Hope Springs Eternal: A Carol Reed Mystery

Developer/Publisher:  MDNA Games
Year Released:  2005

Review by Steve Ramsey (November, 2005)
Hope Springs Eternal Screenshot We first met Carol Reed in Remedy, and here she is again, still in Norkopping in Sweden having taken over her friend, Conrad's, detective agency. Despite having put an ad in the paper seeking clients, business is not exactly booming, but a concerned call leads to an investigation that involves more than an absent person. Perhaps this is the start of a great detective career?

There is no doubt we will see more of Carol; the ending sets up the next case quite nicely. I confess I am looking forward to it, and not just because these first two games have provided enjoyable, gentle (and pretty) adventuring. I simply must see the Draghat ceremony, it sounds like a blast, and should probably be an integral part of any self respecting out of control party.

But I get ahead of myself. First things first, which is Hope Springs Eternal.

Pretty as a picture
The game is a home grown product in every sense of the word, and again utilises the Adventure Maker software. Like Remedy before it, photos of the maker's home town have been used to create all the settings, but these have been touched up to resemble watercolour paintings. It adds a little something to your wandering through Norrkoping.

There are some other nice touches in Hope Springs Eternal. The outright puzzles all come with an option to skip them if you have tried and failed, or even if you simply don't want to try and just want to get on with the story. So if the little slider is giving you trouble, simply move the cursor to the lower right and click, and it's instant puzzle solved. The only effect on the game is that the number of stars you receive at the end of the game is reduced by one each time you use this feature.

Point and click
Hope Springs Eternal Screenshot Game play is cursor all the way. Point and click through the slide show settings, and respond to the directional arrows or active cursors. Move the cursor to the top of the screen and the inventory items scroll down. Drag them to combine them or to use them in the game world. It's an easy interface and the game is well suited to all ages and experience.

You will meet and interact with several other characters, and these too are photos of real people, although they have not been given the watercolour treatment. They are each a series of still photos, which will change as you talk to them or try to give them things. You talk to them using simple dialogue trees, and whilst you won?t hear Carol?s response or question, you will hear the spoken response of the other character, for which there are subtitles.

There are about 5 straight out puzzles Carol will need to complete, and quite a few tasks which must be overcome by finding and using the correct inventory items. It isn't a hard game but failure to find an item will obviously hold you up and there is often no indication of where to look and possibly only limited clues as to what you are looking for. But it isn't a huge game world, so looking again is not overwhelming, and of course, if you pay attention and look carefully the first time, you will likely find everything you need without too much hassle.

Again, as is the case in many games, you will on occasion have to go back and revisit locations and characters just because you need to do something in order to move forward. At times visiting a new location which has popped up on your map as a result of new information is the obvious next step, but sometimes you simply have to walk until you find something different, or a new question to ask. It isn't guided or hinted at all of the time, it's simply what we adventure game players know we have to do. Whether it's a large irritation or an accepted aspect of our genre, or anything in between, will be a personal thing.

Hope Springs Eternal ScreenshotSome items can only be picked up at certain points in the game, and if you try and do something which is not correct, Carol might say something like "I think that would make too much noise" suggesting perhaps another way forward. It's another way of helping you to move through the story without getting stuck.

All's well!
The story is perfectly adequate to support the adventuring. I did think it ended a little abruptly, but it tied the ends together and had a touch of the "happily ever afters" about it, which was nice.

A final note. I played Remedy and one of my comments was that I would have liked to have heard some Swedish, given the setting. Well, very early on in Hope Springs Eternal there are two interactions which "explain" why I didn't. I would not presume they are there for my benefit, but they certainly provide an answer. So whilst I would still like to hear some, the absence of spoken Swedish from a Swedish game in a Swedish town is understood.

You can purchase this game on-line from the Hope Springs Eternal website. rating:  

Copyright © Steve Ramsey 2005. All rights reserved.