Uncharted Tides: Port Royal is a fantasy, adventure, hidden object game developed by Cordelia Games and published by Artifex Mundi that released almost exactly one year ago in 2019. The story revolves around a young woman named Mary Jane who goes on a swashbuckling quest to find her father, Mason. Even though the infamous pirate has been missing for decades, when Mary Jane receives a message from his oldest mate that he can track Mason down, she jumps at the opportunity, bringing her loyal thiefly chum, Jack, along for the ride.
What initially drew me to Uncharted Tides as the high fantasy aspect. I love pirates and pretty much everything that revolves around them. For example, I have all the lines for each of the Pirates of the Caribbean films memorised because I’ve watched them so many times. Some of my favourite fantasy books to read are high fantasy. So, naturally when a pirate-infused Hidden Object game was suggested to me on Steam (damn you, Steam), I added it to my wishlist and eagerly waited for it go on sale. When it did during Steam’s Spring Sale, I snagged it super-fast.
If there is one trait that instantly pops into my head upon hearing the title, it would have to be its graphics and artistic qualities. Visually, it was so beautifully and vibrant, and does an excellent job of encapsulating a high fantasy atmosphere. Plus, this is one of the most detailed-oriented HO games I’ve ever played. For example, the little X that is used to close out of boxes and zoomed in puzzle sections consists of a globe that spins whenever the mouse hovers over it. It’s shiny and detailed like a real sepia coloured globe as well. There are brass tentacles (from a Kraken) that decorate the menu boxes. The mouse pointer is similar to that of an arrow on an old-time nautical compass. The item bar that is situated at the bottom of the screen, the one that houses all the items the player picks up while playing, isn’t a typical bar that’s a whole separate box. Rather it’s a seamless gradient of oceanic blue that doesn’t stand out or block the view to the surroundings at the bottom of the screen. It’s all quite lovely and you can tell that a lot of care went into the creation of this game.
Another element that really stood out was the voice acting. A couple of the accents are noticeably inauthentic, but the emotions and the actual acting bit felt far more natural than other HO games I’ve played. It didn’t feel like the actors were bored out of their minds and merely reading lines in the most humdrum manner possible. This helped to create a livelier playing experience.
The gameplay is pretty standard and what you’d expect of a HO game. You find clues and items and then use said items to solve puzzles and help progress the storyline. Some of those elements are streamlined in Uncharted Tides: Port Royal, which makes playing feel smoother and more effortless. For example, in some situations after acquiring all of the pieces for a specific puzzle (literally), it’s typical for the player to have to place each piece in its correct position or slot. However, here, it’s automatically done for the more tedious puzzles saving the player the monotonous task. Some of the hidden object scenes—the ones where the player must gather small pieces to a bigger item—are aesthetically whimsical with the silhouettes of the objects shown on canvas flags that adorn the HO menu box, taking that pirate vibe a bit higher. For these, and the more traditional HO sections, the items are fairly easy to track down, even in a chaotic mess of hodgepodge objects. The puzzles are also laid-back and don’t require too much thinking or pondering to solve, which helps the player to just enjoy the environments and storyline.
The most unique aspect of the gameplay is that instead of having one point-of-view (POV) to play from, there are two that the player switches between throughout the main storyline to help move forward. We start from the perspective of Jack, the loyal thief, and then after certain plot points, we transition to Mary Jane’s POV. This bounce around occurs right up until the end. I loved it because it was such a new and refreshing element to HO games, and also because I feel it added a bit more dimension to what would otherwise be a relatively straightforward and conventional playthrough for this genre.
Other minor titbits that tie everything together nicely include the period, swashbuckling music, a charming little parrot dude who has a knack for stealing bullets, and an ending that leaves the game open for a much welcomed sequel, if the developers decide to go down that route (which I hope they do!). Also, the character Mary Jane is quite obviously modelled after Elizabeth Swan from the Pirates of the Caribbean films; you can tell from her accent, attitude and expressions, and overall character design. Jack’s quips also seem to be reminiscent of Captain Jack Sparrow. These aren’t negative quirks, by far, more like small observations. So, if you’re into that sort of thing, this may enhance your gameplay a bit more. I know it definitely did for me as a diehard fan of the franchise.
Overall, Uncharted Tides: Port Royal is hands-down one of the best hidden object games that I have played yet and I highly recommend this to fans of the genre, or folx looking for a genuinely fun, short (approximately three hours), and casual gaming kick that’s also pretty high quality.
Uncharted Tides: Port Royal is available on the following platforms: