With hidden object games more popular than ever, it’s imperative that each new debut bring something different to the table. In the case of The Treasures of Mystery Island, innovation’s offered by way of the need to assemble inventory items and use them to solve puzzles or spark off engaging mini-games. Albeit an occasionally frustrating experience due to well-concealed clues, the odd presentation hiccup and the inherent need to find small, oddly-shaped playing pieces, one needn’t fret, however. Taken together, the whole of the title adds up to a fun, eye-catching experience that’s considerably more than the sum of its individual parts.
As the story (told via attractively-animated action scenes starring characters who nonetheless look distinctly foreign and whose heads don’t naturally fit their bodies) reveals, you’re a courier named Alex. While flying over the ocean, a freak storm forces you to crash land on an uncharted isle, where the local villagers’ chieftain and shaman soon direct you towards adventure and, hopefully, eventual escape. Play mostly boils down to the usual object-hunting fare though, as you scour caves, hospitals, hunting lodges and communications centers for vital quest items. Find enough pieces lying around in a jumble of trunks, mounted heads, bookcases and other assorted everyday clutter to assemble these goods, and you can place them back where they belong. Once done, vital playing pieces and missing clues are provided, mini-games offered to help advance the tale and new locations offered for your continued exploration.
Mind you, getting ahead is easier said than done. Objects are initially broken down into tiny, hard-to-spot shards often cruelly tucked away behind other objects, housed in difficult to see nooks and crannies or made to nigh-perfectly blend in with background environments. The further you progress, lack of a general ticking timer notwithstanding, the harder locating missing bottle caps and pinecone fragments becomes to boot, as even when you think you’ve found one, these items’ miniscule size means clicking on them can be a tricky task. So make sure you go in expecting to do a little hair-pulling, even if an unlimited “tip” function (periodically replenished as the seconds pass) which helps you track down these gewgaws does help offset the aggravation factor. Oh, and a word to the wise as well, since it’s not always apparent. Sometimes, you just have to solve larger puzzles – i.e. placing nozzles back on faucets or grates back on ventilation shafts – using items you’ve collected at other locations before that last missing piece appears, no matter how much time you’ve previously wasted scouring the screen for it.
Still, with its non-linear setup and grab bag of nifty diversions (e.g. memory challenges or scenarios that demand you choose all edible items from a chain of eggplants, baseballs, oranges, dice and such scrolling by), there’s much to enjoy here. For example, a diverse range of areas to visit (jungles, waterfalls, etc.), snappy aesthetic (love those eye-catching backdrops and the map which serves as a main level hub), and nice selection of collectible trophies (awarded for speed, accuracy, ability to go without hints and so on). Certain elements – e.g. occasional sequences where “cards” featuring athletes, mechanics, waiters and little boys require you to find objects related to each, such as a sheriff’s guns and handcuffs – don’t make much sense. But what they do accomplish, though, is the addition of extra replay value, extending the title’s long-term appeal somewhat beyond where that of most competitors lies.
Neither a particular standout nor dismal failure, in the end, this is simply an entertaining, well-made saga that employs a grab bag of colorful activities and distractions to keep you clicking away. That said, regardless, we definitely dig its overt nods towards both traditional point-and-click desktop adventures as well as more contemporary hidden object titles. If you’re looking for the type of title that’s equally suited towards short or extended gaming sessions, and doesn’t mess with the standard category formula so much as slightly remix it, download away. With its one-two punch of snappy activities and sweet audiovisuals, The Treasures of Mystery Island offers a bounty of entertainment value for all.