The Eyes of Ara Review | The Eyes of Ara invites you to escape to another place. Become enthralled in a stunning Adventure-Puzzle game set in a gorgeous 3D environment. Explore a vast and ancient castle riddled with secret vaults and hidden rooms. Solve elaborate puzzles, locate lost treasures, and unravel an ancient mystery.
Developer: 100 Stones Interactive
Console Played On: Steam
Number Of Players: 1
Do you like abandoned castles? Check ✅
Do you yearn to relive the mid 90s? Check ✅
Does a plethora of puzzles and secret passages get you giddy? Check ✅
Well if so, this point-and-click game might just be for you.
One Man Did It Alone…
The Eyes of Ara is a point-and-click game that harks back to the mid 1990s, influenced by games such as Myst, Broken Sword and Medievil. It involves, you; a radio technician assigned to shut down the dominant broadcast coming from the castle you arrive at via boat in the opening of the game. Of course, as expected, it is not going to be as simple as shutting off a switch and picking up your paycheck!
The first thing that needs to be mentioned, is that the developer, 100 Stones Interactive; is just one person – an Australian games industry veteran called Ben Droste. The fact that this entire game was developed by one person absolutely blows my mind.
Take Me Back…
The theming of the game is very much on point (sorry, poor pun) and is idiomatic to the times of the mid 1990s; right down to the bulky computers and tacky futuristic elements like simple LCD graphics screens. The music places itself more towards the historical thematics of the castle, and from time to time, the score would transcend me back to the 1998 PS1 game Medievil; both having similar musical textures and arrangements. I also found myself being drawn to the SFX – clicking on walls, doors and other materials rewarded you with some satisfying foley.
Visually, the games aesthetics are not anything ground-breaking, but everything serves their purpose well; be it a secret passage or a mechanism that signifies a puzzle solved. I don’t know if I was all that immersed however. There is a narrative which progresses as you pick up books and diaries throughout the game, but its entirely static; ie: words on a page; which don’t bring anything story-based, convincingly to life. I found myself often not willing to read anything thoroughly that wasn’t pertinent to solving any of the puzzles.
A Puzzling Affair!
The puzzles. There are lots of puzzles. It’s a really meaty experience for anyone wanting their solving itch scratched. There are a wide range of puzzles and again, the style of them hark back to games like Myst and even the earlier games of the Resident Evil series. Not the shooty-zombie bits of those games, but the stop-and-think, work-this-connundrum-out parts.
Despite the solid range of puzzles presented however, there is a lot of searching involved. If you like searching for items in escape rooms and other puzzle-based games; this might be heaven for you. For others however (and especially if you have a non-performant PC running the game, where the graphics can cause certain items to blend in with the background), search fatigue can set in quickly.
A Bonus Or A Burden?
Another thing to mention, are the “bonus” items that can be collected throughout the game. There are a lot of these items, however they serve no greater purpose in progressing. Many of them involve solving puzzle sets that are much, much harder than the main puzzle pathway. I could very easily imagine escape room fans getting quite frustrated at solving one of these challenging puzzles, only to be rewarded with an item that is optional to acquire. I know red herrings are a touchy subject with the escape room industry and I’d be inclined to say similar strong feelings with these bonus items, could very much be a thing.
There is a small hints mechanic in the game. If you are wondering around aimlessly for too long, the game might point to an (already acquired) item you could use in the room that you are in. Aside from that you’ll have to hit the internet for text or video walkthroughs. No major issue here however, there are plenty of spoiler-free walkthroughs available, should you need them.
Just Point… And Click…
Control-wise on steam, all you need is a mouse with a roller. It’s simple, but effective and works perfectly well. My only consideration for improvement is that there is no compatibility for gamepads, for differentiation purposes. Aside from that, it’s a minor consideration. The mouse controls do exactly what they need to do.
How Much Guv’nor?
The price point, is around the £12 mark for all consoles. I estimate that The Eyes Of Ara will keep players busy for 7-12 hours based on a single playthrough without guides. I’m not sure if there is much replay value aside from walking around the castle’s pleasing environment. That being said, a £12 game of this calibre made by a single person, is highly reasonable.
For The Apprentice Or Master Technician?
If you love to search to your hearts content, this game may be easier for you; otherwise, it will probably serve as a difficult challenge for the majority of the game’s lifespan. I’d say that the initial puzzles start off quite easy to get you hooked in, then the difficulty ramps up quite swiftly; especially with the acquisition of the bonus items.
Considering this is the efforts of a single person, there are many elements of this game that are outstanding. However, from an escape roomer’s point of view, it falls a little short on a couple of issues. That aside, it’s a super game that has a ridiculous amount of puzzles to get stuck into, alongside it being a visual love letter to three decades past.