As the gaming world is trending more and more toward mobile and downloadable games, we're seeing something of a return to simpler gaming ways. And let's face it, there's a certain charm to those old-school point-and-click titles, whether they're showing up on your smartphone or your PC.
Case in point: German software developer Daedalic Entertainment's animated escapade Anna's Quest—a download-only title that the gamemakers say is inspired by "the Brothers Grimm & Hans Christian Andersen … with a sci-fi twist." Here's a find-the-hidden-object adventure packed with puzzles, fantasy and charm … along with a whole lot of warped spirituality. (We'll get to that last bit in a minute.)
Mental Mover Munchkin on a Mission
Anna is a cute, young cartoon lass who has always lived with her loving grandpa on their small, picturesque farm. It's a serene and friendly place. But it seems there are less friendly things just beyond the farm's fields in the dark surrounding woods. That's if you listen to the girl's very protective grandfather. He's a cuddly chap who repeatedly drives home the family mantra of "No matter how far or near we may be, in our hearts we carry our family." But he also makes it clear that Anna should never stray too far from his side. NO MATTER WHAT.
What could possibly be out there? Well, Anna's about to find out. When dear Grandpa falls ill with a mysterious malady, the sheltered girl doesn't see any choice but to pull up her knee socks and head out on her own in search of a remedy. Unfortunately, the brave maiden's quest for a cure is immediately curtailed when a witch, named Winfriede, snatches her up the moment she sets foot in the woods. Oh, so that's what's out there! After locking her in a secluded tower, the cruel crone does an odd, machine-based experiment on the girl—pulling out a telekinetic ability that Anna herself never had a clue was tangled in the deep roots of her family tree.
Of course these newfound mind-over-matter abilities give Anna a chance to escape the witch's greedy clutches, at least temporarily. So from there it's on to a serpentine story rife with sinister characters, curses, magic spells and telekinesis. The innocent Anna soon meets a living stuffed Teddy bear, a talking fox, several friendly ghosts and many others who help her along her grandpa-saving way.
Point and Quest
Anna's Quest is a pretty classic point-and-click undertaking. You click with your mouse to move Anna from here to there, click to make dialogue choices and click on objects in the environment or in your inventory to mix, build and interact. It's a very simple but fluid way to solve puzzles, make new friends, receive quests and telekinetically make it past obstacles.
Searching around for the right hidden objects and best movable doodads is, of course, key in a game like this. And sometimes the right answer may be a bit challenging. It might not always be obvious that that smelly mold you found in an ancient drain can be manipulated to look like a mouse's dream feast (by adding just the right dab of yellow paint). Or that a telekinetically slammed window on a certain long white beard could be the motivational action you've been looking for.
Note that when you get stuck, a quick press of the space bar pops up blue indicators of where you might look. And if things get really jammed up, Anna herself will likely give you a reasoned hint or two.
That Deeply Shadowed End of Town
As I've already indicated, however, Anna's journey isn't always chock-full of charm and good cheer, and her story isn't just a simple fairy tale. As part of the game's quests and puzzles, there are questions raised about subjects ranging from evil predestination and a spell's effect on the deceased, to familiar spirits and the use of "third-eye chakra" skills.
To make it past one obstacle, Anna must sleep on a remnant of the dead to raise a helpful spirit. She confers with a "priest" who worships a dragon "savior." She fights off a witch who's interested in cooking up some "boy stew." And she thwarts deadly trolls and a trio of sharp-toothed sirens. While evil moves to "have its way," this youngster is forced to turn away from her innocence and learn to lie and steal in order to outfox the wicked in the world. And she must even wrestle with solving sly-eyed riddles posed by the devil himself.
It's all played as a dark cartoon, a fable-like world that children might enter for sport—with foul language limited to infrequent uses of "gosh," "geez" and "d--n." And the ending message is of growing wise and persevering for the sake of those you love. But it's all that twisted spirituality in the game's magic-meets-science-meets-colorful-cartoon crucible that will likely leave parents agreeing with the goodly grandpa's warnings: There are indeed some destructive and ill-meaning things out there past that dark, dark wood.