iPad Game Review: Mystery of the Crystal Portal 2: Beyond the Horizon

I made no pretense about how much I enjoyed the original Mystery of the Crystal Portal, both the PSP Mini and the HD version for iPad. It was a well designed hidden object game with a story that offered an ending that pretty much called for a sequel – so now we’re back following Nicole on her quest to find her father in Mystery of the Crystal Portal 2: Beyond the Horizon (which I’ll call ‘Crystal Portal 2’ henceforth)!

The Hype:
In the end of the first game in the series, Nicole managed to activate the Crystal Portal in her father’s basement in hope to find him. Much time has passed since Nicole’s father, a well-known archeologist disappeared, but Nicole refuses to believe she will never see him again. In The Mystery of the Crystal Portal 2: Beyond the Horizon, Nicole and her fellow mate Igor set on a new adventure in search of Nicole’s missing father and try to uncover the greatest mystery which only her father knows. Discover a secret so big that it could threaten the very course of human history. Solve puzzles from Nicole’s home in New York City to distant lands on the other side of the world to find her beloved father and save human kind. Find loads of Brain-Bending Fun in The Mystery of the Crystal Portal 2: Beyond the Horizon!

* Unique Hidden Object Gameplay
* Original Storyline
* 2 Game Modes – Casual and Advanced
* 8 Incredible Locations
* 34 Fascinating Levels
* 8 Tricky Minigames

The Reality:
Once again we are faced with solving puzzles and advancing the plot using the ‘hidden object’ game genre mechanics. As a reminder this is different from the traditional ‘point & click’ adventure game genre exemplified by Destination: Treasure Island (or Myst). In a hidden object game you are directed towards an item you need to help advance the plot, and when you select it you need to locate the items indicated by the pictures in the rings.

Crystal Portal 2 picks up where the original left off in different ways. First off the plot drops you into the world right after you have gone through the Crystal Portal – which was the end of the original game. You have traveled to Atlantis! Now you just need to hopefully find your father and then figure out a way home!

The other way it picks up from the original is with the complexity of the puzzles. From the start the game offers a ‘casual’ or ‘advanced’ mode, which differ in how you are able to get hints throughout the game. In ‘advanced’ mode you have to wait quite a while between hints, but in ‘casual’ you can get hint after hint without consequence.

For many ‘casual’ will be a better option. First, because the items themselves are harder to find than before. Lots of things are cleverly camouflaged against the setting, making them hard to locate. Then there are cascading puzzles from the start – in the original Crystal Portal these challenging puzzles, in which only a few hidden items were known at first and others appeared after key items were found, only appeared later in the game. Now they are there from the start, making it more difficult right from the outset.

Another challenge is the sequential puzzles – where one item you need is easy to see, but is itself another puzzle! On top of this each area has at least one item that requires you to perform some task such as disconnecting ropes, reassembling pieces, or whatever. Finally there are mini-games associated with mid-level tasks, such as when you need to find certain bolt types using a magnet.

The original game had and end-area puzzle, and while you get several of these in the sequel, they are not so structured in the layout. Each region has a few areas, and you will typically be moving between areas more than a couple of times before completing it all. The puzzles are about the same level as before, and include things like putting objects in order and connecting the pipes to get water flowing.

The control scheme is identical and fortunately everything works just as well. It has become second-nature to operate these puzzles and I feel these games are the gold standard against which all other hidden object games are measured at this point – so fortunately most games use pretty much the same system.

When the game first arrived the iPhone version had proper Game Center support whereas the iPad version wasn’t recognized. A couple days and an update or two later and it still wasn’t working properly despite showing up in the release notes. I was about to contact the publisher when the latest update arrived and now everything works great. There are 14 achievements as you can see below.

My only disappointments were something related to the plot that I won’t reveal here, and that the game is shorter than the original. It is not enough to keep me away from recommending this game heartily – or from looking forward to the next G5 Entertainment hidden item game: they are a blast to play and I find myself relaxed and absorbed, like curling up with a good book.

Here is a trailer for Mystery of the Crystal Portal 2: Beyond the Horizon:

Review: Mystery of the Crystal Portal 2: Beyond the Horizon

Where to Buy: iTunes App Store

Price: $6.99

What I Like: More challenging puzzles; Interesting Story with old and new characters; Detailed visuals; Excellent controls

What Needs Improvement: Shorter than original

Categories: Gaming, Reviews