Sunset Studio: Love on the High Seas is kind of like a great burger joint that also serves delicious fries and milkshakes. The main entree is more than enough reason for you to visit, but the extras are so unusually good that they make the overall experience into a one of a kind.
You begin Love on the High Seas by showing up for your first day as the assistant to the tempestuous actress Kat, who’s currently filming a blockbuster called Titanship. The director calls the production a "calamity," and everywhere you turn, something seems to be going wrong. Hopefully, with a little hard work and a keen eye, you’ll be able to get this ship back on course.
Love on the High Seas is a hidden object game, and an exceptionally polished one at that. You’ll visit various locations around the movie studio, like the model warehouse, the lunch wagon, and of course various parts of the movie set. The locations are beautifully crafted, multilayered scenes with items hidden so masterfully that can be tough to find even when they’re in plain sight.
Some HOGs attempt to increase their difficulty by simply making objects hard to see – by making them tiny, the same color as the background, almost completely concealing them, or all of the above. Love on the High Seas uses no such tricks. Every item you need to find is obvious, once you know where to look; there are simply so many items in a given scene that you’ll need to keep your eyes peeled to spot your target. Even so, scenes in High Seas never feel cluttered or jumbled.
Love on the High Seas is quite a challenge, even for HOG pros, but fortunately you have a host of power-ups to help you out. Use a magnifying glass to show you the image of the item you’re trying to locate, or receive a text message telling you where to look for a particular item. Looking through the viewfinder of your phone’s camera will blur out everything that isn’t the object you want, and if you can follow the spotlights as they shine around the scene, you can nab a bunch of objects at once. You can earn more of those hints by finding specific items when members of the cast or crew call you to ask for them, but if you’re not quite fast enough to do that, you can also scan the scene for popcorn or a paparazzi camera.
The popcorn will cause everything currently on your list to shake when your cursor gets near it, while the camera will highlight everything you have to find for a few split seconds. Earning and using the hints is almost as much fun as finding the objects themselves – when was the last time you played a game like that?
Complete a few chapters of the Love on the High Seas and you’ll unlock The Cutting Room, a fast-paced mini-game that gives you a few seconds to find a single item in a succession of scenes. Finding items buys you a bit more time, but the challenge increases the longer you play. It’s an exciting twist on the hidden object mechanic and is practically worth the price of admission all by itself.
The game is not without its faults, however. You’ll revisit the same locations many times as you play through the main adventure and the Cutting Room, and items tend to stay in the same spots. You may have a devil of a time spotting that tiny frog or the matches the first time you visit the set, but they’ll be no trouble at all the second or third time you have to find them. Even the popcorn and the paparazzi cameras tend to stay put. The music is also reused too much and can become irritating during longer play sessions. The story-telling cinematics between chapters are entertaining, but terribly corny and slow-moving. The ability to speed them up a bit would’ve been greatly appreciated.
These are minor complaints about an otherwise marvelous game, however. You’ll spend quite a lot of time with Sunset Studio: Love on the High Seas, and enjoy every minute of it.