Fiona Powell’s father has been exploring the oceans for 25 years when he goes missing somewhere off the North Carolina coast. In Nat Geo Adventure: Ghost Fleet, Fiona sets out to work with her father’s crew to track him down through the information available at the shipwreck sites. This latest foray into hidden object games from National Geographic shows slight improvement over its previous attempts in Nat Geo Games: Mystery of Cleopatra and Lost City of Z.
You begin by searching for shipwrecks using the sonar that lets you ping different areas until it locates one. Upon finding a shipwreck, you’ll learn a little about its history as you travel to the site to explore it and to find the needed items. A few scenes per chapter contain an artifact, which is an item not on the hidden object list that can lead to earning screensavers and wallpaper bonuses. How are you supposed to know what the artifact is? The instructions failed to explain that, but the answer is in your PDA.
The PDA contains three types of information: Crew, artifacts and shipwrecks. The crew tab gives you details about the members, their backgrounds and their possessions that you will find in the shipwrecks. Their possessions are the list items highlighted in yellow to identify them as an action item. This means the item enters your inventory for later use that makes up the small portion of the point-and-click puzzles. The artifacts tab identifies artifacts you’ve found and the ones you need to find. The shipwreck tab gives fascinating background on each shipwreck.
Plenty of hints are available especially since you can get more by finding the question mark symbol to gain more hints. You can also get Quick-Hints where you select an item to see its silhouette. This comes in handy at times when you search in vain for a rudder, helm and bat that actually turn out to be a ship’s wheel (both rudder and helm) and a croquet mallet. Fortunately, this mislabeling only occurs a couple of times.
In every chapter, Fiona meets a new crew member who provides support to let her know what she needs to do. Sometimes the instructions slip by or you might lose it to an accidental click. There’s no way to review the instructions or story after the fact.
A mini-game comes on board every time you finish exploring a scene. You can skip all of the mini-games without any restrictions, but they may as well as have been left out altogether because they’re not original or fun. Only the "pipes" game has a little originality, but it only happens once and for good reason. You need to rotate the pipes in the form of red and yellow wires until they all connect so you can disarm a bomb. The most frequent mini-games are the jigsaw puzzles and the rotate pieces until a picture comes together. Other mini-games include the ever-present finding matching pairs, taking photos of fish species and comparing two scenes for differences.
Expert mode is unlocked after you complete Normal mode. Expert mode takes away all the hints and puts you on notice with a clock. This mode should be available at the start so experienced players can have a challenge. The only time you’ll want to replay the game is if you didn’t collect all the artifacts the first time around. For a little motivation, the game has you looking for some new items, but they’ll be in the same place as the first time you visited.
Ghost Fleet has good-looking underwater scenes that have the right amount of lighting. Underwater scenes tend to look too dark in some hidden object games. Since this one takes place entirely underwater, though, it’s a smart move. The bonus wallpaper and screensavers are disappointing, however, since the scenes aren’t exactly breathtaking.
Some scenes require you to visit another scene before you can finish the scene. The game fails to mention this and the hint button doesn’t clue you in. Most of the scenes have bubbles and fish swimming around, which can irritate a little with the constant distraction. A bigger annoyance is the big flashes on a scene to let you know you need to interact with the object. While an understandable feature, the flashing needs softening as it’s a big bother.
Story updates appear after you finish a mini-game or chapter. While a decent story, the text contains a little too much reading for one sitting. It only takes a couple of hours to play the entire Normal mode, which isn’t acceptable considering the repetitive mini-games and very little use of point-and-click scene interactions. Ghost Fleet shines in shipwreck search and history portion with its flawless story tie-in making it a worthy peek.