If ever a game felt like it was in the wrong genre, that game would be XIII – Lost Identity. With its intriguing Jason Bourne-like plot it seems ripe for a third person action / stealth treatment. Instead we get a hidden object game, which at least still manages to tell the protagonist’s story. Unfortunately, less than satisfactory controls and lackluster mini-games get in the way of true enjoyment for the game itself. There’s a lot of good material here, it’s just trapped in a slightly fractured implementation.
In XIII you take on the role of… well, that would be cheating if I told you. The truth is that you don’t remember who you are, and that’s what you’re trying to find out. Oh, and it would be nice to know why people are trying to kill you as well. You’ll travel around the world and meet some interesting people, all the while gathering clues as to your identity and that of your would be killers. The story is fleshed out through a combination of dialog and comic book style stills, and while it might be a bit cliché, it’s actually quite interesting, especially given the style of game play.
So what’s wrong with hidden object games? The answer to that is nothing as a general rule. The thing is, a good spy story deserves action, engagement and the ability to sneak around, none of which is plausible with a hidden object game. Things are just too structured in that kind of atmosphere to really make you feel like you’re part of the story. Plus, the only action sequences turn into simple shooting gallery style fare, which while mildly amusing isn’t overly dramatic. Still, I could live with all that if the hidden object engine were decent.
The problem there is it’s not. There are only two levels of zoom, and sometimes the “zoomed in” mode still isn’t enough to see the details you need. Actually selecting objects can be quite finicky. Sometimes I had to tap on things 10-15 times before the game recognized that I was doing anything. In fact, there were times were I wasted a clue because I thought I was just tapping the wrong object, and it turned out the game was just being too picky. This is especially a problem in timed mode, because too many incorrect attempts darkens the screen and locks you out for a couple of seconds.
There are a few mini-games, but most of them are pretty rudimentary. The “free the trapped piece” type game actually has an interesting twist in that any piece can move any direction, but that actually makes it somewhat easier. There are a couple of times where you have to engage in a shooting mini-game, but it’s basically just like any generic shooting gallery game you can download and really doesn’t satisfy any cravings for action you might have. There’s also a problem where no matter which mini-game you’re playing, half the instructions are for the jigsaw game.
The visuals are quite nice, but then I wouldn’t expect anything less from a game based off of a comic book. Everything is nicely detailed and there are small but effective animations here and there in the backgrounds. Most of the character designs are pretty good as well. The main problem with the graphics is that sometimes the objects you are trying to find blend in too well with the background. There have been situations were I couldn’t even tell what I was looking for once I used a hint, and that’s with the brightness of my device turned up to the maximum.
The sound effects are quite well done. Not so much in relation to what you’re actually doing, but in terms of background noise. When you’re standing on a street corner, it sounds like you’re on a busy street (even if you don’t see any people in the scene). The one thing I really would have like to have heard is character voices. The music sounds good and does a nice job of conveying the overall tone of the game.
In the end XIII – Lost Identity is a victim of a good concept wrapped in slightly uneven casing. For me, the choice of game genres didn’t do justice to the source material. However, if you’re going to stick something in the guise of a hidden object game, at least make sure the engine is solid. Finally, come up with something a bit more original when it comes to mini-games. All that being said, if you can look past the lackluster mechanics there is an intriguing story unfolding in the game. It’s even kept me playing to find out what’s going to happen.
Final Verdict: 7/10
- Interesting, movie quality story
- Nice visuals
- Good sound effects and music
I don’t like:
- Sub-par hidden object interface
- Boring mini-games
- Objects often blend too well