game. Some have you simply collecting items tucked away and hidden, well others need you to find all the items of a set before being able to actually attempt the corresponding puzzle. There are also more unique puzzles, but they usually revolve around sliding pieces or rotating objects to find the correct solution. Lastly is the iconic HOG’s, where you need to find all the objects on your ‘grocery list’ that are hidden in plain sight in a giant mess. If you’re a puzzle aficionado, Grim Legends is no doubt able to be completed in a single sitting in a few hours, and obviously longer if you aren’t as efficient in your puzzle solving abilities and depending on how much you rely on the built in hint system. There’s an epilogue that unlocks once you complete the main game that gives you another hour of story and gameplay, though these puzzles are much more linear in fashion and you don’t travel to many different places in comparison.

Artifex Mundi has made a very clever hint system that is completely optional to use should you get stuck or frustrated on a specific puzzle. While none of the puzzles were too terribly challenging for the most part, save for a few, simply having the option of help when needed was very welcome. Pressing up on the d-pad will give you a subtle hint, but if you truly become stuck, or frustrated, you also have the option to completely skip a puzzle entirely. Sure this takes the fun out of a puzzle game, but there’s only so much punishment you can take if you really get stuck for a long period of time and don't want to resort to Youtube or walkthroughs. There’s an achievement for not using any hints for 3 puzzles in a row, and completing the game without any skips, so keep that in mind if that's your thing.

There are many different backdrops within the game's campaign, all of which are beautifully drawn and colourful. This actually took me by surprise, as the art style is very unique and incredibly charming. Every scene, even the eerie swamps and dungeons, are vibrant giving a magical vibe and tone to what you see. The background music, while not as memorable, is fitting and does the job, but it just doesn’t leave nearly the same lasting impression that the gorgeous artwork does. While the artwork and visuals are beautiful, there were numerous times where the cutscenes tended to lag, quite badly at times, making for poor framerates and performance. While it doesn’t happen at every cutscene, there was enough of them to take notice.

Gameplay performance was perfect though, as there’s very minimal loading when transitioning from one scene to the next, even when fast traveling with the map. Controls worked very well and I never found myself clicking the wrong item even with the big reticule during the HOG’s; something I expected to have issues with beforehand for whatever reason.

Even if you’re not a big fan of the genre that Grim Legends: The Forsaken Bride falls under, it is a great entry point, especially if you’re looking for something more on the relaxing side of gaming. This game is a great filler between playing the bigger games out on the Xbox One allowing you to take a break now and then. Even more of a testament, my wife even enjoyed helping me during the HOG’s, and she's not a gamer at all. Now that I’ve experienced one of Artifex Mundi’s titles on the Xbox One I’m really hoping for the sequels to Grim Legends to appear on the console as well.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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