Played one "HOG" – or "hidden object game" – and you’ve played them all? That depends, as some game makers attempt to add a few twists to the popular casual game genre in order to keep things fresh and fun.
SpinTop Games’ just-launched Escape Rosecliff Island doesn’t mess with the formula much – in fact, some may argue it has delivered virtually the same game as one of its predecessors (read on) – but still proves to be a fun object-hunting game with atmospheric graphics and enjoyable mini-games. If you don’t mind a recycled experience, that is.
After a nasty storm you find yourself shipwrecked on a remote island, and so you must visit various locations, solve puzzles and find items you need to help get you off.
The core game-play should be familiar to HOG fans: gamers will be presented with a busy indoor or outdoor scene (porch, boathouse, gazebo, cellar, kitchen, etc.) and a number of items to find will be listed at the bottom of the screen, such as a trophy, muffin, wire cutters, brass instrument, and so on.
Gamers will have about 20 minutes to complete each of the 25 locations and can ask for a hint or two if stuck. In some instances, the items are relevant to the scene – like a garden gnome on a lawn – while in most cases they’re not, like a scale on a beach. Players will also be asked to combine some items, such as putting eggs into a nest, framing a picture or placing an arrow onto a sign. Sometimes the word is a clue instead of the item, such as "bamboo eater" instead of "panda."
Find the two padlocks hidden in each scene (or the word "lock") and you can unlock two additional game modes accessible from the main menu: Unlimited Seek & Find (totaling 2,100 items to find!) and a Mystery Bonus Game (and no, we won’t ruin the surprise for you by telling you what it is).
After every few levels or so, players will collect special inventory items from each location to help you inch towards your goals, as well as gaining access to mini-games, such as a match-3 puzzler (a la Bejeweled), sliding-tile jigsaw puzzles, word search, memory games and more. These are quite good and serve as a pleasant diversion between the main game-play elements.
Even still, this game has its flaws. For one, some of the items are confusing, such as when hunting for a "statue," I clicked on a stone animal — but it was wrong. Elsewhere on the level was a bust of a man. This happened a few times, which proved frustrating.
Secondly, many keen gamers have noticed Escape Rosecliff Island bares close resemblance to SpinTop’s Mystery P.I. series in a few areas. Indeed it’s true. We booted up Mystery P.I. – The New York Fortune and saw the same artwork in both games (identical items), as well as similar mini-games (match-3, jigsaw, word search, tile-swap, and so on), two hidden objects per level (apple and key instead of padlocks) and heard the same sound effects. Really, this is just plain lazy on the developer’s part. Should a player who spent money on a Mystery P.I. game pay the same for Escape Rosecliff Island when it has recycled parts?
Truthfully, because of its shortcomings, Escape Rosecliff Island doesn’t deserve the kudos we lavish on other HOG developers. While it’s a good (and good-looking) puzzler, even if we didn’t catch the similarities between this game and past SpinTop titles, it doesn’t really offer anything unique to the overcrowded genre.