Hope Springs Eternal: A Carol Reed Mystery
First posted on 01 December 2014. Last updated on 01 December 2014.
Hope Springs Eternal: A Carol Reed Mystery is the second game in the Carol Reed Mystery series and the sequel to the original Remedy: A Carol Reed Mystery created by husband and wife Mikael and Eleen Nyqvist of MDNA Games. Once again, the proud designers have leveraged the historic and picturesque settings of the city of Norrköping, Sweden as backdrops to showcase their hometown in their own game. The game's subtitle, Hope Springs Eternal, is a fitting reference to Alexander Pope's poem An Essay on Man, written in 1734, in which he attempts to vindicate the ways of God to man. The modern interpretation of this famed phrase is more subtle, implying merely that we will always wish for the best even in the face of adversity.
The story takes place immediately after the events of the original game. Carol Reed has now taken over Conrad Vogel's detective business and is still apartment sitting for her friend Lovisa who is away on travels. Despite being a British native who barely speaks Swedish, Carol has managed to make several friends during her stay in Norrköping—namely Conrad's sister Katarina and Stina from a nearby kiosk. You take on the protagonist role of Carol, who is tasked to locate a missing young woman who works at a local school.
The game plays as a first-person point-and-click adventure. Installation is straightforward and glitch free. Starting the game opens a pop-up menu with the options to Start, Load, or Exit the game. A checkbox option is selected as default to play the game at a resolution of 1024x768 pixels. Unchecking this option allows the game to be played at higher resolutions but with pillarboxing or letterboxing effect. There is an optional tutorial that introduces the game's basic controls, inventory, and navigation. The tutorial also refers to a ReadMe file in the game's installation folder for additional help if needed.
The game begins with you writing a letter to Lovisa about your adventurous (or lack of) life so far in Norrköping. Suddenly, the telephone rings. The call is from Katarina. She tells you that she needs some help and asks you to go to her place urgently. Upon arriving there, Katarina reveals to you that a friend of hers has mysteriously gone missing. The missing woman's name is Anna Bergion, a history teacher for the local school where Katarina also works. As Anna has not been at work or home for days without any trace, Katarina fears that Anna may be in trouble or, worst yet, a victim of foul play.
You accept the case from Katarina without hesitation, endeavoring to find Anna and explain her disappearance. Your search through Norrköping leads you to a pet cemetery, a castle, and a junkyard, among other locales. What initially seems to be a simple missing person case, however, soon escalates into a complicated tale of greed, embezzlement, blackmail, love, and murder.
As your investigation progresses, you are given clues to the names of persons and the addresses of places that are of interest to your case. As these clues are gleaned, new locations appear on a map with which you can use to travel to there as needed. There are 14 locations that you must explore thoroughly before the case is solved.
Dialogs with other characters are carried out via a notebook that you carry around. You choose a question from a preset list in the notebook to ask, and the other character will give an answer to each question in turn. As you converse with the other character, several photos of that character in different poses are shown to give some semblance of movement and expression while speaking.
Although you cannot die in the game, it is strongly recommended that you make frequent saves of your progress. Right clicking the mouse button any time during the game activates a system menu that appears at the top left of the screen, allowing you to save your current game or load a previously saved game.
Like the previous game, this game is built using Adventure Maker. Once again, high resolution still photographs of Norrköping and its environs are used to recreate many of the game's scenes. These photographs are then retouched to make them look like watercolor paintings. The resultant images have an impressionist art style that is artistically pleasing to look at.
The overall story is well told. There are 11 major characters with whom you can interact over the course of your investigation (many additional characters are passively referenced in the story). A number of red herrings are thrown into the story to test your detective skills. The game's ending befits the subtitle of the game. The inclusion to Axel von Fersen and the Lofstad castle in the storyline offers up an interesting and educational account of distant Swedish history.
The game includes a good variety of puzzles that are well integrated into the story. These puzzles include typical inventory based puzzles as well as an interactive quiz and a slider among others. The mini-games can be frustrating to complete. Fortunately, the game offers a bypass function to skip the hardest puzzles if needed. For each puzzle that is skipped, however, you lose a star in the final rating (up to 5 stars) that you will receive after solving the case.
Sara Louise Williams does the voiceover for Carol, using her native English accent to advantage. Both Mikael and Eleen Nyqvist make cameo appearances in the game, speaking with a distinct European accent. Sound effects (such as a flushing toilet, a doorbell ringing, and birds chirping) are minimal but aptly done. The entire musical score is composed by Nyqvist himself. The game features a number of original scores, all of them complementing the game's atmosphere perfectly.
In sum, Hope Springs Eternal: A Carol Reed Mystery is a most enjoyable game and a worthy sequel to the original game that marks the beginning for the Carol Reed Mystery series. The game takes up to 10 hours to complete and is suitable to be played by the whole family. With more Carol Reed Mystery games destined to come, I look forward to seeing what other great mysteries Norrköping has to offer.