Vacation Quest: Australia walks a fine line between relaxation and boredom
Taking over where Vacation Quest: The Hawaiian Islands left off, Vacation Quest: Australia presents you with 28 different hidden object scenes to explore in one of the most basic setups in the genre. You’ll be asked to simply complete scene after scene, collecting items from lists, until each day on your month-long vacation is complete. There’s no story here to speak of and no freedom here to explore (other than being allowed to choose which scene to tackle first). If you’re a fan of simplicity (and don’t mind a lot of repetition), then this is the game for you.
You’ll start Vacation Quest: Australia with just two scenes to complete in your first day. From there, each day might contain more scenes to complete than the last, but you’ll start repeating scenes at around Day 5. The items in these secondary trips back are different, but the scenes obviously become easier as you spend more time in them. This isn’t the say that the game itself is challenging, as the junk piles are fairly light. There’s a huge focus on placing items into the patterns on fabric or into the paint on other items, and item sizes are incredibly skewed, adding to the variety.
In addition, many text clues come as phrases, rather than the names of the items themselves. This works well enough, as a clue like “unclogs toilets” clearly refers to a plunger in the scene, but something like “contains mercury” might be a bit more vague (for the record, that refers to a wall-hanging thermometer). You can always use a hint to find the item you’re looking for, and you can even turn on unlimited hints in the options menu if you want things to be even easier.
Unfortunately, where the game touts that it contains 2,300 hidden objects (that is technically true), many of these are the same items simply found in different scenes and in different locations. That is, you may be required to find a music note in every individual scene in your current day. It would have been nice to see those 2,300 different items actually be, well, different.
After you finish each day on the calendar, you’ll be treated to a very light mini-game or puzzle. These might be jigsaw puzzles, word searches or even a match-three game like Jewel Quest (where you need to break tiles to change the board’s color), but this particular mini-game is slow and downright boring. You’d think for a game coming out under the PopCap banner (the folks behind Bejeweled), that this wouldn’t have been allowed to happen.
Within each scene are three hidden boomerangs, and by collecting 50 of these (there are over 80 in all), you’ll unlock two bonus gameplay modes back at the main menu. One mode allows you to simply collect the 70-ish items per scene in a never-ending hidden object mode, while another allows you to play the aforementioned match-three gameplay puzzle.
With Vacation Quest: Australia, the game walks a fine line between relaxation and boredom. If you’re tired of the spooky haunted mansions, or simply don’t like backtracking on your own in adventure games, this might be the perfect option for you. However, if you’ve grown to appreciate the depth and complexity of those other games, the simplicity of Vacation Quest: Australia will do little to hold your attention. This is definitely a case where dipping your toes into the water via a free trial is better than diving in headfirst.