Namco Releases iPad Game Stroke of Midnight: Polished, Overly Helpful, and a Hidden Price

The Stroke of MidnightGames developer Namco has released a new adventure-puzzle game for the iPad this week. Dubbed The Stroke of Midnight, this romance game has players delving into the history and story behind a long past Victorian love triangle. Interesting though it may be, this particular story can be somewhat deceiving on more than just a narrative level.

A highly polished and aesthetically pleasing adventure game reminiscent of those of yesteryear, The Stroke of Midnight is an app both wonderfully atmospheric and rather compelling from a plot perspective. That said, the game does often come off as far too simplistic, and at times a bit, well, cheesy. More than that, the game is somewhat deceptive in its actual cost.

Players take the role of a young novelist whose lost her creative spark. A writer of romance, she fittingly visits Europe in an attempt to remove her mental block. Well, the castle that she’s staying in is in shambles and evidently haunted by the specters of the past. Conveniently enough, they are all involved in a love triangle, and in a blind curiosity, players attempt to unravel the story behind it.

Item FindIn order to investigate the loves of times past, players move about beautiful looking scenes for clues. Unlike other titles, such as Big Fish GamesDrawn: The Painted Tower, players can physically look around the scene by dragging their finger about. It is a bit limited movement-wise, but it is still moderately more involving than starring at a static screen. Regardless, each scene will come in with a myriad of puzzles that have to be solved.

Early on, they start out simple enough, consisting of collecting items and using them where need be (e.g. the first puzzle is finding a scarf to clean a dirty surface so the writing is legible). It’s a fairly common standard for such puzzle oriented adventure games, but eventually some real “puzzles” come into play in which users basically solve jigsaw puzzles in their various forms of sliding, rotating, and so on.

Granted, these are early puzzles, but they don’t really feel like they get all that much harder (though a few are a bit trickier). The problem is that Stroke of Midnight does far too much hand-holding. Rather than allude to needed items or dropping subtle hints, the game flat out covers anything of use with sparkles. Yes, it is important to make useful items stand out in some way, but doing this constantly merely creates a programmed user response. They don’t even need to think about what they need.

But other games do this, you say? This is true, but in most others, like Drawn, a majority of items that will be of use at some point sparkle (meaning users know it is useful, but will no know when; challenging memory). Here, they tend to only sparkle as needed.

StoryIt gets better. There is even a mirror in the early parts of the game that, verbatim, tells the user what to do, and touching it, puts an exact picture of what the user is looking for in the reflection. There’s being user-friendly, and then there’s taking the entire game aspect out of the equation. Yes, this is early on in the game, but since the first part of this app is an intended hook for the actually monetization (more on that in a bit), it creates the impression that the rest of the game will be the same.

With Drawn, clues are subtle and even early-on hints were more vague (e.g. “try searching in X room”), and when something sparkled, there was almost always an extra step in figuring out how to interact with it. A perfect example from Drawn is a fireplace that had a sparkle within it. Players didn’t actually need something from inside the pit, but had to interact with it by figuring out how to turn it on then put something into that spot.