In recent years it seems that the growth of gaming on mobile devices has brought about a renaissance of the more simple approaches to game design. Point-and-click or hidden item adventures lend themselves perfectly to the small screens and touch sensitive controls, with original titles and remakes alike finding themselves a new place in the hearts of a new generation of gamers.
As part of their resurgence, these games have even graduated from the smaller screens and made their way back to larger devices. Cue Anna’s Quest, a fairytale-inspired adventure from German software developer Daedalic Entertainment that puts you in control of the titular Anna, who is far from an ordinary young girl.
We’re introduced to Anna as she’s living with her grandfather in a small, picturesque village. It soon becomes apparent that the world may not be quite as peaceful and friendly as the cartoon visuals suggest, and that Anna’s grandfather is very protective of his ward. Anna is very inquisitive and intelligent early on, yet her guardian is still reluctant to allow her out of his sight for very long. This has to change, however, when he is taken ill and Anna has no choice but to take it upon herself to search for a cure.
The game takes story inspiration from a number of fairytales and fables, and does a great job of intertwining them into one simple yet lasting narrative. The basics of Anna’s Quest entail seeking out a kind-hearted magician who apparently has the power and willingness to help find a cure for Anna’s unwell grandfather. The task will not be simple, however, as she will have to contend with the unwanted attention of a variety of antagonists from witches to trolls and even the odd curious rat.
The simple story and impressive cast link up perfectly to set the game up nicely. Moving through an endless stream of hidden item puzzles and basic conversations could easily become very tedious, but this doesn’t happen often in Anna’s Quest. The beauty of the well-written and well-voiced characters is that they really sell the impression of variety to the game’s players. While the number of ill-meaning fiends and enemies Anna faces may be great, the list of helpful characters she befriends along the way is equal in size. Anna’s friends read like a list of Disney movie sidekicks and all add an extra element of heart and emotion to the world of the game.
In addition to sounding and appearing well, these characters also have to look good, and the developers have fortunately carried this off with aplomb. In fact, the whole game is pretty gorgeous from start to finish. From the animated wobbles of a boy cursed into the body of a stuffed bear to the richly detailed environments players guide Anna through, everything looks great. There’s a touch of the Professor Layton style about the facials, with more than enough character variety to showcase this was never a simple repetition task from the developers.
Where things fall down, however, is ultimately in some of its gameplay elements. The blend of Anna’s mysterious powers and useful inventory items makes for a nice arsenal for players to wield, but at times these tools just don’t seem to work in the way you’d think they should. Merging items is a great mechanic, but it’s regularly time-sensitive, so if you get ahead of yourself and try to mix something early then it won’t work. This can lead to some pretty frustrating moments when the right time does arise and you find yourself doubling back to a solution that you had found ages ago.
The game also gets frustrating when a few allies don’t quite flesh out their instructions or advice as well as they should. That’s not to say the game needs to hold players’ hands completely, of course, and the independence they give players through Anna’s intelligence is a strength. It was just unfortunate that a few sections didn’t capture the entertainment value they deserved to because of some obscure solutions or unhelpful guides.
For the most part, Anna’s Quest is a truly enjoyable game. There are a few gripes that could dissuade players from giving the game as much grace as it really deserves, but ultimately, the carefree fun that can be had with Anna and her friends will be the best hook the game has for drawing in its audience.
This review was based on a PC copy of the game, which was provided to us.
Despite boasting a simple and engaging storyline, Anna's Quest can't fully overcome unambitious gameplay and some frustrating design.