Depending on your predilections, you may have read Alexander Dumas’ famous novel The Count Of Monte Cristo, or at least seen one or more of the many film iterations. Well, unless you’re the most die-hard of hidden-object fans and simply must play every game in the genre, you may want to leave well enough alone and pass on’s seek-and-find variant on the tale.

The Count of Monte Cristo, based loosely on the 19th century narrative of betrayal, envy, imprisonment and revenge, combines hidden-object action with numerous mini-games and adds in short bits and pieces of the classic masterpiece to come up with a somewhat bastard of an offering. In essence, the story is peripheral to gameplay and serves only as a setting to house the eclectic and disjointed mix of game elements.

In the course of play, you search through more than 20 different scenes (based on locales from the novel) for traditional hidden-object bounty, as well as encountering over 15 various mini-games. For what purpose? To investigate eight different characters who are part of the well-known story, determining which suspects are "guilty" or "not guilty" of the crimes committed against poor Edmond Dantes. Occasional cut scenes move the story along, but little ties gameplay into the classic tale. As for your "investigation," locating all the concealed objects relating to a suspect automatically informs you as to whether that person is guilty or innocent, with no actual deduction on your part whatsoever.

When you begin, you’re given the option of choosing between two game modes, Normal Time and Extended Time. If the average seek-and-find diversion challenges you, choose the latter. Otherwise, stick with the former. The downside of having less time is that, should you run out before completing all object searches and mini-games associated with each suspect, you have to start that segment of the game over from scratch, an hour’s worth of play time.

Being a hidden-object pastime, The Count of Monte Cristo devotes most gameplay to traditional seek-and-find searches. Each scene includes a menagerie of unrelated items you must sift through to locate those named on a given list. Objects run the gamut of period specific goods like halberds, tankards and muskets to all sorts of animals, insects, birds, fruits and vegetables, and miscellaneous paraphernalia. Find them all and you move on to the next search or one of the many included mini-games.

As for those mini-games, among the variations you’ll experience a treasure map to assemble jigsaw-puzzle style, a underwater match-three diversion, a very simplistic swap puzzle (sliding-tile game), a Sudoku puzzle and a matching-pairs card game to single out just a few. Most are relatively easy, however, a few are significantly challenging and require completion to progress further in the game. While you can choose to skip these tougher diversions if you wish, you do so at the cost of a ten-minute time penalty and the loss of all your jewel-based hints (a bonus scene provides the opportunity to slowly replenish your gems).

While The Count of Monte Cristo does offer a good challenge for object-hunting fans, providing acceptable graphics and audio overall, as well as some nicely rendered cut scenes, it simply doesn’t equal the competition. A weak tie-in between game elements and the skeleton-of-a-story (which is far too brief and quickly-dispensed to enjoy) is the least of its myriad problems.

First, it suffers from several play issues. Many scenes appear dark and murky with everything blending together, including a few items that are nigh on impossible to locate without employing a hint. And, even then, highlighted objects occasionally don’t respond to mouse selection, resulting in so many clicks that the game induces a 30-second random-click penalty. Moreover, how many folks know what to look for when a "hank" (coil of rope) or a "double bass" (bass violin) are listed? Sound effects, repeated ad nauseum, quickly become annoying, as well, and in-scene animations are notable by their absence.

Then, you have the varied hodgepodge of mini-games mentioned above. Honestly, it seems as though the developers couldn’t decide what games to include, so they threw in a little of everything, most of which has little to do with the game itself, resulting in an indistinct concoction rather than carefully intertwined diversions that relate to the overall experience.

The Count of Monte Cristo is not devoid of entertainment, but it fails on many, well, counts. Those interested in the events popularized by the novel should stick to the written tale or one of the many films. Give the game a try if you wish, but far more engaging hidden-object fare is available.