Sometimes exciting adventures require a little elbow grease
NatGeo: World of Secrets is a hidden object game fused with a quest-based simulation title, all playable right in your browser window. It features open-ended gameplay that lets you search and travel wherever you like, just as long as you find the items you need in order to proceed. Even though the gameplay focuses a little too much on repetition, you always feel like you’re making progress towards a bigger goal.
Returning home to Washington one evening, Ada Wellsboro finds her home is in a mess. Fortunately it’s just the cat acting up, but it gives Ada the chance to discover a carrier pigeon bearing a letter from her father, Wallace Wellsboro. He ventured to the North Pole with a team of researchers and hasn’t been seen for some time. The note reveals their airship has been damaged and they desperately need help. Ada to the rescue! With some help from the National Geographic Society, of course.
Gameplay in NatGeo: World of Secrets takes place in two main areas: the overworld map where Ava can decorate, manage, and explore, and inside hidden object scenes. Hidden object scenes are plentiful and come in several different varieties. Sometimes you’ll hunt for text lists of items, other times you’ll search by silhouette. The lists are relatively short but feature items that are surprisingly challenging to locate (sometimes unfairly so). You’ll repeat the same scenes multiple times as you hunt for specific items, but each time the list changes and some of the item locations shuffle around. The scenes are rendered with lovely artwork, so you really won’t mind staring at the same room several times in a row.
After a hidden object scene, you’ll walk away with a few items. These are stashed in your inventory and will be used to complete quests to push Ada’s journey forward. The first quest, for example, requires a few parts to finish an airship. By checking in on your active quests you can determine where to go to find the items you need, at which point it’s simply a matter of jumping in and sifting through HOG scenes to get things done!
NatGeo: World of Secrets does employ the very famous Facebook microtransaction set-up. Fortunately, though, they’re not overused and feel like an honest part of the experience. Coins can be used in the shop to buy items useful in hidden object scenes. You can purchase hint compasses, buy bonus time, or invest in items that give you an experience boost. You can also buy decorations to add to the overworld scene. They’re mainly cosmetic in nature, but many give a healthy XP boost when accessed. Energy limits how many scenes you can complete within a given time, but as long as you pace yourself and don’t try to do a marathon NatGeo: World of Secrets session, the automatic refill timer should keep you in business.
The only area where NatGeo: World of Secrets honestly stumbles is in its tendency to repeat things. Items necessary for completing quests often can’t be found until you work through a particular hidden object scene half a dozen or more times. This veers into microtransaction-pushing territory when you take into account the energy expenditure required, but not every mission requires lots of grinding to complete, so it isn’t a pervasive problem.
When a Facebook hidden object game looks this good, you’ve got to look twice. NatGeo: World of Secrets brings both instant gratification and long term goals to the table as well, creating an engaging game that pulls you back in time after time.