Continuing the tradition of previous Little Shop releases, Little Shop – Road Trip serves up another heapin’ helpin’ of hidden object heaven. And, aside from a few critters”caught in its headlights, it’s an enjoyable seek-and-find romp across America, from Seattle to South Beach, in search of rare treasures to stock your little shop back home.
What’s in store for would-be roadies? Much of the same for fans of the series. In all, item-hunting is spread across 16 challenging trips that cover more than 80 levels of re-playable locales, 16 cities and landmarks such as San Francisco, Yellowstone, Chicago, Mount Rushmore, Las Vegas and Niagara Falls.
Added to the mix are end-of-trip mini-game Bonus Rounds that take the form of varied object-based puzzlers; two game modes to increase play value, Regular and Blitz; a Trophy Room with online leader board; and a few lighthearted collectables.
Regarding storyline, something that has received criticism in the past on Little Shop titles, little has changed. Or, more accurately, Little hasn’t changed. Apart from a brief, two-screen, comic-style intro prior to the first road trip, one that sets the stage for your object-gathering vacation, nothing really ties the game together apart from the travel trailer-themed mini-games which convey the idea that you’re vacationing, but little more. If you don’t mind a thinly-veneered tale with your seek-and-find gaming, it suffices. But, if an intricately woven story is requisite, Road Trip’s abbreviated narrative will disappoint.
As for gameplay, there’s no hiding Little Shop – Road Trip‘s simplicity. Rather than hanging out a grocery list of items to locate, object names appear in little “balloon windows” at the bottom of the screen, five at a time. Locate one and the window disappears, replaced by a new one until all 15 objects are located per level.
Complete all stops on the current road trip and you’ll have the opportunity to play a Bonus Round mini-game. Rounds include Move It, Find It, Collect It and Build It alternatives. While featuring slight variations, each charges you with finding all the objects hidden in the given scene before time runs out.
Other items to locate include several hint-based objects, as well as a few lighthearted goodies. To assist in the hint department are various Question Marks (?), Thermometers and Magnets. Question Marks give you a temporary ability to see visual representations of the items you’re seeking. Thermometers, two per scene, provide a visual “Hot and Cold” indicator depending on how close you are to an item. Magnets, one per locale, react to hidden items, pointing you to their exact location. Also, concealed in each scene are squirrels and license plates. Nabbing all of them earns special trophies.
And, speaking of trophies, various awards are acquired en route for your achievements. Examples are Red Hot Hints, finding all five items before time runs out; the Aerodynamic Award, completing all Bonus Rounds in under two minutes; Quick Blitz, finishing Blitz Mode in less than three minutes; and Picture Perfect, finding the five current objects when hints are displayed before time expires.
As mentioned earlier, two game modes accompany Road Trip. Regular guides you through the game start to finish, each scene challenging you to locate all necessary items before time is up. Blitz, on the other hand, allows you to play any of the game’s 16 locales in a time-based run to find every item in the scene, as many as 80, in the shortest possible time. Best times are displayed on the Blitz Mode menu and can be submitted to an online Best Global Times list. Blitz Mode is unlocked for each locale by earning five stars in Regular Mode.
Predominantly, Little Shop – Road Trip is a seek-and-find delight. Imbued with solid production values, its graphics are attractive and accompanying music catchy. Unique twists in hint functionality make it stand apart from the crowd (although not from previous Little Shop games, where much of the hints system is familiar), as does its dual game modes.
The story’s okay, too, and enough locations exist to provide some variety in play (albeit, two dozen locales would be better). Road Trip‘s greatest strength, however, lies in its fun, addictive, hard-to-quit-once-you-start gameplay. It’s nothing out of the ordinary, just a solid, enjoyable hidden-object romp.
Conversely, a few issues encountered fall into the “road kill” category. Use up your Thermometers and Magnets early in a given locale, and you’re out of luck later. Question Marks provide visual clues to the stuff you’re stumped to locate, but don’t guide you to an exact location. It’s too easy to run out of time before you’ve visually distinguish some objects, even given a visual representation.
As such, replenishing of Thermometers and Magnets would have been welcomed. Also, on installation, the game defaults to including Google Toolbar and Desktop Search unless you de-select that option. Sorry, but this type of add-on shouldn’t be part of a game install.
Regardless of these niggles, Little Shop – Road Trip is a fun ride start to finish. If you’ve played previous Little Shop titles, expect more of the same. If you haven’t, look forward to an amusing, new experience. It’s a great way to see the USA sans the high cost of gas, and an enjoyable diversion for collectors of trash and treasures.