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Publisher: Big Fish Games    Genre: Puzzle & Trivia
Min OS X: 10.4    RAM: 512 MB

Hidden Mysteries: Buckingham Palace
February 17, 2009 | Michael Scarpelli

Click to enlarge

As you can see, things are scattered in a pretty isolated fashion on the ground.
Scavenger hunts are a lot of fun. They send you all around, trying your darnedest to hunt for wacky objects in strange places. It’s the goal of the hidden objects school of casual gaming to really capture the essence of the scavenger hunt. Find the items, win the mission, unlock the mystery. This is apparently a pretty resonant concept, too, as hidden object games are all the rage.

My wife, who is my co-reviewer for this one (wave to Janelle, everyone… she says “Hello”), is obsessed by three types of games currently. She loves Sudoku (and completes them with a speed I find dizzying), room escape games and hidden object games. The main object of her affections in this regard is the Mystery Case Files series and, I’m sorry to say Hidden Mysteries (conveniently both are being distributed by Big Fish Games… so they won’t mind the comparison, I don’t think), this will be the gold standard series you are measured against.

Hidden Mysteries: Buckingham Palace is the latest offering from Big Fish Games in their corner of the hidden object world. For this particular scavenger’s adventure, you’ll be trekking across the pond to explore Buckingham Palace and uncover the secrets of the missing crown jewels. The story is quasi-historical, which is a nice touch (but only quasi, so don’t get too excited).

After the fashion of all hidden object titles, you roam from location to hopelessly cluttered location. The game will present you with a list of objects to locate and you must then find and click on all those objects to advance to the next levels. It’s a very simple concept and instantly appealing to any gamer that hates the frustration that can come from trying to master tricky controls under pressure. Point. Click. Voila.

Hidden Mysteries is an altogether satisfactory entry into the hidden object genre, but it fails to impress for one central reason: density. The Mystery Case Files games are DENSE. There are an overwhelming number of objects hidden in every level, the hints are sparse, the recursion is high (you’ll revisit many locations each level) and the end-level puzzles are brutal. If Mystery Case Files is a meal, Hidden Mysteries is a snack. It might be a tasty snack, but it is a snack nonetheless.

The Locations
Each location in Hidden Mysteries highlights a different area of Buckingham Palace – drawing rooms, dining rooms, gardens, gateways, etc. The levels are filled with objects, but they seem a bit anemic. This is likely because the game is trying to both give you the sense that you’re exploring the Palace and give you things to find. Leaning too heavily towards the clutter of objects and the location is obscured, disrupting the theme a bit. The problem with this approach is that it then means that the game becomes pretty easy.

In most locations objects aren’t so much hidden as they are placed on the ground in a random fashion. Many items are in plain view, with nothing obscuring or distracting you from them. I also found it pretty frequent that the game would list three, four, five objects in a row for me to find… and they would all be literally within pixels of one another.

The locations all look nice, and have a solid variety, but the game does suffer the same problem all the early iterations of Mystery Case Files have, and that’s that everything is fairly grainy and pixilated. Not so helpful when you’re trying to spot small, hidden things.


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