Even after solving the mystery in Veronica Rivers: Portals to the Unknown, the daring rescue pilot doesn’t have time to relax on a Japanese vacation. A vision disturbs the heroine’s trip, and so she hops on a plane to Europe and takes on a brand new case to avoid a threatening disaster — while also confronting a mysterious nemesis who’s been haunting her.
This is the premise behind Veronica Rivers: The Order Of Conspiracy, the second in the polished hidden-object game (HOG) series with adventure game-like elements.
Those familiar with the genre will pick up on the game mechanics right away: You’re presented with a messy indoor or outdoor scene — such as a room littered with items — and a list of objects you need to seek and find are listed along the left-hand side of the screen. In some cases, the items have nothing to do with the scene or story (such as a stuffed animal, umbrella or tuba found outside of a small shack), but in other cases it will be related to the tale such as scraps of paper that complete a map or batteries that go into a remote.
There is no time limit in which to complete each of these environments, and you can always click on the Hint button for the game to reveal a well-hidden object (you must wait a minute or two for the Hint button to regenerate before using again). If you click incorrectly too many times the mouse cursor splits into a half-dozen pointers and they fly in a circle for about five seconds (a small penalty).
As with the first Veronica Rivers game, many of the HOG exercises are reminiscent of adventure games from the ’90s. This includes using items found in the scene with another one, in order to accomplish a task you’re given. For example, in a chalet, you’re asked to light a fire to stay warm. First you’ll locate all the wooded planks and toss them into the fireplace. Then you’ll find the candle and place it into candleholder, followed by locating a lighter to light the candle. Now you can ignite the wood. These kinds of puzzles are in all of the HOG scenes, and they’re fun — albeit it easy — to figure out. (The game has Easy and Normal difficulty options, but both are on the simple side).
A few issues mar the HOG exercises, though. For one, sometimes the objects are confusing. For example, I was asked to find a "frame" so I clicked on the outside of a portrait hanging on the wall, but it was incorrect. It was another picture frame leaning against another wall. At another time I was asked to find a "spyglass" and so I clicked on one beside a globe on a table, but the correct one was a second spyglass on a desk.
While the game gives you up to 9 save slots (therefore multiple people in your family can play the game), the objects are always in the exact same slot, therefore the same person doesn’t really have a reason to play the game all over again. Yes, some of the objects you’re asked to find will be different the second time around (maybe 2 or 3 out of a dozen, per scene) but it still hurts the game’s replayability factor.
Between these HOG exercises are mini-games tied to the story, which are quite fun. Some of these puzzles remind me of Myst-style exercises — including the head-scratching manipulation of gears, switches, weights and discs — while some are more basic but enjoyable nonetheless. You can choose to bypass these bonus puzzles after a few minutes, if you deem them too tough.
Overall, Veronica Rivers: The Order Of Conspiracy is a very good but not extraordinary HOG adventure — and benefits from good music and attractive graphics. Plus, the story is quite good for a HOG. It’s not one of the better hidden-object games to debut over the last while, but fans of the genre should at least download the free trial.