Doors, Doors, and More Doors
The successful marriage of adventure game puzzle-solving and hidden-object scavenger hunts have been combined in several recent Alawar Entertainment releases, such as Natural Threat: Ominous Shores and Dark Strokes: Sins of the Fathers. In its latest release, the casual gaming giant does it again, and brings back a past favorite, adding a sequel to the House of 1,000 Doors franchise.
In House of 1,000 Doors: The Palm of Zoroaster, Kate Reed, the original game’s heroine, has been called back to the mysterious mansion to help its inhabitants out of a potentially deadly situation: A deadly magical gem, has caused havoc and destruction across many of the mansion’s connected worlds, and it’s up to Kate to use the titular magical doorways to travel to the most exotic and far-flung corners of the Earth, collecting artifacts that will help her seal the gem’s destructive power once and for all.
There’s very little to criticize The Palm of Zoroaster for. Kate’s new outing to the enchanted mansion is presented through beautifully hand-painted art, rich and inviting, making it a visual treat to travel to distant locales such as Tibet, Madagascar, India, and Jerusalem, encountering ghosts of lost civilizations who spur you on your journey with helpful items and advice. The art design also includes frequent animated video sequences, sometimes for simple things like a staircase appearing after flipping a switch, other times slightly more involved scenes. All of this goes to show the high level of attention paid to the visual side of things, giving the game in immediate hook to draw in players of all ages.
This same praise can also be levied at the puzzle gameplay, which sets itself a high bar early on in the game and maintains the same solid, engaging level of challenging fun. The seek ‘n’ find sequences are skillfully executed, with each scene featuring plenty of clickable hotspots that let players zoom in on specific spots, move objects around to check behind and below them, and combine objects to create items from the scavenger list. The hidden-object scenes are noticeably more challenging than on previous go-arounds, yet they remain fair throughout. When worse comes to worst, a complete in-game walkthrough as well as a rechargeable hint button make sure you’re never stuck longer than you want to be.
As enjoyable as the game is, a few minor niggles must be noted. For starters, this entry in the genre comes off as a bit shorter than some of its recent cousins; I completed a full playthrough of the game in one sitting, conservatively estimating around four hours, which includes the post-game bonus episode contained in the collector’s edition. The second, more impactful concern I have addresses the genre’s overused go-to puzzles. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, but I would have liked to have seen some new puzzles take the place of the obligatory “turn-the-valves” or “slide-the-blocks” puzzles. The developers have attempted to alleviate this in some small way by including collectible “Dark Side” items hidden in screens throughout the game, but that didn’t take away from the unfortunate sense that we’ve seen this game before in some way. Of course, adventure and hidden-object aficionados won’t be concerned about that, as Palm of Zoroaster otherwise sufficiently scratches their itches.
The Final Verdict
While it’s difficult to keep a straight face and say House of 1,000 Doors: The Palm of Zoroaster offers a completely different game that we haven’t seen before (or likely won’t see again), the game does deliver on its promise of a good time for buffs of this well-matched crossover genre. With a somewhat shortened campaign, but made up for with pretty visuals, voice acting, and cutscene snippets throughout, The Palm of Zoroaster can be enjoyed by the whole family for an evening of enjoyable puzzling!