The Mystery of the Crystal Portal is a hidden object and puzzle game that takes place in six different scenic locales: a New York City apartment, a Japanese temple, a cottage in the Swiss Alps, some Mayan ruins in Guatemala, a rural environment in Africa, and a cottage in Russia. Certain objects in each hidden object scene are activated using other objects; activating these objects enables other objects to be activated, causing the list of missing objects to be constantly refreshed despite using the same scene.
The story is pretty mediocre: in the late 1920's, a daughter searches for her missing father by following the trail of his archeological discoveries. Various helpful locals with abominable organizational skills need your help cleaning up their messes, and once you do you'll have the pieces necessary to solve a puzzle. At the end of the game, all your work turns out to be unnecessary, and just when things start getting interesting again, there's the dreaded "To Be Continued" twist (an sequel for Mac in English does exist, although it hasn't been introduced to the Mac App Store yet as of this writing).
Plot line aside, it's a pretty good hidden object game, except for the constant need to figure out which objects serve as a drop-off for the list of objects to be found. It's possible to move the mouse around and wait for it to turn into a hand, but I found myself clicking wildly all over the screen in my impatience to know what I was looking for already, despite the irritating sound whenever you click on something non-interactive. There's almost never rhyme or reason to what object serves as a drop-off or to what objects activate them; apparently you need a crossbow to light a candle.
After finding all the objects in each locale, you need to solve a puzzle to reveal the next piece of a symbol that is supposedly important in finding your father. These puzzles are rather easy compared to some of the challenging eye-peeling required to reach them in the first place. Still, you get a little bronze badge for completing them within a moderate timeframe, so I suppose that's something.
Sam's Protip: Don't worry too much about the achievement for completing a level in less than ten minutes. Doing so is only really possible on the last level, unless you've memorized the positions of all the missing objects in a particular region.
- Perfectly valid hidden object game
- Parallax cutscenes are nice to behold
- Hint ability recharges at just about the right speed
- Image resolution for most scenes isn't as high as it should be
- English localization isn't great
- Too often you have no idea what you're supposed to be looking for