Game Reviews

Mystery of the Crystal Portal

Star onStar onStar onStar offStar off
Mystery of the Crystal Portal

Is it just us, or are recent entries in the hidden object genre tending to feel more like ‘tidying up’ simulators than grand adventures?

The lavishly detailed screens found in games like Mystery of the Crystal Portal are crammed with potential items to rifle through and neatly file into virtual boxes. It looks pretty enough, but the gameplay soon becomes little more than a humdrum clean-up exercise.


G5 Entertainment retains the hackneyed story of the original 2008 PC game in this port, yet successfully bolts on some touchscreen controls to make it more mobile-friendly.

Over a generous six hours of playtime, the intrepid Nicole Rankwist scours the globe for parts of a torn map that will lead her to the titular gateway and a tearful reunion with her dear old Dad – an adventurer who mysteriously disappeared while searching for the fabled item.

Each level consists of at least two picturesque, single-screen locations, ready to be meticulously combed for items to satisfy the demands of a small cast of stereotyped characters (the Native American spouting wobbly mysticism is a classic example).

Tapping on larger, glowing Key Objects brings up a dial with small pictures of eclectic items (keys, tribal masks, many, many pots and plates) to hunt for. You will need to pick up almost every piece of scenery in the frame at some point, but some Key Objects can only be activated when previous ones are filled up – limiting the benefits of random screen taps.

Fortunately, pinching to zoom and dragging items around feels responsive and natural, which compensates for the stress playing a hidden object game on a smartphone display can have on your eyes.

Well-hidden appeal

The problem is that, aside from a different hand-drawn background, the gameplay quickly becomes painfully repetitive and strains your ‘mince pies’ more than your noggin.

The end-of-level puzzles (unlocked by clearing screens and finding essential items, such as fuel for a generator) spice things up a touch, but balancing weights and placing tiles in obvious patterns will hardly tax the average Professor Layton fan.

While Mystery of the Crystal Portal is a solid hidden object title for fans of the niche genre, it just lacks the ingenuity and ambition to tickle the puzzle fancies of a wider audience.

Mystery of the Crystal Portal

A decent PC port that ticks all the hidden object game boxes, Mystery of the Crystal Portal lacks the challenge and variety to appeal to serious puzzlers
Paul Devlin
Paul Devlin
A newspaper reporter turned games journo, Paul's first ever console was an original white Game Boy (still in working order, albeit with a yellowing tinge and 30 second battery life). Now he writes about Android with a style positively dripping in Honeycomb, stuffed with Gingerbread and coated with Froyo