The Magician's Handbook: Cursed Valley
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2012-02-19 Android Puzzle G5 Entertainment

Reading my most recent batch of press releases, I found another mobile game by G5 Entertainment. This one was a mix of object finding with a variation of a match-3 puzzle. It's been a while since I played either type of game, so I thought this would be a good change of pace, especially to have something to play for a few minutes on the bus ride to work.

The story begins as the soon-to-be-hero, a very bored person with an extremely boring job at a boring cubicle in a boring office (yes, the story does stress the boring part a lot), watches a TV commercial for the Magician's Handbook. After ordering and receiving the book, you find that you must take the book to Cursed Valley and follow its instructions in order to fill in the rest of the pages and learn new spells... maybe even restore the Valley back to normal.

There are two available difficulty levels, Casual (not timed) and Apprentice (timed puzzles). The stages alternate between finding objects in a crowded scene and making potions on a puzzle grid.

Objects blend into others and the background really well, sometimes maybe a bit too well. You can zoom in and out with the pinching motion, and there is a blue eye icon that works as your hint system: you can tap to use it and reveal the next item on the list. You have a certain number of objects to find before you can cast a spell, but you don't need to find all objects in all scenes. You can switch from one scene to the other available ones until you find enough items to move on. There are also extra coins to discover, and these are fairly difficult to find. As incentive, you are graded according to your performance, and you also have the option to share your accomplishments with your friends on Facebook.

To make your potion and spell you must find ingredient chains on a puzzle field. Tap and drag with your finger across the same icon, as long as they are adjacent pieces on the board. The longer the chains, the quicker you fill the potion. The spells you acquire will then be helpful on the object finding scenes to temporarily get rid of distractions that crowd the screen and hinder your ability to find things.

Now... The Magician's Handbook: Cursed Valley could have actually been a better game if the frustration factor was turned down a notch. Yes, object-finding games are supposed to be challenging but trying to find objects on the list that aren't even spelled correctly is another challenge on its own! I roamed around a particular scene looking for a "cantelope" (how do you pronounce that anyway, kan-tell-oh-pee?), which I wasn't sure if they meant the melon-like fruit or something else. I even used a dictionary to see if this was some word unknown to me. Eventually, and through repetitive erratic tapping, I discovered that this "cantelope" was one of the brownish pumpkin-like oval things... Ok, so I type like crap frequently too, especially when tired, but at least I have the common sense to use a spellchecker when I write something for publication! To discover "typos" on a game that's already been released on PC, Mac and two other mobile platforms (iOS, Kindle) is just sad - not to mention disorienting. Having to guess what certain objects on the list actually are instead of WHERE they are is not fun.

But it's not just the spelling errors, it's the object descriptions as well. Finding a "note" on a scene full of written pages shouldn't be that difficult... except what we need to find here is actually a musical symbol. A horn turned out to be an entire antelope skull. And a rook chess piece was the "castle" on the list. Moments of "What the hell?!" followed by swearing and/or facepalming were in order. Maybe I just wasn't made for object-finding due to the ambiguity of words...

Regardless of how many times I've facepalmed myself, The Magician's Handbook: Cursed Valley is just right for a casual on-the-go experience. And sometimes all we need is to stop and come back later with a fresh set of eyes and a dictionary to find that missing "cantelope".