Soar to exciting new heights with this eccentric hidden object adventure.

Have you ever wished you could fly? And I don’t mean in airplanes or hot air balloons or anything like that. I’m talking about spreading your wings, leaving the ground, and touching the clouds. Well in Surface: The Soaring City, you’ll get a picture of what that might be like as you embark on a whimsical hidden object adventure to save your brother Jeremy, the famous inventor, who has built a floating city in the sky.

As players ascend to Jeremy’s magnificent creation, another shocking discovery is made: your brother has found a way to put feathery wings on humans. Jeremy’s got a set of wings too, and pretty soon you’ll meet his winged wife, Hope, and even their winged baby, Wind, as midair battles between opposing members of the winged community erupt around you, led by a disgruntled bird-person named Thunder.

Surface: The Soaring City

The plot is ridiculous, over-the-top, and even laughable at times, but I can’t say it didn’t capture my attention at every turn. The story is told through traditional still-frame cut scenes, but here’s the catch: the game implements live actors performing each role, and superimposes them into each painted background! It’s a really cool thing to watch, especially when you have most of the actors zooming around the soaring city on their wings. The actors’ mouths intentionally don’t match up with the voiceover work, which can be a little jarring at first, but it’s still really amusing to see in action. I don’t think the game is supposed to be funny by any means, but I constantly found myself laughing whenever a cut scene would start and the live actors took the center stage. Okay, so maybe Surface: The Soaring City takes itself a little too seriously for its extreme story and theatrical presentation, but there’s just this unexplainable endearing quality to be had from it all, and you actually start to care for these winged soap opera stars.

If anything, the crazy story leads to some truly fascinating destinations for you to discover, and the floating city itself is home to some of the most imaginative locations I’ve seen in a hidden object game. The adventuring aspects are placed throughout an excellent map layout, and despite how downright strange some of the environmental puzzles are, there’s still a logical solution for every hurdle that you’ll face (the game also has a strange fascination with hamsters in little aviator helmets, don’t ask me why). The hidden object scenes are all very unique, and you’ll never be forced to go through any of them more than once (which is a nice change of pace for dedicated HOG fans).

Surface: The Soaring City

One really neat aspect to the hidden object scenes is that you’ll often need to use the actual items in your inventory to “complete” certain objects and scratch them off your list. This can range from using a rubber glove to retrieve a pearl at the bottom of a piranha’s fishbowl, to replacing a piano key on a busted accordion. A few times in the game I had to leave a hidden object scene and come back to it, because I hadn’t found a certain item that I needed to complete it yet. This simple mechanic will completely change the way you look at your inventory, and it throws in some welcomed red herrings to the adventuring segements of the game as well.

The puzzles, on the other hand, can be a little hit or miss. While some puzzles are absolutely fantastic, others leave a bit to be desired (like a random Bejeweled-inspired mini game). The game’s attention to detail also tends to dip in these latter kinds of puzzles, with the graphics feeling rushed or lazy in design. The difficulty of the puzzles is very inconsistent, with some taking only seconds to complete, and others leaving you baffled for large chunks of time. However, all of the puzzles are still completely distinct, and I never ran into any performance issues, so I do have to applaud the game developers for that.

Surface: The Soaring City

In addition to a generous bonus chapter for those who purchase the Collector’s Edition of Surface: The Soaring City, there are also dozens of in-game achievements you can earn for doing things like completing 10 hidden object scenes without using a hint. But the crowning inclusion in the game might be its unique “Philanthropist Mode.” All throughout the main game, you’ll see these little flowers that can be picked up to add points to a philanthropist counter in the corner of the screen. When you enter this Philanthropist Mode, you are presented with three different scenes from the game, which have all been ravished or devastated in some way. You’ll need to spend your philanthropist points to put out fires, repave walkways, and complete other home improvement tasks to restore each location back to its former glory. Even though there’s no real reward for completely renovating everything other than a few more achievements, it’s still a nice touch that didn’t have to be there, and it gives you a reason to play the game again if you didn’t pick up enough philanthropist points on the first go around.

Melodramatic bird people aside, Surface: The Soaring City is an incredibly ambitious hidden object adventure game that brings a breath of fresh air to the genre, and lets players soar to exciting new heights. Even though it can be a little too theatrical at times, and a few things about it are just downright weird, there is no denying the amount of fun you’ll have playing this one. Once you start, it’ll be hard to keep your feet on the ground.