The most ‘addictive’ games are the ones that activate your ‘dopamine reward system’, which is your brains way of dealing with things that feel good. It is the system that makes any positive achievement feel so great and send a ‘rush of good feelings’ over you in those moments. For the new generation of mobile games fueled by in-app purchases, ‘dopamine management’ is a critical factor to keeping gamers on the hook and paying up. Several months ago G5 Entertainment introduced The Secret Society, and have been updating it ever since. I started playing a week or so ago, and would have reviewed it sooner … but I just can’t stop playing the darn game!
Type of app: Hidden Object Puzzle Game
Platform/where to buy: iPhone or iPad; available in the iTunes App Store
Developer: MyTona / G5 Entertainment
? Over 100 quests to keep you entertained for hours
? 12 amazing locations full of interesting characters
? 36 collections of hidden objects to piece together
? 65 items to purchase throughout your secret mission
? Regular updates with additional quests and more
? Game Center Support
? iPhone 5 support
The big thing to realize about The Secret Society is that it is one of those ‘free’ games that will constantly reward you and give you stuff … and yet you will happily feed it money to keep on going. Every action you take requires energy, so a reward you sometimes get is energy – and your energy restores over time and when you level up. Yet as you dig into the game you will find you need more energy, more energy, more … more … more … And so you will buy more energy using crystals and gold, which will then require you to buy more crystals using real money. But that is okay because you found a special crystal that gives you a two-for one deal on gold and crystals and …
See? Anyway, about the game!
The main interface of The Secret Society is laid out like a 19th century deskspace with a command center melded into it – so you can see all of your available gaming options all at once even with the feel of a parlor society. Somehow the cognitive dissonance works.
You start out with the information from your deceased uncle that you possess the ability to magically enter pictures to find clues and items. You have many helpers giving you quests and feedback in the Secret Society. The quests involve finding critical items to help solve mysteries, unlock your uncle’s journal and so on. They also involve gathering items into collections, finding missing stuff, and reassembling pictures to help go further in the game.
The game integrates all of this into easy to access tabs for your inventory, shops, collections, awards, and so on. Did you notice that ‘shops’ just blended in there? Your first thought might be that the developers are trying to hide the in-app purchases in with other things – but that is not true. That is because the game uses crystals and gold as currency in shops, and you earn these over the course of playing … but if you need more you can buy them using in-app purchases. These purchases are not from the ‘shop’, but rather in the upper corner where you see your wealth of currency and crystals. Personally I like the way things are separated, because it makes it clear what is ‘real’ money and what is ‘game’ money’. That is critical in a game like this one!
Ease of use/Overall performance:
As noted the majority of the game will be familiar to fans of hidden-object games. You can think of the scenes as the non-casual mode of most hidden object games. You have a fixed amount of time to find all of the items or you fail. Unlike in most other hidden-object games, there is not just a simple timer that controls the hint system – because there is not a conventional hint system. Instead you can choose from a variety of methods for getting assistance, depending on the current type of scene. Things like ‘show me the object’ or ‘compass’ work in any scene, but lighting-related hints only work in darkened scenes.
One cool thing is that the hidden object scenes are varied in the approach you use to locate items. You get normal named lists, object match lists, silhouette lists, paired items, morphing objects, scenes in the dark, and more. Each one presents a unique challenge, and keeps things more interesting than doing the same thing every time.
Also keeping things interesting are ‘anomalies’ that infect your paintings. One has all of the object names backwards, as an example. You can buy objects to ‘banish’ the anomaly, or work around it. If you choose to work around it, the next time you enter you need to deal with an even tougher version before it disappears and you get back to normal.
Aside from hidden objects, you also solve puzzles to find items and solve mysteries. You move blocks, assemble pictures, reconnect pipes, and so on. These are also standard items in most hidden object games, and as in those cases you need to solve them within an allotted time – but here there is no ‘SKIP’!
One of the big items in the game is Collections. For example, early on you will be hunting down chess pieces. Find enough and you can put together a full chess board – but it requires more than the pieces. The pieces are found over the course of several hidden object screens, but the ‘tools’ to complete the collection are much more rare, and can also be bought using in-game currency. The desire to complete collections can make this an expensive pursuit!
Would use again/recommend?: Like I have any choice? I found this game lacking in compelling story, characters, mystery or setting … and yet I have been logging on at least twice a day for the last couple of weeks! Secret Society provides a constant challenge that is never too difficult, and a constant stream of rewards that allows you to avoid the feeling of the developer’s hands in your pockets. I know many friends who are constantly pushing Candy Crush on Facebook, trying to lure others to help feed their addiction, but for me this is a much more gentle game as I can be very selective about getting help from others and never feel the need to spam my Facebook friends.
Suggested changes/wish list for updates: Nothing!
Source: Publisher provided code to help out with in-app purchases
Price: Free download, with plenty of in-app purchases
Here is the trailer: