A good witch, an evil prince and an anthropomorphic bear.
What more could you possibly want out of a fairytale-inspired story? We’ve come to expect a certain borderline standard from Artifex Mundi’s regular puzzle/hidden object output, and fortunately Grim Legends: The Forsaken Bride goes above and beyond those expectations by offering a genuinely interesting story and a pleasantly surprising mixture of puzzles.
Artifex Mundi have been like a machine lately, with the rate that they’ve been revisiting their back catalogue and releasing past titles onto Xbox One. Grim Legends: The Forsaken Bride is the third game we’ve seen in less than six months, following the enjoyable Of Glass and Ink and the less impressive Ghosts of Maple Creek. They’re back on form with their latest release however. Telling the story of a young woman returning to her hometown to attend her twin sister’s wedding, The Forsaken Bride is a tale that would be right at home in a Brothers Grimm anthology; with magic and intrigue running through the very core of the narrative right from the opening credits.
This is no Hollywood-inspired AAA production, however. As we’ve come to expect from games of this calibre, the voiceovers leave a lot to be desired with hammy acting and low quality recordings, and graphically, it’s nothing special either. Cutscenes are low resolution; lip syncing is non-existent, and there’s certainly no high-octane set pieces to be found anywhere. But it doesn’t matter. The Forsaken Bride doesn’t try to be anything it’s not. You know what to expect when you turn on an Artifex Mundi game, and for what it is, this offering does a stand-up job of delivering. The intricately hand-painted backgrounds are as captivating as ever, each location capturing the enchanting essence of the story perfectly. And whilst the stories are never going to rival the likes of Telltale or Naughty Dog, Grim Legends: The Forsaken Bride manages to enthrall and keep our interest by telling a classic, magical tale that develops with just the right amount of pacing. As long as you go into the game with no preconceptions about what to expect, there’s little to be disappointed about here.
My main complaint with Artifex Mundi’s last release, Ghosts of Maple Creek, was the unbalanced amount of puzzles. There was a lot of walking backwards and forwards to complete the same hidden object puzzles time and time again, with not much in the way of other brainteasers thrown in. Thankfully, Grim Legends: The Forsaken Bride offers a much more palatable mixture, with hidden object puzzles taking a backseat to let other more engaging puzzle types make up the bulk of your time with the game. And when the hidden object tasks do rear their ugly head (let’s face it, they’re like Marmite; you either love them or hate them), they’re skippable, and instead you can opt to complete a more enjoyable domino-based puzzle. The rest of the minigames and puzzles on offer are made up of a good mixture of tasks, including mixing potions, solving sliding picture puzzles, piecing together jigsaws, solving environmental puzzles and other logic-based conundrums.
The trouble is, nothing that The Forsaken Bride throws at you is particularly challenging. Depending on your point of view this might not be such a bad thing; it means the game is consistently laid-back and lets you sail through it without any hiccups in around three hours. If you like your games to be a little more taxing though, you won’t find anything here that will push your limits. Some puzzles require a little more trial and error than others, but nothing ever stumped me and everything was easily solved within a few minutes.
A nice addition to the title that adds a little more longevity is the inclusion of a digital fairytale book, retelling the backstory of the game through pleasant illustrations. However, elements from the book are hidden throughout each interactive environment, so as you play, you’ll unlock more story as you go along. I’m pretty thorough at clicking everything like some kind of twitchy-fingered maniac, but still only had found around half of the story elements once I’d finished the game. It takes a keen eye – and probably a couple of playthroughs – to find everything.
Artifex Mundi’s style of gameplay certainly isn’t for everybody, but it’s a tried and tested formula that clearly has a strong following. Made more for the mobile and tablet market however, their lack of technical prowess and truly engaging gameplay is more prominent on Xbox One. Still, I for one am glad that they’ve found a home on console; when you’re looking for something a little less demanding and a little more relaxing, they’re the perfect choice. Grim Legends: The Forsaken Bride is a prime example of what Artifex Mundi does best. The palatable fantasy-based story, gorgeous hand-painted still locations and good balance of fun, albeit easy, puzzle types may not be everybody’s cup of tea but those willing to give it a taste may find themselves being pleasantly surprised.