Little Shop – Big City might as well be called Little Shop of Treasures 3 because aside from a few superficial twists it’s exactly the same as Little Shop of Treasures 2, albeit with new set of hidden object environments to explore. It’s the third Little Shop game to be released in less than a year (the first one came out in March, the second in September), and while the gameplay is still as fun and solid ever, it’s getting harder to excuse the repetition.
In Little Shop – Big City, you leave your home town of Huntington to open a movie memorabilia shop in the city. You find an old theatre that would be the perfect location for the shop, but it’s in desperate need of a facelift. To earn the money needed for renovations, you sell items to customers in a variety of other stores around town including a floral shop, furniture gallery, vintage boutique, gadget store and delicatessen.
As for the gameplay, in traditional hidden object game fashion, each shop location is presented as a screen cluttered with all manner of objects and assorted junk. It’s your job to find and click on specific items that correspond to what the customers that appear on the bottom of the screen are asking for.
The objects you have to find more or less fit the theme of the particular store. For example, in the spa you’ll be searching for make-up compacts, a robe, a massage chair and mascara, and in the deli you’ll have to find things like a garlic press, muffin pan, baguette and dried peppers. However there are a lot of weird filler items to find as well, which undermines the story – like when a customer comes into a shop requesting a UFO, hot air balloon or frozen tiki idol.
If you manage to serve ten customers before time runs out, you’ll advance to the next day. If you serve all fifteen you’ll earn a gold star and get to advance to a bonus round where you have to find one more item in the time remaining on the clock. This bonus mode is one of the new features in the game, but it’s a superficial addition at best.
One new feature that is worth getting excited about, however, is the Hot and Cold hint system. If you find and click on a thermometer, all of the customers’ speech bubbles will either grow frozen icicles or spew firey flames depending on how close your mouse pointer is to the object they want. The thermometers are in addition to the regular hint system carried over from past games where if you use a hint, the names of the items to find will change to pictures, making them much easier to find. You can replenish your stock of hints by finding the question marks hidden in each location.
Another new feature is that you can collect pigeons and monkey sock puppets in each location. The monkey is always posed in a fun way that’s sure to get a chuckle, whether he’s wrapped up like a mummy, playing a double bass, or sleeping on a park bench. If you find them all you’ll earn a trophy, which is displayed in a trophy room along with 22 other prizes to collect for achieving various in-game milestones.
A handy calendar keeps track of how many days you’ve worked and how many pigeons and sock puppets you’ve collected in each location. You can replay a day at any time to try and get the gold star, or to find any bonus items you missed. As you progress you’ll get to fix up the theatre by choosing a new entrance, marquee, box office, landscaping and other design elements. There are 11 weeks to play through, but with only 12 locations you’ll find yourself visiting the same places over and over again with items in the same spot every time.
In addition to the main mode there’s another mode called Blitz where the goal is to find all of the items in a given location (which is typically more than 80) in the least amount of time as possible. Again, this mode will be familiar to players familiar with Little Shop of Treasures.
Little Shop – Big City is an engaging game with bright and interesting locations, but just be warned that if you’ve played either of the Little Shop of Treasures games you’re basically in for more of the same. I’m not suggesting that every sequel should reinvent the wheel, but Little Shop – Big City could have at least addressed some of Little Shop of Treasures‘ issues (namely, too few locations and a weak story) at the same time that it was pilfering its best parts.