Grace Brown review

Grace Brown is a new Facebook title from Viral Games. It’s a hidden object title, but rather than taking the same approach as other similar titles on the social network, Grace Brown is a highly-polished experience more akin to that seen in standalone games of the genre.

Grace Brown casts players in the role of the titular heroine, a renowned explorer, philanthropist and all-round “good person,” as she attempts to help her professor friend break into a mysterious pyramid at the North Pole and uncover the secrets of the universe’s creation. The game alternates between simple adventure scenes in which the player can click to move, examine objects or interact with them and more traditional hidden object areas in which the player must locate all of the objects on a list.

Grace Brown’s key differences from other hidden object games on Facebook primarily come in its game structure. Rather than providing players with a mansion, garden or similar map screen to rebuild and unlock the game’s various levels, Grace Brown unfolds over a series of episodes in locations around the world, each of which cost a large number of in-game coins to start. Once an episode has begun, players work their way through a linear storyline, completing hidden object levels along the way to progress. There is no time limit or speed bonus on the hidden object scenes — players can take their time over locating all the items, though may make use of a “hint” function in exchange for in-game coins.

The other big difference between Grace Brown and other Facebook-based hidden object games is in production values. The game features beautifully-drawn background graphics and full speech for in-game characters. When playing in full-screen mode, the only thing distinguishing Grace Brown from full-price standalone hidden object titles are occasional popups nagging players to share news and rewards with friends or purchase additional soft currency with which to acquire hints.

Grace Brown is a challenging game. Many of the hidden objects blend well into the backdrop, and even in the early stages, the color scheme of the artwork errs towards low-light monochromatic, making it quite difficult to spot some items. As is the case with many other hidden object games, certain object names are a little ambiguous and difficult to spot at times — one early level sees players searching for a “pouch” that looks more like a battered coffee cup, for example. This is less of an issue than it would be in some other games, however, since there is no rush for the player to complete the hidden object scenes. There is no time limit, and no bonus for quickly completing them. They are simply barriers to progression, and there is no social competitive element.

In many ways, Grace Brown would probably have been better off as a paid standalone title for PC, Mac and perhaps tablet devices. There’s no real social incentive for players to invite friends or brag about their achievements and the monetization feels somewhat tacked-on. This isn’t to say it’s a bad game; quite the contrary, in fact — it’s very pleasing to see a Facebook game that doesn’t compromise on production values simply because it’s a “social game.” It’s simply very apparent that the unique possibilities offered by the social network aren’t leveraged in this title.

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Excellent production values, but little use has been made of Facebook’s core social features.