Persian Nights: Sands of Wonder is the latest console port from Artifex Mundi and this time, developer So Digital. Unlike recent Hidden Object Games (HoGs) we have received from the team, Persian Nights: Sands of Wonder appears to be a stand-alone game which isn’t part of a bigger trilogy – something which I hope may change in the future. With the nice steady flow of HoGs, it’s sometimes a little difficult to spot or hope for much in terms of innovation due to there being only so much which could possibly be changed; However, I was more than impressed with what we got this time around, even if the main story is a little shorter than usual.
Persian Nights: Sands of Wonder is, obviously, set within the majestic lands of Persia at a time of great uncertainty. Ominous clouds have settled over the land as the good king, Badiya, is fatally ill and too weak to help protect his subjects from the demonic Grand Vizier Zaved and his evil agenda. To make matters worse, there also appears to be a shadowy disease which has appeared out of nowhere as it engulfs the land and begins to drown the land in darkness.
Tara, our talented apothecary protagonist, has set out on her own in order to find the cause of the plague with hopes of preventing it from spreading any further. Thankfully, Tara isn’t on her own for long as she meets up with a mysterious acrobatic swordsman called Darius and a rather derpy genie who goes by the name of Minu. Our three protagonists must stick together as they venture out to both take on the evil Zaved and ultimately put an end to this demonic event! The unlikely trio will travel across various lands and take on a number of puzzles through both the Hidden Object variety, inventory puzzles and standard puzzles. Persian Nights: Sands of Wonder, however, is very light on the customary Hidden Object scenes.
I’m sure that everyone who is reading this review knows what a HoG game is by now – if not, I have a few other reviews of Artifex Mundi titles which go into the various mechanics in more detail here: Eventide 2: Sorcerer’s Mirror, Abyss: The Wraiths of Eden, Enigmatis 3: The Shadow of Karkhala, Grim Legends 3: The Dark City, and Eventide 3: Legacy of Legends.
Just briefly, the term ‘Hidden Object’ literally means just that – there are puzzles in which you enter a scene which has a bunch of objects hidden all over the place. It’s your task to find and select every one which is on the list in order to obtain a new item or clue. Outside of these customary puzzles, you’ll be moving around from static scene to scene by either clicking various waypoints or using a map as you talk to people, work through standard puzzles, interact with various people and perform basic inventory puzzles.
As I mentioned above though, Persian Nights: Sands of Wonder does things a little different as it only has a few Hidden Object scenes throughout the whole game and those it does have are very simple and not on the level of ones we have seen in previous titles published by Artifex Mundi. However, don’t take that as a criticism as I’ll come to what it’s replaced by in a moment and it’s always a good thing to see things changed from time to time rather than play out with the same tried and tested formula repeated over and over again throughout the game.
Persian Nights: Sands of Wonder may be lacking in Hidden Object scenes but it’s more than made up in terms of inventory, apothecary and standard puzzles – the majority of which are very different from each other but nothing new if you’ve played every console release from the publisher as I have. So, let’s take a look at each of these puzzles in a little more detail:
These work really well in HoGs as it usually helps break up the monotony of performing Hidden Object sections by offering you something to do outside within the game world. If you’re not sure of the term, it basically means you’ll be picking up and acquiring objects which you can combine with other items so that you can utilise them to overcome a problem in the game. For example, in Persian Nights: Sands of Wonder there is a point where you need to hit a target in the distance but lack the tool to do so. As such, you collect various parts in order to build your own bow and arrow and then you use the created item to hit the target.
The problem with inventory puzzles though is that sometimes they require the use of moon logic (a reason which doesn’t make sense) as the simplest solution isn’t always the one the game employs. One such example was the halberd – I obtained this via one of the Hidden Object sections. Great, I thought, a weapon I could use to cut my way through some vines! Nope, I went through a load of trouble to obtain the weapon and all we used it for was to pull in another object which was out of reach!
All in all though – I didn’t really have any issues with any of the inventory puzzles as most solutions were obvious – it was just the ‘why’ that puzzled me at times.
As our protagonist is an expert within apothecary, a medical professional who studies and practices in the area of creating potions and medicines, we get quite a few puzzles around this aspect. This process isn’t new as we’ve seen it in a few Artifex Mundi titles before but usually as a one-off. You are tasked with finding various items which you can combine through the process to grinding, boiling and stirring together, as you create medicines and solutions to help out the weak and injured – maybe even toxic creations to help you overcome some puzzles too!
I really enjoy these puzzles as it’s another mechanic which helps keep everything fresh and new rather than just performing the same puzzle over and over.
This is the category I usually struggle to describe, even though it’s the most obvious! There are certain puzzles which you see repeated throughout Artifex Mundi titles, even though the majority of the games come from different developers, Persian Nights: Sands of Wonder is no exception here. I will admit that I’ve not ‘solved’ any of these exact puzzles in previous games, but we’ve played similar, such as a puzzle where you place the faces of the creatures in the image over the correct body, a grid with coloured orbs which we must connect together whilst using all the squares, a sliding puzzle where you need to get an object out the other side, and a puzzle where you need to click the symbols you see hidden within a storybook.
Persian Nights: Sands of Wonder has more inventory and general environment puzzles than these regular puzzles and Hidden Object segments though so I never felt the game was reusing old material or padding things out for the sake of it.
Combat: Persian Style!
One thing which kind of threw me off a little was the return of the combat mechanics. Every now and again you’ll get a mechanic which stands out from the crowd and helps define certain games. We’ve had previous games which introduced multiple pathways with dialogue choices and ones which have you fighting evil creatures by selecting symbols. Persian Nights: Sands of Wonder brings the tried and tested combat mechanics which are similar to previous games yet it adds it’s own spin on things.
This time around, combat sections are made up of three stages. The first stage is the process we’ve seen before – the enemy throws out a number of doubled up symbols and you have to pick one of your sets of symbols which doesn’t contain any which the enemy has used. The second stage is a ‘Simon Says’ round which has between four and six orbs which light up and you must copy identically. The final stage is a ‘Lights out’ variation in which you have to tap the orbs and turn them all the same colour, with each tap causing the adjacent orbs to change colours.
When this segment first popped up I wasn’t really prepared for it as I didn’t realise this would be making an appearance. It works really well and there are only a few times you have to do this – but I will say the final game of Simon Says gets a little tricky with six orbs to remember in sequence!
Persian Nights: Sands of Wonder wouldn’t be an Artifex Mundi title if there wasn’t an easy platinum present! This is both a good and a bad thing for fans of their titles out there. First of all the good part – You can complete this game in one sitting (about 4-6 hours) if you play the game on Expert and keep an eye out for the hidden collectables (there is one on each screen, so don’t move on until you find them). If you use a guide – which I wouldn’t recommend – then you could possibly finish it within about 2-3 hours. The bad side of this is that there is no reason to play the game again (as there is no alternative to the puzzle scenes – some games let you play dominoes or mahjong instead and require a second playthrough) and there is no bonus chapter present within the game.
I know the ‘bad things’ aren’t a deal breaker, but I do like getting as much entertainment and enjoyment out of Artifex Mundi titles as I can. I’ve played Persian Nights: Sands of Wonder three times as I kept missing a few collectables! The good thing about that is you can collect X amount on your first playthrough and when you start a new game you’ll only have to collect the ones you missed (as the ones you found aren’t there anymore), which is nice.
Graphically, I would say that Persian Nights: Sands of Wonder isn’t one of the best HoG titles I’ve played in terms of its visuals and animations. Don’t get me wrong though – the game looks really nice and the artwork is great in the various scenes, but the animations are almost stop-motion and very rarely animate outside of the odd mouth moving when they speak. It’s a shame because a little bit more development in making the animations smooth and fluid would have gone a long way in making this one of the best HoGs I’ve played recently.
However, where I felt Persian Nights: Sands of Wonder shined – outside of its puzzles and story – was with its music and voice acting. Anyone who’s played an Artifex Mundi game before will know that it’s always hit or miss whether you’ll get a game which sounds good or not. This time around I was pleasantly surprised and impressed as the voice acting was of high quality as well as the music being very well suited to the atmosphere and locale of the game. This is yet another game in the series where I’ll be keeping an eye out to see if we’re given the option to purchase the soundtrack as I’ll be picking it up for my collection.
Persian Nights: Sands of Wonder sparked my interest when I first saw the trailers and footage last week as I’m used to fantastical adventures within forests and colourful lands but I don’t recall the last time I had one within a place like Persia. I enjoyed the fact that the game swayed more towards the environmental and inventory puzzles than the standard Hidden Object puzzles as it gave the game more variety and overall made the game more interesting. I think my biggest issue with the game was its difficulty and length – It was too easy and over before I knew it! I played the game on expert from the beginning and I had no issues progressing through the game at a steady pace without any of the on-screen hints or tips. The only thing I had an issue with was spotting some of the hidden collectables as they are really well hidden in a few of the scenes.
If your a casual gamer or a trophy hunter then Persian Nights: Sands of Wonder is a great game for you to pick up as not only will you obtain a new platinum without any issues, you’ll also have a great time with its interesting story and fun characters – It’s not about rescuing someone who’s been kidnapped this time and the genie is quite a character!
Persian Nights: Sands of Wonder is a great addition to my ever-growing PS4 Artifex Mundi collection. Sure, the game seemed a bit easier than previous titles and you’re only looking at a single playthrough in order to platinum the game with a lack of extras or bonus stories, but what you do get is a very interesting story and quirky characters. With less of a focus on Hidden Object segments and more on environmental and inventory puzzles, Persian Nights: Sands of Wonder will keep you entertained right up to the end with its various puzzles, combat segments and apothecary concoctions.
If you like Casual Puzzle, Hidden Object or Relaxing games then Persian Nights: Sands of Wonder is for you! Also, I’m sure all the trophy hunters will be grabbing this game as well in order to achieve the platinum.
Persian Nights: Sands of Wonders£11.99
- Very interesting story
- Nice change of pace with mainly inventory and environmental puzzles
- Combat sections with multiple stages
- Beautiful environmental artwork as usual
- Great voice acting and soundtrack
- No bonus level
- A little too easy
- One of the shorter games with little replayability (no alternative puzzle modes)
- The in-game animations are a little stop-motion in places