STAFF REVIEW of True Fear: Forsaken Souls Part 2 (Xbox One)

Thursday, July 21, 2022.
by Adam Dileva

True Fear: Forsaken Souls Part 2 Box art Hidden object games (HOG’s) used to be immensely popular way back in the mid 90’s to 2000’s sometime. The last few years, Artifex Mundi used to be really the only developer bringing these type of games to console where you were given a scene and had to find hidden objects in a usually static image that made it quite difficult, much like a Where’s Waldo. It’s a new day and developer Goblinz has decided to make quite an entrance with their latest title, True Fear: Forsaken Souls Part 2. When Myst released near the mid 90’s and its sequel Riven a few years later, it not only took the puzzle adventure genre by storm, but incorporated some HOG elements where you needed to move from scene to scene to find key items you needed to solve puzzles with point and click, incorporating both genre types.

I never played the original True Fear: Forsaken Souls, so I went into its sequel, True Fear: Forsaken Souls Part 2, completely blind. Doing some research, it turns out the original was actually reviewed and ranked quite highly for a HOG. In generally, most HOG’s are set in some sort of fantasy backdrop, but not here, instead putting you in the middle of a mystery with plenty of horror elements as you try to escape.

It’s been quite a wait for this sequel, as the original released back in 2015, and after seeing the credits roll I really hope it’s a much shorter wait for the concluding chapter that is designed to be a trilogy. If you played the original, you’ll be happy to know that the long wait has resulted in a much longer game and experience overall with twice the amount of puzzles, better graphics and continuing the story exactly where the original left off. Better yet, there’s a demo to try if you want to see if its gameplay is something that might interest you or not.

Having not played the precursor, I was wondering if there was going to be some sort of recap to fill new players like myself in to the events that have happened to this point. While you’ll obviously get more out of the sequel having played the first, there is a brief opening cutscene that explains the events that took place beforehand, so you won’t come into Part 2 completely lost.

Taking place literally moments after the original’s ending, you again play as Holly, searching for her sister within the Dark Falls Asylum. While the narrative isn’t always front and center, the core experience comes from its gameplay and puzzle solving with some story bits thrown in here and there just enough to keep you intrigued, slowly peeling away layers of an intricate story. The story elements are a slow drip, enough to keep a mystery about it all but always just enough to keep you interested to see its conclusion.

By solving puzzles, finding clues and making your way through the Asylum, you’ll not only uncover some answers you’re looking for, but probably have more questions as revelations come to light. What happened to her sister? What about her Mother? There’s no way anyone could have survive that tragic fire, right? Holly might start to see things, or are they really there? With much of the story being told in journal findings, cassette tapes, letters and a handful of cutscenes, keep in mind that True Fear: Forsaken is designed to be a trilogy, so you might not get all of the answers you seek by the end if you manage to solve its more challenging puzzles.

Before you begin Holly’s adventure though you need to decide the difficulty you want to play on. There are three different difficulty settings that offer varying levels of help and hints, as well as a separate setting for specifically the puzzles as well. Even on both sliders set to the easier settings, some puzzles can be a bit obtuse, but with an integrated hint system and even able to bypass puzzles completely if you become stumped, there’s plenty of options regardless of your skill level.

If you’ve ever played Myst, Riven, The 7th Guest or any other similar games in the genre, you’ll have an idea what to expect. Part action puzzle game, part HOG, you’ll traverse the asylum scene by scene, looking for objects that will eventually all play a part of numerous puzzles later down the road. If you’ve played a HOG before, you’ll know that your cursor needs to hover over the item that you want to click, though this is sometimes easier said than done given how large the aiming reticule is. On easier difficulties the objects in a scene will also have a sparkle to them, telling you exactly where to click if you simply want to experience the game without much of the hassle.

Given its horror backdrop, there are a few creepy moments but you don’t have to worry about many jump scares or worrying about being chased or timed in any of the puzzles. You’re simply searching each scene for objects that can be put in your inventory and figuring out where and when to use them appropriately to continue on your adventure. Obvious items like keys will unlock certain doors or other things, but you might need to use a dagger to pry open something, cut some cloth or hammer some frozen ice to find out what that shiny object is underneath.

In many HOG’s there’s generally a little bit of backtracking, but usually once you’ve found all of the items in a scene you’re pretty much done there for the most part. Not in True Fear: Forsaken Souls Part 2 though. Expect to backtrack constantly, even all the way back to the opening scenes as you gather new objects in your bag that can now be used to solve a new puzzle. With roughly forty scenes or so, there’s a lot of areas you’ll explore numerous times, but it never becomes stale. Thankfully there’s also a map-like system in place that is presented in a Polaroid style layout where you can instantly fast travel from any scene to another if you don’t want to use the D-Pad to move in a direction. On the easier settings you’ll even be shown an exclamation point on the specific Polaroid scenes where there’s something you can gather or solve, always guiding you should you want the assistance. Simply stumbling between dozens of scenes would be frustrating, so I was glad to have the guide when needed to save ample time.

As for the puzzles themselves, there’s plenty of different styles, each varying in type and difficulty. Sometimes you’ll simply need to spot a specific amount of differences between two similar pictures, other times you’ll need to use numerous handles to rotate some gears or solve a pipeline puzzle. Given that the puzzles are the core gameplay element aside from the HOG portions, I don’t want to spoil any of them, but some will surely stump you and make you want to rely on the integrated hint system. I’ll admit, there were two or three near the end where I needed to utilize the auto-solve on a puzzle, as spending 15 minutes trying to brute force my way through simply didn’t work.

Kudos to you if you don’t use the hint system or go check YouTube for some sort of walkthrough, especially with how pixel specific you sometimes need to be to even find the puzzle pieces you need at times. If there was a puzzle you really enjoyed you can even replay any of them from the main menu once unlocked for more practice. While some puzzles felt a tad obtuse, at least there were no ‘red herrings’, meaning every item you pick up will be used for something else at some point in Holly’s adventure.

I wasn’t initially sure how a HOG would work with a horror backdrop, but the aesthetic was done quite well and the puzzles made completely sense given the objects found. While you won’t be scared really at any point, there is an overall creepy undertone that never goes away as you explore a seemingly abandoned Asylum. While there’s basically no dialogue outside of finding some hidden tapes and the odd cutscene, there’s classic creaks and noises that will make you think something is nearby around the corner. While not many musical tracks there is some repetition, but it never really outstayed its welcome, probably most likely due to me rather focusing on scanning each scene with my eagle eyes to look for anything that seems out of place and trying to figure out what to do with each inventory item.

For a HOG that should last 8-10 hours or so depending on your skill level and dependency on built-in hints, the $12.99 CAD price tag is by far more than a fair price. I’m definitely going to go back and play the first game as I wait for the trilogy conclusion, hopefully sooner than later. While I wasn’t a fan of the abrupt cliffhanger ending, True Fear: Forsaken Souls Part 2 certainly knows how to engross you an in interesting story, test your puzzle solving skills with a horror backdrop and is one of the better HOG’s I’ve played in recent memory.

**True Fear: Forsaken Souls Part 2 was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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