Adventure Gamers Awards
In Orchid Games’ casual adventure sequel Royal Trouble: Honeymoon Havoc, wacky lovebirds Loreen and Nathaniel are at it again. They’re about to embark on what they believe will be a charming, festival-filled honeymoon, but a strange set of circumstances soon has them plotting an escape instead of their next beach-side activity. Following them on their zany point-and-click adventure through a new set of romcom misfortunes, you’ll find a few mild laughs, some pretty scenery, and a lot of puzzles to be solved, if no real challenge or story depth of note.
At first, it looks as if the prince and princess will get the “happily ever after” they dreamed of at the end of their first adventure. A pleasant, slightly loopy medieval soundtrack with sprightly mandolin strings and jaunty flute whistles welcomes you to the couple’s honeymoon musings as they travel in their royal carriage. A narrator, with a voice built for movie trailers, tells you that the newlyweds are in for an amazing time as they pass by billboards (billboards?!) advertising a fun resort castle getaway – or are they? Upon their arrival, the happy couple is whisked away to their luxury rooms, but just as Nate checks out the view, a trap door collapses beneath his feet. Once again, the royal pair will need to overcome obstacles on their own and help each other out if they’re to reunite and finally break free.
It isn’t long before you discover the man behind the trouble, Lord Drak. For some as-yet-unknown reason, he has imprisoned the couple and given them a simple challenge: Find their way out. Odd that the jailer has implored his captives to find an escape, but the two are ready to rise to the challenge. This mysterious proviso is just the introduction to a series of oddities that confront them as they roam the castle and its grounds, such as Loreen discovering, after returning to a room, that a church organ has replaced the large bed that was there. Um. What?
The organ’s odd appearance leads to a simple memory puzzle where you will have to repeat notes based off a melody you hear. The keys also light up, so both the sights and sounds serve to give you clues. This puzzle’s simplicity is echoed in the many other tasks you encounter. Some reflect the game’s whimsical humor, such as when Nathaniel must look for body oil to escape a room where a temptress is trying to seduce him. What could he possibly use it for?
There are three difficulty levels, with the easiest providing hints and skips for puzzles that recharge quickly, as well as glimmers over active areas on the screen. The majority of puzzles in the game are inventory-based (with some memory tests, jigsaws, and a simple timed puzzle thrown in for good measure), with odd items often existing purely to keep the gameplay moving forward. I mean, really, a can opener sitting next to a bucket toilet? And if the main story puzzles don’t keep you fully occupied, there’s an overarching minigame where you collect hidden lion heads to fill out a family crest. There are 29 scenes altogether and one lion’s head is located in each; collecting all of them gives you one of several achievements you can earn throughout the game.
You’ll be able to play as both Loreen and Nathaniel at various points. Similar to the first installment, you will alternate characters only at predetermined points, but unlike last time, where Loreen and Nathaniel swapped items between each other frequently and through clever means, here there are only a few straightforward item exchanges. This further reduces the already minimal challenge, as previously you had to determine whether something in Loreen’s or Nathaniel’s inventory was needed next to progress the story.
Luckily for the hapless couple, Lord Drak has often left helpful clues throughout the castle for his many traps. There are times, however, when you will discover cryptic symbols… say, carved in the woodwork. On the easiest difficulty setting, there were times where I didn’t find any use for such symbols. And even for those occasions when you do use symbols in a particular puzzle, you do not need to rely on your memory. When you encounter a puzzle that uses the clues you’ve already observed, a paper automatically pops up with the images emblazoned on them, eliminating the need to take notes.
But back to the royal couple. The trap door shuttles Nathaniel to a basement level replete with a mysterious, exotic beauty who asks him if wants a bath and a massage. Of course Nathaniel, who is loyal to the core, won’t dignify the question with an answer – not that he has much dignity at that point, given that he has somehow lost his clothes and is addressing the lady in nothing but a striped undershirt and boxer shorts covered in golden crowns. In fact, one of the running jokes in the game is Nathaniel’s horrifically poor fashion sense. And yet, ever the gentleman even in his skivvies, he simply seeks to escape from his… uh, treacherous predicament and find his true love.
The underground room is brightly colored, with steam rising from a shimmering bath and water sluicing down from a golden jug. In the background, fire crackles in a cozy fireplace. Such ambient animations are nice, but sometimes the screen goes black when a character performs an action, which is a bit of a cop out. As you progress through sumptuous apartments, dungeons, neglected garages, a treasury, and outdoor circus caravans, colors are deliberately oversaturated, with even a torture chamber stuffed full of sapphire blues and ruby reds from all of the jewels used to decorate various devices. The game is very pretty to look at throughout, with heavy tapestries draping the walls and swinging lanterns adding atmosphere.
While Nathaniel figures out how to use that oil to make his exit, you switch back to Loreen. At times, the music and background noise nicely set the mood, such as in a dark room full of decaying debris and even moldy old bones, where the twang of an out-of-tune piano mingles with the cawing of a crow. Sadly, there’s no handsome bath attendant for Loreen to hang out with here.
The point of view switches often between Nathaniel and Loreen, with the two sometimes traversing the same sets on different occasions. At times, one person will see a puzzle that the other will have to solve. In such cases, items that may not have been of use to one character will be available for the next character to use. These switches are not difficult for the most part, with the items a particular protagonist needs for a puzzle pretty clearly telegraphed far in advance.
As the story moves forward, it unfortunately falls into a standard romcom pattern, with Loreen discovering clues of Nathaniel’s interactions with the alluring bath beauty and becoming jealous. I’d have thought that simply trying to find an escape from the world’s worst adventure castle to be her number one concern, but oh no, she predictably starts to question her true love’s loyalties as she discovers more and more evidence of Nathaniel’s presence with the woman. These petty jealousies push to the sidelines the main tale of escape and some oddness about a curse that can only be lifted by a woman and a power-hungry despot who’s looking for some royal blood to help with a crazy experiment.
Still, there’s some light fun to be had with the different characters the royal couple meets, including an absentminded old treasurer, a love-sick sword thrower, and a mysterious wizard. Each of these oddballs hooks Loreen and Nathaniel into their own mini-dramas, providing still more obstacles to their reunion. As you guide the spunky Loreen and the bumbling Nathaniel back to each other, beautiful sets and a wide variety of inventory puzzles make Royal Trouble 2 a handsome, if slight, little adventure. A bit more complexity and depth in both the story and puzzles would have made this gaming holiday more than a trifle to dally with, but if you’re looking for a relaxing three-hour experience, this is one romantic adventure that seems a decent match.