Except for playing games, few things in life are more enjoyable to me than curling up with a good mystery novel. And when it comes to foreign travel destinations, Great Britain is number one on my list. So, you can imagine my delight when I downloaded Hidden Mysteries: Buckingham Palace. Mystery and London rolled up into one fun-filled, hidden object adventure. Sign me up!

The object of the game is to tour around London's famous Buckingham Palace (you know, the place where people try to get a reaction out of the English guards?) searching for hidden objects, but you quickly learn that there is a mystery involved too. While searching your first hidden object scene, the Queen Victoria monument, you find a mysterious letter from someone with the initials A. M. Seemingly ashamed of his treacherous past, the writer tells you there are “treasures here and great treasures still” for the resourceful seeker. You start your search for the riches 800 meters east/northeast from the Palace entrance, where you will supposedly find “passage.” I was hooked.

I was interested in playing Hidden Mysteries: Buckingham Palace just to view all of the locations surrounding the storied Buckingham Palace, so solving a mystery was a bonus for me. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of collecting artifacts, learning about English history, and seeking secret treasures. To keep things interesting, you must use some of the objects you find to solve inventory-based puzzles. This mechanic is borrowed from the adventure genre of usually large file games, but here it is employed sparingly. However, it is used enough to break up the process of aimlessly finding objects on a list.

Hidden Mysteries: Buckingham Palace offers some fairly unique features that I really appreciated. First of all, unlike a lot of other hidden object games, you're not penalized for a wrong click (which can be annoying when you accidentally graze your finger across the sensitive touch-screen and get zapped! for an unintentional selection). I also found the three-tiered hint credit based hint system to be inspired. It allowed me to choose how MUCH help I needed. If I just wanted to see shape of the object, I could touch the text of the object and see a silhouette. If I wanted to see a filled in image of the object, then I could use more credits and get that view. Finally, if I admit failure, I could select the highest level of hint and the object location would be shown to me. Each level of hint costs progressively more credits. You earn credits by finding 'crowns' at each location. One of my pet peeves is using hints in hidden object games. To me, it is like cheating, so I really appreciated the option to get just a little hint, then a little bit more if I got stuck.

The graphics, sound, and music were all superbly executed and blended together to provide a convincing semblance of an actual visit to London's most visited historic building. The classical music seemed to be a perfect match for the journey through the past. Unlike some other hidden object games, Hidden Mysteries: Buckingham Palace is not timed. So, I felt relaxed while I was searching, listening to the beautiful music and ambient sounds and enjoying each new clue as the mystery unfolded. Without being too annoying, the music did become a bit repetitive, however, and I would have loved to have a variation on the classical pieces as the scenes changed. Perhaps an update could be provided?

If I have any real gripes about Hidden Mysteries: Buckingham Palace, it is with the placement of objects in certain scenes. When an artist or game designer thinks hard about where to place an object so that is will be concealed, it usually provides a measure of delight to the finder as your brain says, “Ah, there it is.” However, when designers resort to changing the natural shape or color of an object to make it more easily blend in with its surroundings, I find myself saying, “Well, of course I couldn't find that, it is completely faded into the shadows.” This shortcut method of hiding objects combined with some unnecessarily “junky” and out-of-place items plastered all over famous, royal monuments and locations seemed to be a lazy approach to creating and hiding objects within a scene. I understand that clutter is necessary to make a hidden object scene fun and intriguing, but it seemed unnecessary and out of place to load the objects all over statues and fountains. I still enjoyed myself, but sometimes these elements distracted from the otherwise crisp, clear photographic quality scenes.

With over 20 scenes and facts and figures about the Palace, Hidden Mysteries: Buckingham Palace definitely provides value, but it is pricey at $4.99. Perhaps this is an introductory price that will be lowered soon? It is hard to justify spending 2 to 4 times the cost of other well made games that cost $.99 to $1.99. But if you love English royalty, old historic buildings, secret treasures and a good mystery, then you might find this well-made hidden object adventure to be just up your alley. Airfares have dropped, but it still costs way more than $5 to get a ticket to London.