Blood Books is a series of novels written by Tanya Huff. The books chronicle the adventures of private investigator Vicki Nelson and her partner Henry Fitzroy. Vicki is a former police officer who quits the force when she is diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease. Henry is a 450 year-old vampire and the son of Henry VIII. Vicki and Henry work together to investigate paranormal cases. In 2007, Ms. Huff's novels were adapted for a short-lived TV series called Blood Ties. The show aired 22 episodes on Lifetime between March and December 2007. In 2008, the TV series served as the inspiration for a hidden object game with the same title. Unfortunately, the game fails to make good use of the source material, delivering a very shallow and forgettable experience.
In the game, Vicki and Henry are investigating the disappearance of fourteen individuals who are members of an ancient organization called the Hellfire Club. The organization is responsible for guarding the shards of a talisman that prevents a powerful demon named Astaroth from entering the mortal realm. The members bring the shards together each year to strengthen the spell that is keeping Astaroth at bay. Unfortunately, the talisman shards have disappeared along with the Hellfire Club members. It is up to Vicki and Henry to locate the shards and prevent the demon from entering our world.
Blood Ties consists of fourteen separate cases where you try to find the pieces of the talisman. At the beginning of each case, you are presented with some information about a Hellfire Club member. Then, you visit locations that are supposed to contain clues that will lead you to a shard. In theory, this is a great setup for a casual adventure. Fourteen unique cases can provide a good framework for visiting familiar locations from the show, interacting with the two detectives, and piecing together clues in a logical manner. Sadly, the actual experience boils down to a tedious and disjointed series of object hunts that has little to do with the underlying storyline.
The game features fifteen different locations, including Vicki's office, Henry's apartment, a pharmacy, a museum, and a castle. During each case, you are asked to visit two or more of these places. At each location, you are asked to find fifteen items. A list on the left side of the screen tells you the items you need to locate. In general, the development team has done a good job of hiding the items in plain sight. Your task is to examine the screen and find the items in your list. Once you locate fifteen objects at each location associated with the current case, you are automatically awarded a piece of the talisman. However, the game makes no effort to explain how the 'clues' you found helped locate the artifact. Players are not asked to solve puzzles or piece together the evidence. There isn't even a cutscene showing Vicki and Henry finding the talisman fragment. As a result, there is a significant disconnect between player actions and the storyline.
The very nature of the items you are supposed to find further disrupts the atmosphere. The objects on your list range from exotic daggers and masks to mundane items like a pair of scissors or a balloon. Many of these items do not fit into mystical tone the storyline tries to create. Given the absence of puzzles where some of the objects could be used, it becomes hard to envision exactly how a toy car, a butterfly, or the picture of a giraffe help locate an ancient artifact.
The repetitive nature of the cases also hurts the overall experience. As you proceed through the cases, you visit each of the fifteen locations multiple times. On each visit, you are asked to find a somewhat different set of objects. However, over the course of fourteen cases, many items appear on your list multiple times. After a while, it becomes tiring to find the exact same bowls, vases, or dice over and over again. Even the cleverly hidden items that were initially fun to locate become a chore to find.
Blood Ties suffers from some presentation issues as well. At certain locations, the background looks somewhat pixilated. In addition, some of the items look very artificially laid over the background, failing to create the illusion of a 3D image. The music is fitting for the tone of the game, but it can get a little repetitive as you work through the fourteen cases.
The game also features a timer that can be a source of irritation. As you start each case, a clock is displayed on the left side of the screen. The timer counts down as you examine each location and try to find the requested items. If you rapidly click on the left mouse button, you get a penalty and additional time gets deducted from the clock. If the timer reaches zero before you find all the required items, you have to retry the case. Fortunately, the time limit is fairly generous and most players can expect to complete the cases without trouble. Nevertheless, it is questionable whether or not the timer adds any value to the game.
There is no inherent problem with a casual adventure that focuses on object hunts. Every game does not need a detailed plot or intricate puzzles. It is not so much the focus on item finding, but the overall execution that ultimately hurts Blood Ties. Without a clear connection between the locations you visit and the talisman pieces, the game becomes little more than a tedious quest to find random objects. It is simply not entertaining to stare at the same fifteen screens and locate the same items multiple times. A little effort to establish some logical link between the 'clues' and the talisman pieces would have gone a long way to improve the experience. Blood Ties does not make good use of the source material either. Adding some scenes from the show or the voices of the cast members could have substantially enhanced the game's atmosphere. As it stands, Blood Ties is highly disappointing and a very difficult game to recommend. Only consider purchasing if you can find a copy at a deep discount.