I’m a staunch supporter of unique games. Oh sure, they might not enjoy the commercial success of, say, another match-three game or time management sim, but a casual game reviewer can only take so many of these "me, too" clones bloating the industry. But every once in a while a game surfaces that, while not original in concept, succeeds very well in execution. Such is the case with Big Fish Games’ Hidden Expedition: Amazon, a new hidden object download that proves you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel – it just needs to roll along smoother than its predecessors.
You’re tasked with finding a missing professor in the latest Hidden Expedition game, and it will take you to the corners of the globe in order to succeed, including Esmeraldas, Casablanca, New York City, and of course, the Amazon rainforest, to name a few locations. The only clues you’ll have to work with are a tattered map that tells of the legendary Beetle Temple and 12 pieces of a journal belonging to the professor.
As with most hidden-object titles, the core gameplay in Hidden Expedition: Amazon involves hunting for objects in a busy scene; items are listed along the bottom of the screen – such as an apple, ornament, scissors, dog, comb and washboard – which you must find and click on to scratch it off the list. It would’ve been preferred if the items were relevant to the scene or story, as some games have done (not sure how an egg timer and a hotdog can help you catch a plane to Morocco) but at least the developer made the items difficult to find (such as a green feather duster in a tree which blends in very well) plus some items can be placed in your inventory to use at a later time.
As an example of the latter, you might get a key that can open a door, a knife that can be used to cut open a ripped chair to find something inside, a glass eye for a mystic who wants it or gopher food used in a gopher hole to bring the little critter to the surface). Some of these inventory items are to be used on another scene. Curiously, many of the same items are peppered throughout the entire game, such as boomerangs, pickles and sandwiches!
There isn’t a lime limit to finish each level but if you click too many times on an incorrect object your cursor disappears for a while, serving as a punishment. If you need help, you can click on the item name and you’ll see a silhouette of the object, and if you need more help you can click on the beetle for to expose the general area on the scene in which you’ll find the item. You can add another clue to your total in case you’ll need it by finding five hidden beetles in each scene.
Every few levels or so players will get to play fun and challenging mini-games. Examples of the first two you’ll find include a musical King Tut game, where you first solve a jigsaw-like puzzle before matching symbols to piano-like keys to play a familiar Egyptian ditty. Personally, I loved the third one, where you need to match four or eight symbols by hanging monkeys (with different weights) from vines in the forest. Every so often, gamers will also find levels where they’ll hunt for multiple items on the screen, such as 20 monkeys, 20 bananas, 20 feathers, and so on.
The moment the menu screen graces your monitor you’ll no doubt get a sense of the high production values in Hidden Expedition: Amazon. Not only are the many scenes attractively drawn – including some surreal outdoor landscapes with exotic ruins and temples – but each level has animated bits, too, such as birds and insects, hot air balloons, drifting smoke or fog, and a flickering lamp. Simply gorgeous. The designers also outdid themselves with the breathtaking musical score, recorded by a live orchestra in Berlin, which is quite rare for a casual game.
Whether you’re a loyal hidden-object fan or mildly interested one who wants to experience one of the best the genre has to offer, don’t hesitate to download the highly-polished Hidden Expedition: Amazon for an adventure you won’t soon forget.