The Hatchet Falls!
HIGH A Hidden-Object based fistfight? Tell me more.
LOW Having to go to the map every 30 seconds to remember where the latest ornate key is supposed to be used.
WTF Apparently ‘walling in’ is an option for treating mentally ill children?
Could there be a better setting for a Hidden Object Game than a haunted hotel with a murderous backstory? Apparently the publishers at Big Fish don’t think so, as they’ve put out eleven games in this particular franchise. The Axiom Butcher is the latest, and it concerns the aftermath of a slasher rampage that occurred at the titular hotel some years earlier. The player controls a prominent detective and discovers that the murders may be starting up again. Of course, it’s up to them to put a stop to it before another hotel full of people are massacred!
Criteria 1: To what degree do the puzzle screens look like a thrift store vomited on my monitor?
Quite a bit, but the game does a great job of justifying it. Set in a recently-renovated hotel, The Axiom Butcher makes it clear that there are still plenty of dilapidated and trash-strewn corners in the building, and these provide the setting for most of the game’s hidden object screens. The player will find numerous piles of garbage that need to be sifted through, but all of the items manage to seem plausible within the locations they appear. There are almost no instances of size, color, or gravity cheating—this leads to scenes that are fundamentally fair to play, even tending a little towards the ‘easy’ end of the difficulty spectrum.
Criteria 2: Are the searches justified by the premise/story?
A pretty huge mixed bag here, as there are absolutely no integrated hidden object screens. Whether the game is offering lists or providing outlines of the items players need to find, there’s never any reason given for most of the searching they’re asked to do. Worse still, there are a number of ‘object match’ tasks, where the player has to find six matched pairs of symbols hidden around the screen. Memory is a perfectly good type of minigame, but seeing it mixed with hidden object screens does not lead to interesting or worthwhile results.
Criteria 3: How well do the various puzzles and object searches meld together to form a coherent whole?
The Axiom Butcher feels a little stretched out at times—at four hours (including bonus chapter) it was one of the longest HOGs I’ve played. This extra length isn’t because it’s absolutely packed with puzzles or story, but because of a truly astonishing amount of busywork the player is tasked with. Nearly every door/cabinet/trunk in the hotel is secured with an impractically ornate lock which can only be opened by finding the correct symbol/key/rune. There are few locked panels that don’t have another locked panel hidden behind them. There are large swaths of the game where I found myself unlocking an elaborate cubbyhole to find the key to open another door at the other end of the hotel, which hides inside it the key to the sub-cubbyhole inside the first location.
It’s too bad the game felt the need to put in so much filler since there’s a lot of interesting story to tell, as well as a number of surprisingly well-designed puzzles. If anything, I would have liked to hear a little more of the story, since the details get a little convoluted and muddy towards the end. The bonus chapter doesn’t offer closure on the main story, but it does give players a look at the hotel’s terrifying origins while providing a solid standalone one-hour adventure.
Haunted Hotel: The Axiom Butcher doesn’t have enough plot or puzzles to balance out the sheer amount of backtracking and fetchquests the player is asked to do. Still, the plot is interesting, the screens are well-constructed, and the puzzles are almost universally clever and challenging. A fan of the hidden object genre who doesn’t mind a little extra padding will certainly find this to be a worthwhile entry.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Elephant Games and published by Big Fish Games. It is currently available on PC and Mac. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 4 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: This game is not rated by the ESRB, but contains: violence, blood, sexual content, alcohol use. This particular Hidden Object Game is strictly for adults, as it features bloodbaths past and present, disturbing motives for murder, and even someone being walled up alive. It’s not for the faint of heart, either.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: All story is subtitled/readable, and there are no audio cues.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable, and all interaction is accomplished through mouse clicking.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.