Hope Springs Eternal: A Carol Reed Mystery
Review by Toger
When we last met Carol, she'd successfully solved the mystery
of a strange kidnapping case, the same case on which her friend,
Conrad, had been working when he suddenly died. With the excitement
of that case at an end and needing a job to continue her stay
in Norrköping, Carol decides to take over Conrad's private
detective agency. Unfortunately, people aren't beating a path
to her door. Not even after she's place an ad in the local paper.
Conrad's sister, Katarina, comes to her rescue when she asks Carol
to investigate the disappearance of a fellow teacher, Anna.
Thus begins the second installment in the Carol Reed series by
MDNA Games, a Swedish husband-and-wife team. Will Carol, once
again, prevail? Read on to find out!
As with Remedy
before it, Hope Springs Eternal is strictly first-person,
point-and-click through slideshow-style environments. Once again
using the Adventure
Maker engine, movement is confined to the four basic cardinal
directionsmeaning that access to some locations is only
possible from a specific spot and/or direction. Getting in and
out of your inventory is a piece of cake: move the interactive
cursor to the top of the screen, which opens the inventory bar.
From there, it's possible to drag/drop to combine items or use
them in the game world. Right-clicking or pressing the "Esc"
button will give you the save/load/exit options.
Hope Springs Eternal's puzzles are mainly inventory-based
and involve picking up whatever isn't nailed to the floor and
using it in the appropriate place. Sometimes, however, you won't
be able to actually take an item until some other action has triggered
the need for the objectknowing which object you require
isn't always obvious, nor is it always clear where you might find
the needed item, making backtracking and random wandering around
town the order of the day. Some verbal cues from Carol would have
helped tremendously in a couple of situations where I wasn't sure
what to do next, although there are cues verbally given when attempting
to use an object in the wrong place.
There are a handful of standalone puzzlesincluding a slider
and a short quizthat are necessary to move the game forward;
however, the Nyqvists have included a nice little "skip the
puzzle" feature for those players who're unsuccessful in
solving the puzzle or who just don't want to stop the travelogue
feeling of the game by having to muddle through a brain-teaser.
With the exception of the "pat on the back" star rating
at the end of the game (a star is awarded for each puzzle successfully
completed), skipping the puzzles causes no ill effect on the outcome
of the game.
As was done for Remedy, the backgrounds for Hope Springs
Eternal are photographs of Norrköping digitally enhanced
to have the appearance of watercolor paintings. It's a beautiful
effect and quite calming as you roam through the various locationseven
the junkyard is pretty. When you interact with the other characters,
their unenhanced photographs are superimposed on top of the background
and will alter slightly as you advance through the subtitled dialogue
Music and sound for Hope Springs Eternal are very nice.
The original musical score is especially soothing and Enya-like.
For the most part, I didn't really hear it while playing as it
faded into the background while I walked around town. Once again,
there aren't a lot of ambient sounds in the game, but what there
werebirds singing, water flowing in a fountain or through
a canalwere nicely done. Personally, I think more ambient
sound would go a long way toward total immersion in the environments.
Although the music and sounds are well-done, the voice work,
unfortunately, didn't reach the level of the rest of the audio.
The majority of the actors simply read their lines or just sounded
tired and bored. The below-average voice work wasn't a deal-breaker,
but the lack of feeling in some of the characters was odd considering
Carol is dealing with an apparent disappearance of a mysterious
I did enjoy looking at Hope Springs Eternal, but for me
it was more of a gentle, sedate travelogue showcasing the attractions
of a Swedish village more than an actual game. Nor did it help
any that the story ended so abruptly. Judging by the ending that
was presented, it would appear that the developers already have
another story in mind for the series. If that's the case, I hope
that they improve their storytelling skills to correspond with
the beauty of their game.
Bottom line: if you're looking for a serene, tranquil visit to
a quaint village, then definitely pick up Hope Springs Eternal;
on the other hand, if you're looking for a challenging adventure,
you might want to try something else.
Release Date: October 2005
Four Fat Chicks Links
64 MB RAM
8 MB v ideo card
500 MB free hard disk space
Where to Find It
Games $18 (includes worldwide shipping)
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