Pearl’s Peril review

Pearl’s Peril is a Facebook game from Wooga. The game launched on the social network on March 5, and an iOS version that syncs with the Facebook incarnation is set to arrive in the second quarter of 2013. The game is currently featured on the front page of Facebook’s App Center.

Pearl’s Peril is a narrative-heavy hidden object game in which players take on the role of the title character in a 1930s-style “art deco” world as she attempts to unravel the mystery behind her father’s death. Gameplay alternates between hidden object scenes and the usual isometric-perspective building metagame that tends to be incorporated into this type of title, with the latter being used to gradually unlock new story scenes.

Pearl's Peril

The hidden object scenes are fairly straightforward in their execution for the most part. The player is presented with a list of objects to locate and must simply click on them to collect them. Players receive points for each object collected, and receive a gradually-increasing bonus for each object found in rapid succession. If the player is struggling to find a particular object, they can make use of a “hint” facility to highlight a single, randomly-chosen object on screen, after which the hint facility is unusable for a short period while it recharges. Once the player has found all the objects in a level, they are sometimes required to find a “final clue,” which directly relates to and advances the story — finding this object is not scored. At the completion of a level, players receive a bonus according to how quickly they completed the level and how many hints they used.

Screen Shot 2013-03-07 at 9.45.30 AMThe standard hidden object scenes are occasionally broken up with more adventure-style scenes that have a stronger focus on narrative and puzzle-solving. Here, rather than finding a collection of seemingly-irrelevant (and often incongruous) objects, the player is tasked with finding specific (and often broken) items in an environment, then using them on another object in the environment. For example, during the introduction sequence, the player must find the parts of Pearl’s letter-opener, use it on an envelope, then find her clothes, pack them into a suitcase, find two parts of a broken key and finally insert the key into a chest to find her journal and progress with the story. These scenes are a nice touch, and help the player feel like what they are doing is relevant to the plot rather than simply being an artificial barrier to progression in the narrative.

Somewhat less interesting is the rather conventional building metagame, in which the player must construct various buildings and decorative items about Pearl’s father’s island in order to earn enough “prestige” points to unlock the next story scene. This is a slow process, as most items require at least two hours of real time to build, though the player may spend hard currency to bypass these delays and they are rewarded with a fairly generous package of this “cash” at the outset.. Once this has run out, however, the player will need to either buy more or wait as their progress slows to a crawl. The game also features an energy system, so players may find themselves getting throttled by this as well as the build timers after a while. Between energy costs, bypassing timers and buying specific “resources” to construct more effective buildings, that initial package of hard currency probably won’t last very long for most players — though to the game’s credit, it is enough to get a substantial way into the story.

Pearl's Peril

Pearl’s Peril is a pretty good game on the whole, despite its more conventional aspects. Its social features are relatively limited, primarily comprising of leaderboards and the ability to send energy to friends, but the focus here is on the unfolding narrative rather than competitive play. In an interesting approach, Wooga has launched the game with seven full chapters of six scenes each, but is intending to expand the game episodically on a weekly basis, with new chapters penned by bestselling author Steven-Elliot Altman. This isn’t the first game Altman has worked on — he was formerly Acclaim Games’ game director and director of marketing, and now serves as the CEO of Socialtype, a company that specializes in player acquisition, engagement, conversion and retention. Altman’s particular specialisms help put Wooga in a potentially powerful position — not only will the services of a professional author theoretically help to produce a narrative more engaging and well-written than in many other social games, but Altman’s other skills in the marketing and player acquisition/retention fields also give the game a good chance of success in the crowded marketplace.

It remains to be seen if Altman’s involvement will be something that pays off for Wooga in the long run, but in the meantime Pearl’s Peril is still a solid game that is worth a look. You can follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for social games and developers.

Play

A solid hidden object game that has the potential to be a strong performer — the existing content will hook players in, while the regular new episodes will help retain them.

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