Crash-land on a remote tropical island and save its otherworldly inhabitants from a gang of pirate thugs.
The Bermuda Triangle has long engendered fearful fascination among those acquainted with its mythical powers and this makes it the perfect setting for an uncanny adventure. Set within this infamous location, Hidden Expedition: The Uncharted Islands revisits many of the locations, themes and characters of Hidden Expedition: Devil’s Triangle and expertly expands upon them to create a compelling (though at times baffling) hidden object game.
As so many hidden object games do, Hidden Expedition: The Uncharted Islands starts with a bang. Well, more correctly, a crash. After going mano-a-mano with the Bermuda Triangle, you crash-land on a desert island and find yourself being slapped awake by a hooded figure. Rather than offering to save you however, she asks that you save her—and all the other inhabitants of the island. Having once been settled by an inventor/genius named Gideon and his daughter Delia, the island is now menaced by a childish pirate called Captain Undertow. Aiming to escape the island and enthrall the world, Undertow aims to steal Gideon’s miraculous technology. As you can imagine, Gideon’s not too keen on that idea so a fight ensues and as the new kid in town, you’re elected to play referee.
From the start, it’s obvious Hidden Expedition: The Uncharted Islands is a cut above the usual hidden object fare, and for several reasons. Most obviously, the graphics. Dazzling scenes radiate color, creating such richness and atmosphere, you’d swear you could smell the seawater. Characters too are remarkably attractive and memorable, from Delia, the beautiful inventor’s daughter to the ten-year-old wannabe rocket pilot to Captain Undertow himself. Cutscenes and visual effects are also stunning and do much not only for the look of the game, but for its narrative as well. The narrative is another of the game’s strong points and players who take the time to read the main character’s journal text will be treated to some amusing, tongue-in-cheek commentary.
In addition to great graphics and clever writing, Hidden Expedition: The Uncharted Islands also boasts an interesting take on hidden object gameplay. Unlike most games in the genre, here the hidden object scenes blend seamlessly with the rest of the game, are often two screens wide and allow movement within them. Item hunting also functions differently since each hidden object scene is layered two or more times and reveals even more hidden objects as items are manipulated and moved around. Further, puzzles are often integrated into these scenes, and this gives them even more interest and depth.
On the downside of the puzzle situation, if anything negative can be said about this mostly-excellent adventure, it’s that its puzzles can be outright baffling. While great care is taken to present players with puzzles that are unique and beautiful, they’re also often utterly confounding. Less experienced players may find themselves frequently resorting to the “skip” button since a handful of these puzzles are more complex than is usual and could prove too challenging. Additionally, while the game’s objectives are always stated clearly, its sub-objectives (as in, the steps taken to achieve those goals) are often a bit obscure. The result is a lot of back-tracking and random clicking as you try to discover what you’re supposed to do next.
The game’s hint system is no help here either since hints only work during hidden object scenes and do nothing to point you toward your next objective. Fortunately, the game does have a comprehensive strategy guide with a full walkthrough and something tells me many players will be referring to it.
Regardless of these issues, Hidden Expedition: The Uncharted Islands is a quality hidden object game. It’s beautiful, it’s interesting, it’s funny, and it offers some truly creative modifications to what’s become an all too familiar gameplay formula. The Collector’s Edition also offers some extras in the form of concept art, wallpapers, music, concept art and about an hour’s worth of bonus gameplay that serves as an epilogue to the main story. While it’s true that players new to hidden object games might get lost here and there and could have a tough time with some of the puzzles, the game’s handy “skip” button and in-game strategy guide should guarantee that all players have a fun and exciting adventure.