Today’s games tend to lack creativity. Their objectives require you to know which buttons make you jump and which make you attack your enemy and that’s about it. And while critics blame such games for the increased lack of physical activity amongst the youth population, they forget to mention that there’s a significant lack of mental activity as well.
So when games like Simon Graham and the Extraordinary Timepiece by The App House, LLC comes along, the need to think in order to progress in one’s game becomes a refreshing quality. Of course, I will not deny that first person shooters and adventure games do indeed take some cunning and skill, but Simon Graham provides a family friendly puzzle game that provides challenges and adventures perfect for the developing child that can be enjoyed by all ages.
The story begins with Simon Graham, a 10-year-old boy, walking home from school. Simon lives with his grandmother, Elizabeth, who has been raising him since he was born due to the fact that his mother died in childbirth and his father abandoned him. However, when Simon arrives back home, he finds the door unlocked and his grandmother missing. With his grandmother having been kidnapped, Simon must make the journey from the small town he’s never left to the big city.
Solving an array of puzzles along the way – visual, word, math, jigsaw and hidden picture puzzles – the only clues Simon has as to his grandmother’s whereabouts come from the diary she left behind. This, along with the discovery of pieces of Simon’s grandmother’s pocket watch along the way, combine with a series of integrated puzzles that not only enhance the plot, but actually propel the story forward themselves.
Much like Professor Layton and the Curious Village for Nintendo DS, one cannot help but compare Simon Graham to its extremely similar counterpart. However, unlike its more famous doppelganger, Simon Graham lacks a few characteristics that would enhance the game’s ease.
Namely, Simon Graham links the plot and puzzles so intricately that one must complete a given puzzle before being allowed to advance. While Professor Layton allows players to save up coins they can later redeem for hints on confusing puzzles, users have no access to hints with Simon Graham. This certainly adds to the challenge, but also leads to discouragement when one simply cannot solve the problem. Plus, Simon Graham requires that you solve the puzzle before advancing, and if you cannot solve the problem, it appears you have hit the end of the road.
Also, Professor Layton awards points and allows users to come back to certain puzzles if they cannot figure them out initially. However, abandoning a question in Simon Graham would mean abandoning the game altogether. Though I know Simon Graham is trying to stand out as its own game, such differences only detract from its appeal. Yet compared to games in general, Simon Graham stands out as one that may get the wheels turning throughout your family. And, with a few small additions and tweaks, perhaps Simon Graham can get us back on a more direct route to finding his grandmother!
Simon Graham and the Extraordinary Timepiece requires iPhone OS 3.0 or later and is compatible with iPhone and iPod Touch. A small expedite fee was paid by the developer in order to speed up the publication of this review.