Pahelika: Secret Legends

Posted by Patrick Talbot.
First posted on 15 November 2013. Last updated on 15 November 2013.
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Pahelika: Secret Legends
A locked chest is found in the attic.
Pahelika: Secret Legends
Gaining entrance to the wizard's lab will be a challenge.
Pahelika: Secret Legends
A portal has been opened.
Pahelika: Secret Legends
The jigsaw needs to be reassembled, albeit with a twist.
Pahelika: Secret Legends
The stone faces ask some thought provoking questions.

Books are symbols of knowledge, and knowledge is power. In human history, there is no greater reservoir for knowledge than books. Books provide knowledge, enlightenment, and adventures of the mind. Many adventure games also use books as an antecedent for their thematic stories. Pahelika: Secret Legends from Ironcode Gaming is an example of a game that uses the power of books to take you on a magical adventure to faraway places, literally.

The game involves you, the player, looking for an ancient mystical book called the Pahelika. The tome has the power to transport the reader to faraway lands. To protect this magical book, its mysterious author has set up many challenges so that only the worthy will be privileged to attain it. The game begins with you taking on a mundane chore of cleaning up the attic. Here, the game gives a brief tutorial on the interface and its main controls. Novice players who are new to adventure games will find this tutorial to be a gentle and useful introduction.

Once you discover the Pahelika, you will have the ability to transport to other lands. This is not unlike the linking books in Myst. However, unlike in Myst where you must first locate the missing pages from the linking books, in this game you must first open portals in the book to go from place to place. The task is not as easy as it sounds. This is because you must earn the ability to open the portals by solving the various puzzle challenges that are protecting them. These puzzles cover the standard gamut in adventure games, ranging from piecing together picture tiles in a jigsaw to putting the right objects in the right slots to assembling seemingly random objects for a fire starter. Not surprisingly, the more challenging puzzles require more intellectual reasoning. Some players may find these puzzles frustrating, but I have found them to be rather refreshing. After all, it is more intellectually satisfying to solve a harder than an easier puzzle. To the developer's credit, there is an official strategy guide posted online at the developer's website that can be downloaded for free.

A recurrent puzzle in this game is the jigsaw, albeit with a twist. Each jigsaw has 30 pieces, but only 5 pieces are visible at a time. When you put a puzzle piece in the right spot, a new piece appears and takes its place. The earlier jigsaws are easy to solve, while the later jigsaws are more difficult because of the lack of details on the puzzle pieces. Most often, it requires laborious trial and error to find their correct spots. Players who are not jigsaw fans may find these mini-games to be a little too challenging.

To aid players who are easily frustrated by not knowing what to do to make progress in the game, all interactive hotspots in each location are highlighted by sparkles whenever the cursor is passed over them. Some locations even include explicit instructions on what needs to be done to finish the scenes.

The different locations in the game are presented in a slideshow format. In any given location, your view of the environment is fixed. There is no camera panning. Some locations have background animations. Most scenes are beautifully rendered with realistic details, making you stop briefly just to enjoy the view. In most of the locations you visit, there are items you need to collect for the inventory. Fortunately, there is no annoying pixel hunting to gather these items. Any item in the inventory that cannot be used in the current location will sparkle in a different way. This is a nice aid once you have figured it out.

Most of the game's story is presented through cut scenes that resemble a graphic novel. While the graphics in these cut scenes are more stylized that those in the playable scenes, the old book styled illustrations serve their purpose well. All of the cut scenes also feature voice narration. The first voice is that of an elder scholar who is passing knowledge to a younger apprentice. The second voice is that of the narrator who speaks at the beginning of each scene. The voice work is well done and authentic sounding.

Ambient background sounds, from the cracking of the old floorboards to the chirping of the birds in trees, befit the local sceneries. Some players may choose to don on headphones just for a more sensual auditory experience.

Disappointingly, gameplay is very linear. The puzzles that protect the book are not linked and placed in different locations. Yet, these locations must be visited in a strict sequential order. Within each location, your objective is to journey through it and to collect items to activate a portal that will take you back to the study which itself serves as the hub. From there, you proceed to the next location. If ever you are stuck with a puzzle, the game will drudge to a halt until that puzzle is solved.

Overall, Pahelika: Secret Legends is a game that will present a decent cerebral challenge for any gamer seeking an intellectually stimulating gaming experience. If you are an adventure game fan who loves thought provoking and challenging puzzles, then the Pahelika is just the tome that you want to open and explore its secrets.

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