The story starts you in the middle of the action, as you witness a carriage being chased by a knight on horseback wielding ice magic. The knight stops the carriage, and as he is about to abduct whoever he was chasing, you take control and the game begins proper. Since you are a ranger you do what you do best and shoot an arrow at the knight, who mysteriously disappears.
You soon learn that the person being chased was none other than the princess of the kingdom, who was running away from a dark ice sorcerer that was taking over her castle. You offer her refuge in your cottage, but even inside your home you are not safe. The princess is quickly tricked into opening a present and trapped inside an ice globe, clearly the work of the evil lurking in the castle. To truly put an end to this madness, you journey to the capital of the kingdom so you can have a confrontation with the perpetrator of all these curses.
It is easy to be hooked by the game’s narrative since it is so well presented in more than one aspect. Like most games of this genre, Dark Strokes 2 has some gorgeous backgrounds to look at, which are quite filled with details telling their own story of the world. This is to be expected, since the core gameplay involves looking carefully at the backgrounds for clues and items.
What is less expected is that the game is fully voice acted, making you truly feel and empathize with everyone and their woes. The characters are also animated, even if slightly; it is not truly 3D, but it gets the job done and along with everything else in the visual and audio department, you can’t help but be immersed in what is going on. In addition, there are snippets of actual 3D animation for certain reaction shots. While brief, they add to the drama of the scene and it helps to portray some action heavy moments.
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Gameplay wise, this is the classic hidden object formula. You travel to different maps looking for items and solving puzzles. Most puzzles need to be unlocked with the correct combination of items, and most items are used together to get any number of results. Figuring out what you can pick up and what is just something from the background is the real challenge, but it is lessened thanks to the hint system, which is also intertwined with the game’s story.
At the very beginning of the game when the princess gets trapped in the ice globe, she becomes a feature that whenever you click her, you get a hint as to what to do or what to collect next. You will also get help from a friendly Lynx, who can aid you on many puzzles as a tool itself and you can even name it.
Another tool at your disposal is the journal, incredibly useful for when you stopped playing for a while and you don’t quite remember what you were doing. This journal has the whole story so far, and it is narrated by the ranger himself, and that means more voice acting which truly helps the audience pay attention.
As for the puzzles themselves, they can get quite tricky and not one is like another. If you get particularly stuck in any of them, you can simply press the skip button to move on and get the item you need. While not a particularly engaging feature, it does help for when you just want to push the story forward.
Dark Strokes 2: The Legend of the Snow Kingdom is a beautiful and captivating game that will have you rooting for its main duo to make it out it all, and show that true love always triumphs in the end. While not the most realistic tale, it is one that feels nice to take part of from time to time, if only to escape reality a little while longer.
If you enjoy these free games, you will love this list of our 10 Best Hidden Object Mystery Games!