Looking for the Next Big Thing in hidden object games (HOGs)? Save Our Spirit isn’t it.

While this new casual game provides a lot of challenging game-play, it’s also a frustrating experience due to tricky (and sometimes unfair) puzzles and other shortcomings. As a result, what could have been a highly-polished and deep HOG ends up as a mediocre experience that’s not really worth your time or money.

Save Our Spirit tells the story of Lord Longstep, who has set off on an epic adventure across the globe to save his kidnapped wife, Mary. Those responsible are a dangerous secret society who want to tap into Mary’s mystical powers for evil purposes. You must find powerful artifacts in your quest to locate your wife, but will find these treasures are stolen right from under you at each step. What to do? Keep looking.

The core game-play component will be familiar to HOG fans: As you move around the world, you’re faced with busy scenes — such as the inside of an African cave, the outside of an Egyptian pyramid or the waterfront of a South American port city — and you must find well-hidden objects listed at the bottom of the screen. These might be things like "rope," "glove" or "screwdriver," as well as some confusing items, such as "boater," "gerbera" or "amphor" — but at least the game will show you a silhouette of each object if you place your mouse over it.

Sometimes you’ll be asked to find a dozen related items, such as "12 pieces of paper" or "12 tools," and so forth. If you click incorrectly too many times you might get a warning (which seemed to stop after the first few levels) and if you need some help you can click the "Hint" button to reveal a hard-to-find object in the environment. A minute later you can click Hint again, if need be.

Save Our Spirit also has some adventure game-like puzzles, where you can use an item you found in the environment in order to advance the story, such as swinging a pickaxe on a rock to reveal what’s underneath.

But right from the get-go, I had some issues with the HOG component of this game. I don’t mind a challenge — in fact, I welcome them — but many of the objects were so hard to find that you feel cheated when you resort to the Hint button and it then shows a barely visible shadow of an object, obscured mostly by, say, a tree, and discover it was supposed to resemble a "shoe brush"? Huh? This happened quite a bit in this game.

Another issue is the fact there were often more than one solution on the screen. For example, I was tasked to find a "gear," so that’s what I clicked on — alas, it wasn’t the correct one. Same thing happened with a "fuze," "scissors," "mask" and "wheel." This is simply frustrating. A word to HOG designers: don’t make two objects look very similar in the same environment or else you’re annoying the player.

While it didn’t take away from the gameplay, another minor issue was spelling mistakes. On the tenth or eleventh scene, for example, you’re asked to find a "pint brush" instead of a "paint brush."

The mini-games that appear between the main HOG levels are quite good though, both in terms of breadth and depth. Examples include gear puzzles, jigsaws, word and number deciphering, making a raft, gem aligning, and so on. There seems to be dozens of these games, which can get tricky, but after waiting a minute or two you can skip it altogether, if desired. Too bad there’s no option to replay these mini-games from the main menu. Oh yes, there’s only one game mode, too.

The impressive graphics, melodic music and lengthy journal entries are all worth noting – especially for those who like to sink into a good story and atmosphere – plus you get to travel to so many locations across the globe, which is fun, too.

Save Our Sprit isn’t a dud, but for all that it has going for it, its aforementioned shortcomings have the tendency to frustrate the gamer. This isn’t a good thing. Perhaps if you play the free 60-minute demo you can judge for yourself whether this spirited game is worth saving.