The one thing I have to wonder about casual games is how addictive they make them, and also marvel at the production values many companies throw into the making of them. Wizard's Pen is a hidden object game from PopCap Games and it's another winner from the moment you start the game, with beautiful graphics and good but repetitive sound.
You begin by entering your chosen name and the game begins the story, addressing you by name. You are apprenticed to a great wizard who's gone missing, leaving behind a blank book. The wizard's animated pen writes out the story at each step and helps you fill out his sketchbook to discover any clues to his whereabouts. There are two parts to the game. The first part is to guess the object that is hidden on each blank page and the second is closer to the traditional hidden object game of finding things in a messy picture, except that you are drawing in the parts of an object, not finding items.
In the first part of the game, you are looking at a blank page and a tall candle burns steadily beside it. Click on any part of the blank page and the wizard's pen reveals a small rectangle, and the candle shortens correspondingly. You have eight clicks or guesses. If you are lucky enough to get a key part on your first click you can net the maximum of 10 stars or points. Items can range from typewriters to polar bears, although I must say that I've never seen a fried egg that looked quite like that!
After a few puzzles, you receive a challenge. It could be anyone of several types; a mosaic, a swirled object, pixilated picture or zoomed in picture. Each click will make the object clearer. A more difficult challenge there is the Memory Challenge. Each click reveals another area, but erases the former. Again, your goal is to guess the object in the fewest clicks and guesses possible. The game is forgiving in most object names. Typing "watch" will do for Stop Watch, Pocket Watch or Wrist Watch, and "bow" for Ribbon or even "chair" for sofa.
After 16 pages, you get to the hidden object part of the game in traditional messy, cluttered hidden object picture format. However, instead of being asked to find an object, you are given a list of objects to fill in. For example "leg" could be the leg of a chair or the leg of a spider. Click in the appropriate blank area and the Wizard's Pen will obligingly draw it in. Too much random clicking or "misses" will result in an ink spill – and the game warns you of it – and you lose points. Clicking on hint actually provides you the answer of where to click to fill in one of the objects – you lost a point for each hint you use.
Each of these sets of 16 pages is themed and at the end, you are told what theme it is. Some themes are more obvious than others. For example, Wild West was simple enough once I got badge and horse. The moment I got green, I guessed Cactus which was correct, and the pixilated blob had to be a saddle. For others, I would get to the end of it then rail that I certainly did not keep toothbrushes and golf balls in my pocket!
Scoring highly will net you potions such as Perception which gives you an area four times the size when you use it, and Crystal Ball that shows you for a few seconds, the next three objects layered over each other. Each 200 stars you earn unlocks one of seven additional sketchbooks which you can play for additional "Prestige and Honor" which is a high score. The sketchbooks are themed in that they are all blocks or miniatures, but the objects themselves are random.
Wizard's Pen is a charming game with beautiful graphics (except for that darned fried egg!) and keeps to the theme of fantasy and wizards, with the Pen commenting that the pictures are pretty fantastic. Who'd ever heard of a typewriter? The graphics can be pretty retro with pictures of dial telephones, a reel to reel film projector and old fashioned cash registers.
The problem with hidden object games is that they do not have replay value because you already know what or where the objects are, and Wizard's Pen is no different. The additional sketchbooks also re-use many of the objects already discovered in the story mode, and the hidden object part of the game re-uses the same messy locations although different things are asked for. Once you've seen one though, the rest get pretty easy.
My only real quibble is that @#!$! Fried Egg and the Film Projector that was missing the lens. It sure looked like an 8-track reel to reel tape machine to me! Not that many youngsters would know what a floppy disk is, much less an 8-track machine. Hmm… why am I obsessing more over that Fried Egg then the @#!! Headshot?