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GAME REVIEW: Nora Roberts’s Vision in White

How could I resist another HOG (hidden object game) adaptation of a romance novel? This time, it’s  Vision in White, based on the first book of Nora Roberts’s contemporary romance  Bride Quartet series.

The book series revolves around four childhood friends, who share a love for weddings that led each to develop a speciality of their own: photography, bakery, organisational skills, and floristry, which in turn led them to form a wedding planning company: VOWS.

Vision in White (ViS from now on) is the story of photographer Mackensie “Mac” Elliot and high school teacher Carter Maguire. (I should say at this point that even after finishing this game twice, I still haven’t quite fully understood their story, so forgive me if I cocked up some story details during this review. Please feel free to correct me in comments.)

Official blurb:

      When a casual fling turns steamy for a brilliant wedding photographer, life remains less-than-picture perfect. Relying on girlfriends to cope with the reality of her past, will Mackensie capture the romance, or will her narcissistic mother and fear of commitment be the prophetic snapshot of her future? Take part in Nora Roberts’ best-selling novel in

Nora Roberts Vision in White

    , a fun Hidden Object game.

I haven’t read the novel so I went into this game blind. When the game opened to a splash page, my first thought was “Pretty.” And a couple of seconds later, the next thought: “White. A lot of white.” I had no idea how much this would affect me later in the game.

Before the game started up, a video of Nora Roberts herself appeared. I didn’t have sound on -   thanks to a sound card problem – and there were no subtitles, so I didn’t know what she talked about. I’m assuming it was a welcome introduction. After the usual round (configure settings in Options if necessary; type in your name in Players and then click to play), a dialog pop-up appears:  Timed Mode or Carefree Mode.

In  Carefree mode, you take time playing the game and in  Timed Mode, it’s thirty minutes per chapter with a countdown, which can be seen on the clock face. As far as I can see, difficulty levels and four mini games in both  Timed Mode and  Carefree Mode aren’t different.

I had forgotten to let the timer run its course to see what would happen. Having played  ViS twice, I don’t have the energy to fire it up again. Perhaps a DA reader could confirm my guess: when you run out of time, you have to start from the beginning of a chapter you were in.

In the main layout, there is a bar located on the left side with a clock face at top, a list area in the middle, and a Hints system with four decorated letters – VOWS – below. Those four letters are hidden randomly within a playable scene. When you locate all VOWS letters, you gain a hint. Some were devilishly hard to find, but fret not: the Hints system will recharge itself within a minute if you couldn’t find all VOWS letters when you have no hints left.

The Hints system has a feature I’d not seen in other games I played so far. When you click on the Hints system, an orange rectangle arrow appears. You just simply point and click it on an item on the list, allowing you to decide instead of letting the game decide which item it’d highlight. I really liked this feature.


Vision in White is a surprisingly straightforward HOG, with four rotating mini wedding-related games: cake decoration, photography, flower arrangement, and table escorting.

Each of those mini-games – which didn’t take me longer than a minute – is tied to each of four best friends: Mac the photographer, Parker the organiser, Laurel the cake maker, and Emma the florist. When you complete one of those mini games through the game, you gain a bonus hint. You can skip a mini game if you don’t need a bonus point.

I skipped every instance of the cake decoration mini-game because some colour shades were too subtle. The icing, for instance, has eight colours: ivory, white, pale green, beige, darker beige and so on. I admit that each time this mini-game appeared, I swore at the monitor. I detested it that much.

Almost all objects in playable scenes are related to Mac or Carter’s life – clothes, shoes, photography items, organising, wedding theme, school room, and so on. I was grateful for this, to be honest. Each HOG scene is related to the events within the story. For example, when Mac’s friends decide to cheer Mac up by taking her out to a night club, we get a playable scene of champagne glasses, shoes, handbags, ear-rings and telephone numbers all over the place inside a hired limo.

Some hidden objects were near impossible to find, because some were colour-coordinated with bigger objects. Some objects were so tiny that it bordered on pixel hunting. At times like this, I relied on Hints to help me out because too many times, my eyes kicked and screamed when I had my face close to the laptop monitor screen to find those objects. So this would probably frustrate those with poor visibility.

Vision in White is eye-pleasing, but I eventually dreaded playable scenes with all things white or other pale colours – the snow, wedding dresses, table cloths, windows, pale pink flowers, white-grey VOWS letters, snowflakes, white birds, and so on. There was so much whiteness that it surprisingly hurt my eyes. Because of this I had to take breaks from the game. Not all scenes are that pale, but there were enough to affect my gaming.

Although every scene is tied to the story, I didn’t have a strong sense of the story itself. It’s a series of impressions, really. A synopsis of the story, even. Actually, I admit I thought Mac was actually Nora Robert herself, probably because of the NR video at the start, because both have red short hair and a similar taste in clothes. Heh!

As far as I can see, Mac appeared head-strong, assertive, a go-getter, and passionate about photography, but commitment-phobic due to her mother’s antics. She became friendly with a client’s friend, Carter Maguire, who came across as a warm, friendly, laid-back and considerate person. As the game progressed, it became clear that the angst lay with Mac and that Carter was pretty much her pillar of support and stability, which I thought was nice. It was a bland and safe romance, basically, but it would be good for players at 14 or over. As far as I can recall, it doesn’t feature drugs, smoking, irresponsible actions and such. There is an implication of Mac and Carter going upstairs after an evening together, but you never see them kissing and sharing a bed. There is a negative portrayal of Mac’s mother, though.

Looking on the bright side, the  ViS storyline is  much more coherent and “realistic’ than the one in  Harlequin Presents: Hidden Object of Desire. Although I have no idea if the game was faithful to the novel, I think players who have already read the novel would probably enjoy it a lot more. You don’t need to read the novel first to play the game, though. Well, it didn’t affect my game play.

As a player who prefers adventure-style HOGs, I found ViS rather dull, but there isn’t anything wrong with  ViS. It was bland and inoffensive, but it delivered what it promised. It’s a matter of gaming preferences, really, as it seems much more suited to those who prefer traditional HOGs. With this in mind, I feel  ViS deserves a B-.

The next game adaptation of Nora Roberts’s  Bride Quartet series is  Bed of Roses, featuring florist Emma Grant and architect Jack Cooke, and it’ll be released at the end of this year. Further adaptations of the  Bride Quartet series will be released during 2011.

Vision in White is available as free one-hour demo: Windows. As far as I can see, the Mac and Linux versions are not yet available.

20 Comments

  1. Jan Lorman
    May 18, 2010 @ 11:08:28

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for your casual game reviews, especially HOG, which are also my favorites. Keep ‘em coming!

    ReplyReply

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    May 18, 2010 @ 11:18:36

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  3. Jane
    May 18, 2010 @ 11:23:05

    These are fun time wasters, but they do get repetitive with any serious length of play.

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  4. J.
    May 18, 2010 @ 11:54:48

    I love/hate this game. Like yourself whenever the mini-games came up I was so annoyed. After playing four or five of them I realized I can skip them and I didn’t care for the hints. When you said “lots of white” it reminded me that one screen where it was outside and it prompted me to find white birds. The entire scenery was covered in snow and we had to find white birds -_-. I think I used up most of my hints in that one alone.

    I’ve read the book before I played the game so I knew where everything was going. I kinda like that. I still play it when I get bored and it’s a great time waster.

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  5. Shelley
    May 18, 2010 @ 12:07:52

    Title reminds me of the classic: Woman In White.

    ReplyReply

  6. Jill Myles
    May 18, 2010 @ 12:12:22

    I totally have to agree with this review – I’ve been on a HOG rampage lately (as my Twitter feed probably attests) and one thing I really appreciate in a HOG to break up the monotony is a terrific storyline. I tried the trial this morning for this game.

    ViW is visually beautiful, and sounds nice (though I have to say that the pictures of the heroines are all young and dewy and the voices made me think of middle-aged smokers) but I thought the story was lacking. Like Jaili said, the ‘story’ only shows up to recap you on occasional events and had nothing to do with the actual game. Like if you took out the story entirely…you wouldn’t miss a thing. I was actually really disappointed in that aspect, because I wanted a story with my HOG and I thought a Nora Roberts branded game would totally deliver on the romance.

    Still, the graphics are lovely and the music is nice and the theme is really appealing, so I’m still waffling on buying it. I probably will, because it’s one of the prettier HOG’s and doesn’t chug on my poor Netbook like some of the others.

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  7. Maili
    May 18, 2010 @ 12:36:11

    @Jan Lorman
    Thank you! Please, when you have the time, list your favourites as I (and I’m sure the others) would love to know.

    @Jane
    Yes, they are fun time wasters and while many are repetitive, it isn’t necessarily bad. Not when it’s well designed. Many card games, like Solitaire, are repetitive as well, aren’t they?

    @J
    I didn’t realise until I re-read this review that I screwed up the acronym of the title: ViS. It’s from a nickname I had for this game: Vision in Snow. Oops. But yes, that snow scene with white birds (and snow flakes) almost killed me. Same for the wedding reception scene. *cries*

    @Shelley
    Ha! Yes, it does.

    @Jill Myles
    “one thing I really appreciate in a HOG to break up the monotony is a terrific storyline”

    AMEN! I tried Blood Ties (a HOG based on TV series. The game doesn’t quite acknowledge that the TV series is an adaptation of Tanya Huff’s vampire mystery ‘Blood’ book series) and my god, it has no storyline. I still can’t form a rational thought about this game.

    I agree with the rest of your comments. I should have mentioned this in the review, but aside the crappy mini games, ViW does have replayability: lists of items vary each time you play this game. So it’s good for HOG players who want this.

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  8. MaryK
    May 18, 2010 @ 13:13:32

    I’ve played a few HOGs that I got free from Game Giveaway of the Day. I find I get tired of them pretty fast unless they’re interspersed with puzzles of some sort (Mysterious City: Cairo was good for that).

    I’m not sure I know what an “adventure-style HOG” is. Can you give an example?

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  9. Estara
    May 18, 2010 @ 13:46:20

    Looks like the story is actually better integrated in Marjorie Liu’s Tiger Eye… interesting. I guess I’d better try the Heartwild solitaire game with story, instead of this, especially as you were kind enough to warn us people with eye problems ^^.

    Although I now feel like a phantom or ghost drifting around DA

    So this would probably frustrate those with poor visibility.

    *wink*

    ReplyReply

  10. Rowena
    May 18, 2010 @ 14:11:01

    The pictures you provided are gorgeous, I want to play this game just to see those. Thanks for the review though.

    ReplyReply

  11. Maili
    May 18, 2010 @ 14:21:28

    @MaryK: Adventure-style HOG is pretty much what you described the kind you enjoy.

    A good adventure-style HOG revolves around puzzles that are heavily tied to its storyline and the story would be well-developed. In short, the story makes the game and vice versa.

    Some of differences between an adventure-style HOG and a traditional point-and-click adventure game:

    1)a P&C adventure game relies on dialogue heavily as it may or may not yield clues that could help to solve a puzzle or advance the game/plot.
    2) an adventure-style HOG has HOG scenes (an adventure does have this in a way, but every item found is essential to the plot, e.g. a rope is needed to tie wood pieces together as a ladder)
    3) Game length – a typical HOG takes about four or five hours while a typical P&C adventure can take up to 14 hours.
    4) Puzzles in a P&C adventure are generally tougher than in a typical adventure-style HOG.

    Adventure-style HOG recs (and examples):
    - Drawn: the Painted Tower (awesome game, but a weak ending, though)
    - Empress of the Deep
    - Dark Parables: Curse of the Briar Rose
    - Mystery Cases: Dire Grove (I wasn’t keen on this, but it’s certainly an adventure-style HOG and it has a huge following of fans)

    P&C adventure game recs:
    - Syberia (it’s available at BigFishGames)
    - The Longest Journey
    - Machinarium
    It’s unique in its own right as it has no text dialogue. All dialogue is in form of images. And as a whole, it’s undeniably cute. A robot in search for his lost love.
    - Dark Fall (similar to Mystery Cases: Dire Grove, but without videos)

    My other favourites may too old for today’s computers, but still worth checking out: Monkey Island series, Gabriel Knight series (I had a crush on Gabriel Knight, damn it); Sam & Max Hit the Road, Grim Fandango, The Last Express, Nightlong: Union City Conspiracy, and Broken Sword series.

    @Estara: Ha ha. Crap. ‘Poor visual ability’ is what I intended to use. *cough* While I thank you for catching this, let’s move swiftly on. :D

    “Looks like the story is actually better integrated in Marjorie Liu's Tiger Eye… interesting.”

    I’m not sure if I’d agree. ViS and Tiger Eye are different in many aspects. ViS is a traditional HOG that can live without Mac & Carter’s story. While Tiger Eye can’t, it’s not a traditional HOG.

    Tiger Eye is a hybrid of a traditional point-and-click adventure and a HOG, but not quite. Regardless, I think it’s rather unfair to compare ViS with Tiger Eye. It’s much more fair to compare ViS with HP: Hidden Object of Desire.

    @Rowena
    Yes, it’s indeed an attractive game.

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  12. Lori
    May 18, 2010 @ 22:17:41

    I was thrilled when I saw this game but found it too frustrating because as you stated, there was too much fading in of color. I always play timed and ultimately was running out of time without finding things …. major ARGH!

    It was visually pretty, probably made more sense if you read the book since huge chunks of the story were missing.

    I never finished it, my frustration level ran too high with it and I love HOGs so that was pretty severe.

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  13. Jody
    May 19, 2010 @ 06:37:58

    I started ViW but thought it was pretty ‘meh’. The white drove me crazy too, and I though the hidden objects were just awful and that a lot of the mini games were stupid.

    Then I read the book. All the inside jokes became clear, and the “aha moments” starting coming fast and furious as the scenes in the story showed up.

    Playing it was like living in the story, and who wouldn’t want to do that?

    Seriously, read the book first.

    ReplyReply

  14. Jan Lorman
    May 19, 2010 @ 07:30:50

    You asked for my favorite HOGs so here goes. I love visually complex and beautifully rendered artwork with items cleverly hidden (matching colors, shapes, etc.) So in no particular order:
    Mystery Case Files: Huntsville – older game, silly, but challenging to find all before time runs out
    Deadtime Stories – new game and very pretty, good plot and well done voice talent
    The Serpent of Isis – rather cartoony artwork, but good gameplay and repeatable
    Mystery Case Files: Dire Grove – I enjoyed this one, but not as much as Deadtime Stories
    Midnight Mysteries, The Edgar Allen Poe Conspiracy – visually well done – rich
    Enlightenus – creative and visually rich
    Drawn: The Painted Tower – creative and beautifully rendered.
    I’m sure there are many more, but I don’t know either. I would enjoy others’ recommendations.

    ReplyReply

  15. Maili
    May 19, 2010 @ 20:28:38

    @Lori: I’m largely new to the HOG scene, so I feel a little better that even you as a seasoned HOG player found it a little frustrating. Thank you.

    @Jody: Thanks for pointing this out as I’m sure there are others who are on the fence about buying it. Much appreciated.

    @Jan Lorman: Fantastic! The only ones I haven’t tried yet are The Serpent of Isis, Mystery Case Files: Huntsville, and Midnight Mysteries, The Edgar Allen Poe Conspiracy. I’ll get those, so thank you.

    ReplyReply

  16. K
    Nov 09, 2010 @ 18:10:34

    I loved the game Nora Roberts Vision in White! When will another be out?

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  17. Melanie Lenzi
    Jun 17, 2011 @ 08:43:33

    @K:

    ReplyReply

  18. Melanie Lenzi
    Jun 17, 2011 @ 08:44:24

    I am alos looking for another ViW type game – HELP

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  19. Maili
    Jun 17, 2011 @ 09:02:11

    @Melanie Lenzi: What are you looking for? Wedding theme, game play or another Nora Roberts game?

    ReplyReply

  20. Maili
    Jun 17, 2011 @ 09:06:37

    @K: Sorry for missing your question. According to this bit in the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page at Nora Roberts’s web site:

    I loved the Vision in White computer game from I-play. There’s a promo at the end of the game for a Bed of Roses game due out in December 2010. I haven’t been able to find it, has it be released?
    Unfortunately, due to lower than expected sales of the Vision in White game, I-play has suspended development of the rest of the games based on the Bride Quartet.

    ReplyReply

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