Escape the Museum
Developer: Gogii Games
Requirements: Mac OS X, 400 MHz G3, 128 MB RAM. Universal.
Trial: Time-limited (one hour)
A long time ago when I first wanted to find hidden objects games (for my son, of course), there were only the handful of I Spy titles from Scholastic. I first got the ones made for Mac OS X, then even bought the ones that work only in Classic mode. Nowadays, almost every other week there is a new hidden objects game. How different can they all be? One of the latest games of the genre, Escape the Museum, sure succeeds at being different.
The typical hidden object game involves some contrived story. In Escape the Museum, you play the role of Susan, a museum employee who brought her daughter Caitlin to work. An earthquake happened and the two got separated. Susan must work her way through various damaged parts of the museum to reunite with her daughter. Along the way you get some help from other museum staff members and some in the city outside. Your progress is slowed down by requests to salvage certain pieces from the museum’s collection, which, surprise surprise, involves looking for hidden objects. It sounds like you are supposed to look for “valuables,” but in reality the items to be found are mundane things like a sub (sandwich) or a roll of carnival tickets. I told you the genre involves contrivance. By the way, you should realize by now that the game has nothing to do with the Hollywood movie Night at the Museum starring Ben Stiller.
Sure, Marcus, museum “valuables,” eh? Including that delicious sub sandwich on the right?
Unlike the typical hidden objects game, in Escape the Museum you are not constrained by time. Move the mouse at your leisure to every pixel on the screen. Be careful not to click unless you are sure, as you are rated by accuracy. With the first object found, your accuracy is 100%. As you make mistakes, your accuracy drops. My able assistant, seven-year-old Justin, is good at not clicking like crazy; but I am not sure if other, perhaps younger, players can be as patient. Still, it seems that as long as you eventually find all objects you do not have to re-visit the room.
Like the typical hidden object game, Museum has hints to help pinpoint objects. However, the more you rely on hints, the lower your accuracy. But then Museum also offers help in what I call “auto-detect.” If the pointer is atop a hidden object, it bounces and throbs. It costs nothing to use “auto-detect”; you just have to be patient and move the pointer everywhere without clicking.
It is a good thing that auto-detect is available because the objects in Escape the Museum are sometimes very hard to locate. I thought my years of reading the I Spy books with Justin would give me an edge, but I was wrong. Part of the reason is that the objects are usually small in size. Also, the player is usually across the room from the items. Some objects do not appear as their true forms. In the Human Predecessors picture, I was sure that behind the center caveman, on the shelf, is a watch. It is supposed to be a belt.
Can you see what I see? On the shelf in the background, is that not a watch? It is supposed to be a belt.
What is really bad is that the objects in some cases are close to being completely hidden. Although the game genre is called “hidden object,” in reality, the objects should merely get partially obscured by other objects yet still show some parts that are characteristic to them. For example, a “hidden” bowling pin would still show the entire length of its shape, perhaps even the red stripes on white. Just showing the white tip of the pin is simply wrong, in my opinion. Likewise, a “hidden” shoe should still show its profile, not just the tip, as is the case in the Main Vestibule.
To better notice the way objects are sometimes almost literally hidden in Museum, I also spent some time playing Travelogue 360: Paris and Hidden Relic. Travelogue has the distinct advantage of allowing the player to zoom in. Hidden Relic’s play area is actually smaller than Museum’s, but the user is closer to the scene. In both games, objects overlap or blend into the background, but never get unfairly obstructed.
Escape the Museum is more than a hidden objects game. Intertwined with the hidden objects levels you have adventure levels. You still have to find a few objects. To escape the adventure levels, you need to follow the clues that appear as related objects are clicked on. For example, in one scene, you need to find a doorknob that has fallen off, but it is not in the lit area of the scene. It may be in a dark pile of rubble, so you will need to find a flashlight. Alas, the flashlight needs a bulb and batteries. The adventure levels provide a refreshing and challenging alternative to eye-balling for hidden objects.
In Escape the Museum, visual and audio effects are very appropriately used. The music is eerie and seems to warn of some impending danger. It is too spooky for Justin, so he only plays the game with music volume set to zero. I am sure Justin would love to control the visual effects as well. In some adventure levels, while you are busy looking for the objects to create your escape route, the building will shake, sometimes accompanied by a rain of small debris. The effect is real enough to get Justin scared. A “spookiness” setting here would be nice for the younger players.
Escape the Museum is a different kind of hidden object game, with no time constraint and more reliance on accuracy, which may not matter that much anyway. It features a good combination of hidden object and adventure levels. Some objects are unfairly hidden or not clearly shown, but if you have patience the auto-detect feature will help you pinpoint them.