Have any plans this summer? How about joining a race to see who can be first to reach the summit of Everest?
I can assure you, daring gamers, this will be no easy feat. You see, I already know this to be true because Gamezebo was granted some serious hands-on time with Hidden Expedition: Everest from Big Fish Games, the latest seek-and-find puzzler with a great story, impressive graphics and many bonus levels and secrets to be found.
While it’s not without its minor stumbles, this adventurous casual game reaches new heights for the genre.
As a member of the Hidden Expedition Club, you’ve decided to compete against three other teams – The Scholars, the Scarlet Hat League and The Gamers – to see which group can reach the top of Mt. Everest, the highest mountain on the planet.
But before you can even step foot on this Himalayan wonder, you must compete against the other teams, starting in Latin America, and work your way around the world before you begin your climb. Don’t worry – you’ll be receiving advice and fun facts along the way from famous mountaineer and Everest climber, Ed Viesturs.
If you haven’t played one of these seek-and-find games, players are presented with a busy scene and a list of items you must find within a certain amount of time. As you start in Latin America, the first few places you’ll visit include the Amazon forest, a witches market in Bolivia, Peru’s Machu Picchu and Mexico’s El Dorado, Mayan Wall and Chichen Itza ruins. In the main game you’ll be asked to hunt for items, such as a toothbrush, ant, bowling ball, child’s face, leek, garden gnome, watering can, camera, wheel, pickle, jellyfish, green fish, and so on. Every time you successfully click on the item it disappears from the list; the level is completed when you find everything.
If players are stuck at any time, they can use up one of their limited "Hint" buttons, which shows you the area to find your object. At the bottom of every screen you’ll also see an icon representing the other expedition teams trying to catch up to you, which helps tie the timing element into the story.
A secondary seek-and-find game — which reveals a clue as to where you’re off to next in the form of a drawing and some text — challenges you to find things such as "20 axes" or "19 shells" or "an object with engraving on it."
What’s more, players can extend their time per level if they find a hidden hourglass, or add another Hint by finding all five hidden gems on a level. These are optional but recommended to help you out. And you’ll need it – this game can be quite tricky with same-colored objects on top of one another (e.g. a green broccoli against green leaves), small items (such as a teeny basketball or ant) or partially obstructed items you need to find (such as a horseshoe hiding behind a tent flap). In total, the game offers more than 30 beautiful scenes to click through, including animated parts like fluttering butterflies or moving clouds.
Every few levels players will also tackle mini-games, such as the first two in the game: a map of Latin America you must put together by dragging and dropping pieces and pressing the spacebar to rotate them; and a similar jigsaw-like puzzle where you have to create a painted face out of a broken plate. Another fun type of mini-game is to try and locate 18 hidden items peppered throughout the game – such as an octopus, paintbrush, top hat and rabbit – and if they match the silhouette from the secret items book, you’re one step closer to a special bonus.
From the game’s presentation to the fun story to the amazing graphics and mini-games, Hidden Expedition: Everest sounds like a winner, no? Yes it is – but – there are some issues. For one, first you need to download a file you think is the game until you realize it’s a Big Fish Games client (a.k.a. "download manager") that you need to install in order to download and play their games. OK, so what if you bought a Fox DVD but before you can watch the flick you were forced to first download something so you could buy more Fox films? Sigh. Needless-to-say, this soured the experience before the game even started.
Another issue is that when you visit the same places in the game, many of the objects are in the same place as before – this makes the game easier since you’ll remember the lion’s head is off to the left and the spider is always to the right, or whatever.
But if you can get past these minor annoyances, Hidden Expedition: Everest will delight and challenge casual game fans for many hours on end.