Updated: The Stone of Destiny Review

The 1.1 update introduced a range of fixes to The Stone of Destiny, including a better UI, smoother scrolling around levels–and, most importantly, increased difficulty. The hints don’t seem to charge as quickly as they used to, and the game is much quicker to punish you for clicking around randomly.

With all of that in mind, along with the fact that the game’s price has been running from 99 cents to $2.99 recently (it started at $9.99), we’re changing our score from a 2 to a 3.

The Stone of Destiny, by Artur Ostapenko and company, is the first and only ‘hidden objects’ game available for the iPhone and iTouch, although we are sure that it will be losing its monopoly in the near future. The Stone of Destiny is definitely an impressive-looking title, and its polished gameplay fits the iPhone like a glove. It’ll also bore the pants off of anyone looking for a game-like experience, because it’s about as challenging as falling asleep after a large meal.

Hidden objects games like The Stone of Destiny are basically digitized versions of the classic ‘eye spy’ newspaper puzzle, which gives you a list of objects and asks you to pick them out of a crowded scene. There are household items, weapons, pieces of fruit, animals, designs, and many other kinds of miscellaneous doodads blended into each landscape, and most of them are blended into the background or otherwise camouflaged.

As you might expect, the iPhone is an ideal venue for this kind of game, and The Stone of Destiny holds up its end of the bargain when it comes to graphics. Its 25 photo-realistic environments, which run the gamut from medieval castles to Buddhist temples, are highly imaginative and laden with detail. There are also hand-drawn cartoons to move the story along, and a neatly animated user interface. It’s all very professional and pleasing to the eye.

The developer built a nice little game around all of the pretty pictures, too. It’s easy to scroll around each environment and pick items out with a finger, and a quick double-tap zooms in on the scene to identify smaller objects. The gameplay has some variety, too. Sometimes, instead of a text list of items, you’ll get a list of their silhouettes; plus, there are occasional ‘boss’ puzzles every couple of levels that have nothing to do with hidden objects, to further break up the action.

The only real problem with all of this’”and it’s a major one–is that the game’s difficulty level starts at zero and stays there. There is no natural progression or manual adjustment at all. To begin with, you’re given absurd lengths of time (usually between 25 and 35 minutes) to solve each scene, as well as a hint every minute or so that points out an object for free. The especially lazy don’t even need to use the hinting system, though. You can also just tap around each environment randomly and you will eventually hit the right objects. The game warns you that you’ll be penalized for doing this, and after you attempt it about 50 times, you are’”it docks you a whole minute! Furthermore, the boss puzzles are a joke; none of them took us any longer than 30 seconds to solve. When the most difficult part of a game involves drawing a special glyph after each level with your finger, it becomes difficult to sustain interest in it.

In short, The Stone of Destiny has all the ingredients necessary to be a good game’¦ except for the all-important motivating challenge. We know that the iPhone is supposed to be a casual platform, but even ultracasual games need to push the player a little, and the way it’s presently built, The Stone of Destiny is almost more of an ‘activity’ than a ‘game.’ This might be appropriate for true non-gamers that are just looking for a simple pastime, but probably not for the rest of us.

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