Stray Souls: Dollhouse Story - Hidden Object Game Review

Published: 28th February 2011
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Explore a man's nightmares and mysterious past in Stray Souls: Dollhouse Story. After a man disappears upon inspecting a box on his doorstep, it is up to his wife to find out what happened. Her adventures take her deep into her husband's secret past, into a world of the supernatural that seems to be infected by an evil presence. Search for clues and solve devilish puzzles as you help reunite the couple and experience this thrilling horror hidden object adventure game.

Clowns and dolls by themselves are already objects of fear for some people. Now use them as the focus of a creepy horror game and you've got a winning formula that will give players goose bumps and make them jump out of their seats. Stray Souls: Dollhouse Story does this brilliantly, with superb animation that is guaranteed to shock and scare you. When a rag doll stares at you with intense eyes made of buttons and talks to you through a mouth sewn shut by rope, you know you are not playing an ordinary game.

The game begins with a young couple enjoying a quiet evening at home. Loud knocks on the door cause the husband to investigate, but the door slams shut on him and he mysteriously disappears. The wife opens the door to find only a crate on the porch. Worried, she sets out to find her husband (with your help). With a supernatural advisor guiding you on, your journey turns into an adventure involving nightmares, illusions and... those scary clowns and dolls.

Stray Souls: Dollhouse Story is a hidden object adventure game by Alawar Games, the developer of popular hidden object games such as the Magic Encyclopedia series. In Stray Souls, you explore the game world via a main adventure screen, and interact with scenes and objects by clicking on them or using items that you pick up along the way. Doing so will launch hidden object scenes and puzzles which you need to solve in order to progress through the game.

Stray Souls' strong point and what sets it apart from other games is its great storytelling. The story itself is interesting, featuring a missing person, a mysterious past and paranormal occurrences. But it is how the story is presented that makes a game really captivating. Stray Souls does this very well by incorporating plenty of animation, plot twists, creepiness and good old-fashioned jump-out-of-your-seat scary moments.

Stray Souls also has another unique method of storytelling: a dollhouse. After every chapter or milestone in the game, you will collect a doll representing an important character in the story. You place the doll in a supernatural dollhouse, and it animates the doll, showing you what the character used to do and how they interacted with the other main characters. This is a great way to track your progress in the game as well as to learn about the various characters you meet or hear of during your adventure.

Due to Stray Souls being very story-driven, you might expect the game to be very linear, giving you only one option or puzzle to solve at every turn. However, it feels like the game is no more linear than other similar hidden object games. You usually have 2 or 3 different puzzles that need solving, ranging from the hidden object scenes and minigames, to objects waiting for the right tool to be found. However, some of the implied urgency of the puzzles can be a bit misleading in a funny way. The game prompted me to quickly put out a fire before it burned the house down. I left the fire alone for half an hour and nothing happened...

The minigame puzzles are pretty fun and fit the theme fine, though they aren't extremely difficult. You get logic and pattern puzzles in a range of complexity levels, and even a Rube Goldberg puzzle involving excessive valves, knobs and levers. The hidden object scenes are beautifully rendered, and the objects are reasonably hard to find. They are hard to find due to being hidden and blended well with the background, not because of poor graphics or being too small. Another unique mechanic in Stray Souls is the presence of bonus items. As you explore the various areas in the game, you may notice items that morph into something else when you're not looking. One of the side tasks in the game is to find all of these items.

Stray Souls: Dollhouse Story is a great adventure game, drawing you into the world of scary clowns, dolls and the paranormal with an impressive focus on storytelling. You will love the game if you liked similar games such as the Mystery Case Files or the PuppetShow series. The basic version of the game is not yet available, but you can get the Collector's Edition which includes a bonus chapter, soundtrack, wallpapers and more.

Rating: 4.5/5.0

You can read more about Stray Souls: Dollhouse Story and try the game at http://www.hidden-puzzles.com/stray-souls-dollhouse-story.html

Steven maintains the hidden object game review website at http://www.hidden-puzzles.com/ - a website devoted to the most popular hidden object and puzzle games. You can read game reviews, download and play them online.

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