9 Clues 2: The Ward HD is a dark journey into an asylum with many secrets. The game begins when you and your partner, Owen Duffer, receive a strange call of distress from the Mnemosyne Asylum and when you go to the gloomy island where the asylum resides, all hell breaks loose. Your surroundings are about what you would expect of a decaying asylum on a foggy island. The story is set in the 1950's, so the hairstyles and dress follow suit with the time period. In addition to falling into a state of terrible disrepair as of late, the asylum suffered a devastating fire some years back and has never repaired that wing of the facility. Besides all of that, the place is just downright creepy.
The disturbing image of a scarecrow puppet makes appearances all throughout the game and seems to be the chosen method of psychological torture of the murderer at the asylum. You'll see it pop up time and again, but it is always unnerving.
The characters in the game, whether it be the asylum's administrator, Dr. Klaudia Kreuz, the sweet Nurse Ashley or the deranged patient, Zed Rascov all are quite over-the-top, but they are absolutely perfect for the story and really help to sell it completely. I also love your down-to-business partner Owen. His voice is perfect.
Background music can vacillate between intense and haunting, depending on the situation. It works perfectly to immerse you into the game, depending on what is happening at the moment.
9 Clues 2: The Ward HD places you in an insane asylum trying to solve the mysteries that abound there. A panicked phone call starts you and your partner off on your quest, but then a mysterious death as soon as you arrive complicates matters further. If you and Owen are to get out of there alive, you must solve the twisted mystery.
9 Clues 2: The Ward HD is a delicious mix of adventure gaming, quirky puzzles and Hidden Object Scenes that will force you to be on the lookout for objects in your environment, while also placing unique puzzles before you that deftly tie into the storyline of the game. For instance, you may have a puzzle where you must pass through each area without repeating a position (a standard puzzle for these types of games), but it is an elaborate lock on someone's door, so it ties into the plot. There are also pictures that need rearranging, either because you have the scattered pieces of a whole picture, or you have a picture board where you must rearrange them to form a story. There is a memory game, a pipe game, several games where you must either press buttons in a particular sequence, Simon style, or rotate mechanisms to change the colors to match. It's fairly standard stuff, but the puzzles were fun and I liked that they weren't simply random puzzles that were thrown in. They made sense with the storyline.
My favorite part of the game, by far, is Detective Mode. When you come upon a crime scene, you enter Detective Mode and it looks like a Hidden Object Scene, but you don't know what you are looking for. There's a list at the bottom of the screen and as you tap suspicious areas, an item is revealed in the list below. If you are close to a clue, but not quite there, a series of floating question marks will appear. Once you have revealed all of the items, there is a ribbon of picture tiles at the bottom of your screen, one for each clue in the scene that you have revealed. You must swap the tiles to form a series of events and once you get it right, the scene of what happens plays out for you, with your character experiencing Retrospection and discussing the events. This was my favorite part of the game, just because it was so interesting.
Additionally, you will encounter Hidden Object Scenes with lists of what you need to find. Sometimes you must interact with objects to reveal an item or put things back together to complete an object. Pretty standard stuff, but once again, the scenes made perfect sense with the story and the items you gleaned from completing the Hidden Object Scenes made sense in the progression of the story.
9 Clues 2: The Ward HD has three levels of difficulty: Casual, Advanced and Expert. In Casual, there is no mistap penalty during the Hidden Object Scenes, while Active Zones and Hidden Object Scenes are indicated by sparkles. Your Hint and Skip buttons will recharge very quickly; in fact, they are indicated by a dismal and haunting statue much like one of the ones out in front of the asylum. She holds an hourglass and flips it to recharge, but it only takes a few moments to recharge. On your Map, you'll also have visual clues and hints to help you along, indicating where certain rooms are and what you have left to do. You'll also have the aforementioned question mark clues in Detective Mode.
Advanced Mode still allows for no mistap penalty, but only your Hidden Object Scenes will be indicated, not Active Zones. Your Hint and Skip button will recharge more slowly, but your visual hints will stay in play on your Map and in Detective Mode.
They don't call it Expert Mode for nothing! You'll have to watch yourself during Hidden Object Scenes or face a mistap penalty, and your Hidden Object Scenes and Active Zones are not indicated. Hint and Skip buttons charge very slowly and you get no visual hints on either your Map or in Detective Mode. Experts only need apply.
9 Clues 2: The Ward HD will have you racing around Mnemosyne Asylum as you battle a dangerous and insane patient and unknown attackers, but you will also have other little quests like helping another patient that lost his favorite stuffed animal or one who is distressed with a living situation at the asylum. These are sweet (and sometimes odd) little interactions that lighten things up a bit.
In addition to all of this, you might want to keep your eyes pealed for a few things. Scattered throughout the asylum and grounds are Asylum Model Fragments, 9 in all, and finding them all will net you an Achievement, plus a completed model of the asylum. Likewise, Phantom Objects will randomly appear if you are paying attention (or going crazy). Say a lovely houseplant that will transform into a gruesome, flesh-eating plant if you look at it for a few seconds. There are 15 of these throughout the asylum, so snag them all for an Achievement and just let your peripheral vision do the hard work. Last, but not least, there are somewhat large hidden question marks called Clue Symbols scattered about, 9 total, so find those for an Achievement as well.
As mentioned before, you will have a map to help you out and it will offer help in the form of symbols that indicate where certain rooms are or which rooms require action. You've also got a notebook that contains a section on the people you encounter and the notes you've made on them. This updates every time you find out something new on someone. You've also got your Objectives or, basically, your task list. Mostly, this is just surviving, once things really get going.
Overall, 9 Clues 2: The Ward HD is one of the finest examples of a Hidden Object Adventure that I have encountered. If you enjoy these types of games, grab this one, because it provides lots of entertainment and a great story. Another sequel please!