Review by Ryan Harrison
What kind of underwater expedition sends you to retrieve tennis balls and watermelons, anyway?!
Researching and learning about the sinking of the RMS Titanic is a subject that has always interested me, you may or may not be surprised to know. A topic I first learned about in primary school and got to know more about through various sources (internet, history books, television, etc.), in the 100-plus years since the international maritime disaster occurred it has also been remembered through romantic and comedic films, and even in a number of video games, too.
Hidden Expedition: Titanic, released as a downloadable title for the 3DS from the Nintendo eShop in 2014, is part of a series of 'hidden object' puzzle games that also include other titles that also involve looking for certain objects on Everest and in the Amazon. This particular iteration of the Hidden Expedition series, as its name implies, involves plundering that famous old ship that struck an iceberg and came to rest on the Atlantic Ocean floor in 1912. Despite featuring a hub screen with an outline of the many rooms of the ship and one particular stage set at the famous Grand Staircase, there's little else to suggest you're not just plundering any old passenger liner that hit the ocean floor, nor is there much to set it apart from most other standard hidden-object game.
The vast majority of the gameplay involves visiting various rooms around the sunken Titanic, such as storage rooms, bedrooms, decks, the cabin and the aforementioned Grand Staircase – among others – and retrieve the objects given on an on-screen list, which are hidden amongst heaps of clutter. Some aren't so difficult to locate on account of their size or where you may expect to see them (shoes usually somewhere on the floor, bottles usually on shelves, for example), yet others can be much more difficult to make out due to being smaller or blend in much more easily with backgrounds or other objects. The control scheme is very simple; you can move the camera to look around the room with the use of the 3DS' Circle Pad, and to collect a required object, simply tap it on the Touch Screen with the use of the stylus.
The game takes place over a total of fourteen different "dives" – the game's term for 'levels' or 'stages' – at first each dive comprised of two rooms that you must successfully find all objects within the given time limit, and this becomes three rooms in later dives, with your time limit getting shorter later on, as well. One particular snag with the game is that many rooms are recycled several times, although the objects you need to find can be different each time. However, that's not all; once all rooms in the dive are cleared, you still have to clear a bonus puzzle with your remaining time. These bonuses alternate between another hidden-object puzzle where this time you have to find objects that match a silhouetted picture of it, or fill in a lithographic-style photograph by moving pieces from a tube onto a template grid.
As mentioned, each dive is on a set time limit that constantly ticks away while you're trying to pick out the required objects given on your list, and a few additional seconds are taken away any time you tap an area of the screen that doesn't contain a particular object that you need, however the time taken off per incorrect tap is very little (just a few seconds, which isn't too much a deterrent in most cases). If there's something you're also having real trouble in finding, you can also tap the hint button in the upper-right corner of the touch screen to lead you directly to a hidden piece and point it out by making bubbles emanate from it, however this comes at a cost of significantly bigger chunk of time, and the more you use this limited lifeline, the more time it costs per use. In later dives in which you have to clear three rooms plus a bonus puzzle on only 20 minutes, it means you'll have to resort to it only in very dire need.
Graphically, the game is okay to look at, yet the visuals are notably grainier than those of the PC version of the game. The game makes very little use of the handheld's 3D technology on the top screen, and some washed-out colouring on some objects make them, at times near-indistinguishable. Certain backgrounds are rendered decently enough even if nothing really stands out that much, and I've also found it bizarre that you're looking for modern-day objects like soccer balls with the classic Telstar black-pentagon panelling (excusing the fact they're perfectly round and haven't floated to the surface – these kind of balls were first used in the 1960s), or toy cars that look like 1970s Chevelles – in a ship that sunk in 1912. What other kind of things do you have to find? How about fresh apples, oranges, grapes or watermelons; animals like cats, dogs, owls, snakes and butterflies? Rather ridiculous, yet either way the game obviously intends to use objects that are trickier to make out rather than historically-accurate items, and on many occasions their size and scale aren't completely accurate, either.
The game's audio also goes with a repetitive soundtrack that contains the same usual looped eerie background music that occasionally changes up between areas, yet I personally found doesn't do anything to enhance the experience or make it feel more immersive. Standard, stock sound effects of swiping objects, collecting optional hidden gem stones, or bubbles rising upwards, are all that accompany the action.
Players of hidden-object puzzle games should have a decent enough time with playing Hidden Expedition: Titanic as it is quite tough in spots and has an increasing challenge as it goes on. One particular element of challenge also comes in that you may be required to look for an object that can have different meanings. Say, if you're looking for a 'horn', you don't know if that means a musical horn, an animal horn, or a car horn, for instance. Since the objects you need to find are in written form, you might also see the name of an item you may not have even heard of! One other big snag is that while you tend to revisit the same areas from time to time, yes – the objects you have to find change – but some also stay the same. There can be some twenty to thirty-odd hidden things per room but you're only required to look for up to around a dozen at a time, it may have also been better were there some kind of mode to allow you to try and find every single hidden object available. A few different extra rooms may also have been a welcome addition.
Overall, Hidden Expedition: Titanic has its value for anyone with a liking for hidden-object games, yet it is a pretty repetitive and underwhelming experience. It doesn't offer anything to make it stand out from other titles in the same tried genre and besides the title and a couple of areas, it has very little to do with the theme of that famous luxury passenger liner. Trying to locate all the hidden gem stones is all that really offers a pretty weak incentive to revisit the game on a future playthrough, and after a good 3–4 hours of playing time you'd be best advised to move on to another game in the Hidden Expedition series. A so-so experience overall, worth a download if it's on sale for a good low price, otherwise if games like these aren't your thing I'd recommend you just leave it be.
Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Product Release: Hidden Expedition: Titanic (EU, 05/08/14)
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