Facebook Game Faceoff: Gardens of Time vs Mystery Manor

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While Facebook's thousands of social games allow us to do everything from tending crops to growing cities and even defeating evil empires set on world destruction, there's one area of casual gaming that has just begun to really take a stand on Facebook: the hidden object game. Dozens of these games are released for download every month, but what if you want to play a social version of a hidden object game on Facebook (not to mention, play one of these games for free)? Luckily, there are two very solid options to choose from in Playdom's Gardens of Time and 6waves / Game Insight's Mystery Manor.

While both of these games come with quite a bit of complexity and depth, let's take a look at three major elements that hidden object game fans would likely look for in a title. The most obvious "want" in a hidden object game is a huge selection of scenes to enjoy, along with the variety of items you'll be searching for. Next comes item placement; are these hidden objects really hidden, changing location each time you replay a scene, or can you simply memorize their locations? Finally, are there any gameplay elements outside of simple item hunts?

Pictures are Worth 1,000 Words:

Don't worry, we won't bore you will all 1,000, but we will take a look at each games' setting and themes, which alters the types of scenes you'll search. For those that have always wanted to travel the world, you can experience a very cluttered version of locations like Giza, London, Florence and more in Gardens of Time. You can even travel throughout a historical timeline to see ancient Egyptian tombs still bursting at the seams with treasure or classical Italian gondolas not yet transformed into a tourist trap. Mixing standard hidden object scenes (find items on a list) with spot-the-difference scenes, you'll be able to unlock new chapters as you play, increasing your available scenes to search to a high degree.

For Mystery Manor, the setting is altogether different, and even a bit sinister. Ghosts and other nasty ghouls have taken over a sprawling estate, and it's up to you to search this haunted home for treasures. Each scene in Mystery Manor is themed in the same way - dark, dreary and cluttered with various household items like vases, silverware or clothing items. There's a Victorian charm to each room that hearkens to some of the most popular hidden object games ever released, so if you're looking for a traditional theme, Mystery Manor has it in spades.

Should I Be Taking Notes?:

In a social game setting, gameplay needs to be allowed to repeat forever, without a real end, so revisiting certain scenes in hidden object games is downright inevitable. It's in how the games treat these second (and third, and fourth) visits that can make or break them. For Gardens of Time, items remain in constant locations, but as you master a scene (that is, as you replay it more and more), your list of necessary items may become harder. That is, there are more than 12 items hidden in each scene, so you may wind up looking for items that are much smaller in size than before. Still, there are only so many items that you could ever be asked to find, so memorizing item locations is a sound strategy to undertake. This experience will ultimately allow you to earn higher scores on scenes, as you become more familiar with the standard item locations and can click on them faster.

On the other side of the coin, Mystery Manor's items cycle through multiple locations each time you play a scene. A flashlight that once sat upon the couch may be on the floor the next time you play that particular scene, as but one example. Items can only ever be located in a handful of locations, but with all 12 items in a scene changing locations each time you play, it adds more originality and freshness to your searches. This also adds more challenge to the experience, with is an equally important thing to consider.

Rounding Out the Experience:

Even the most dedicated of hidden object fans may want something more out of their experiences, which is where Gardens of Time's name really shines through. Between each hidden object scene, you'll have the opportunity to design your own garden, using themed artifacts and landmarks from around the world as decorations, along with items like flowers and garden benches, to name just a few. While you may not be tasked with creating a full town for some sort of virtual population of citizens, you can think of these elements as those from a common city-builder, as you can build paths to walk on, and even increase your Reputation, similar to increasing a town's population.


Meanwhile, Mystery Manor sticks closer to the hidden object cloth, instead offering you smaller item hunts when helping friends that are trapped in the rooms of your own manor, or by helping them by visiting them in your friends bar.

While both Gardens of Time and Mystery Manor offer beautifully drawn hidden object scenes with unique stories (including quests to complete) and social elements that actively engage your friends, the make or break element in any hidden object game is whether or not you can simply coast by memorizing or will be actively challenged time and time again. As Mystery Manor keeps bringing the challenge over time, we declare it the victor in this second Facebook Game Faceoff! The margin here was slim - almost too close to call - which leaves us to ask which game you prefer.



[Garden screenshot via HerbyTod]

Are there other gameplay elements that matter to you more when choosing a hidden object game? Ready to defend your chosen game against the masses? Speak up in the comments!
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