Journey of Hope offers no hope of a good game.

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here, and you’d be well-advised to stay away from this game, too.

What can one say about Journey of Hope, the new hidden object game from MechLab and Alawar? It’s ridiculously easy. It’s ridiculously short. It’s about as much of a journey as walking down to your corner store for a loaf of bread and, to carry the witticism just a little bit further, I sure hope you didn’t pay any money for it.

Before we go too far down the path of hopelessness, let me clarify that Journey of Hope isn’t really bad in any particular way. The game’s graphics are bright and clear, and the soundtrack is actually quite relaxing and enjoyable. Of course, if we’re already talking about the music, then it’s probably safe to assume that I’m really reaching for nice things to say. That assumption would be right on the money.

Where did it all go wrong? My first inkling of trouble came very near the start of the game, after I’d finished the opening hidden object scene in about 11 seconds. Hopeful (there I go again!) that it was just a tutorial of sorts to help ease players into the action, I moved on to the next level, and the next, with each blowing by in record time. Either I’d experienced a very sudden and exponential increase in my searching skills or this game was placing large, colorful objects into relatively small, unobscured locations, not so much hiding them as, well, making sure they’re easy to find and within convenient reach.

(It was the latter, by the way.)

Then there are the “puzzles.” That’s the name Journey of Hope uses for them, but the truth is that they’re more like a paint-by-numbers kit: It takes a certain amount of effort to get things finished but as long as you can follow instructions, you’ll have the job done in relatively short order. Oh, and there’s only one number and one color of paint.

Take, for example, the “card puzzle” you’ll need to complete in order to convince a local beach bum to take you out for a boat ride. You’re given four sets of playing cards, one for each suit, numbered five to nine. Your mission? Put them in order. I kid you not, that’s the entire puzzle: Put the cards in numerical order. Can you count? You win!

That’s essentially the entire game: Hidden object searches that are way too easy broken up by puzzle bits that are even easier. There are no cut scenes aside from very brief, basic opening and closing videos, and no real storytelling or interaction between characters beyond rare smatterings of awkward exposition that provide lame explanations for why we’re moving from one scene to another. But that’s okay, because there’s not much in the way of a story to be found here either.

Might as well touch on that while we’re here. In Journey of Hope, Jade Pearce’s father, a “world famous archaeologist,” has gone missing and it’s up to her, with the help of her father’s friend Mr. Reblic, to track him down. Reblic’s role, though, seems to be only to inform her that the old man is missing and provide her with a plane ticket to his dig site in South America – purchased for her by her father, which struck me as kind of an odd twist since the only reason she’s going there in the first place is to help find him, and how did he buy her a plane ticket if he’s missing? Best not to think about that one too much, I suppose.

Anyway, she gets to the site, mucks around a bit, finds daddy, he tells her a story about a time-traveling… well, I don’t want to spoil the surprise for you, so suffice it to say that there’s actually quite a lot of skullduggery behind his disappearance, including a very dangerous potential threat to the natural order of life as we know it. And then bang, the game ends.

It’s a very sudden and surprising ending, not only because the most interesting part was the tale told by the professor right before the credits ran, but because barely an hour had passed from start to finish – and that’s probably being pretty generous with the timekeeping.

The entire Journey of Hope experience left me baffled until I realized that what we have here is Baby’s First Hidden Object Game. As I said earlier, it’s not really bad, it’s just too short, too easy and way too forgettable to be of any interest to even casual HOGers; on the other hand, those same qualities make it probably the perfect way to introduce three-year-old children to the magical, mysterious, occasionally obsessive-compulsive world of hidden object gaming.

And if nothing else, it’s functionally a freebie: The one-hour of free play included with the trial version of the game should leave you with enough time to make a sandwich and check your email, too. Is that a recommendation? Not at all. Find a better game, or just go do something else. There’s simply no hope for the Journey of Hope.