Game Reviews

Amazon: Hidden Expedition

Star onStar onStar onStar onStar off
Amazon: Hidden Expedition

Given the alarming rate of deforestation, you'd think spotting objects hidden in the Amazon rain forest would be easier now than ever before.

The sad reality is that the destructive clearing of the world's largest arboreal habitat hasn't made finding things any simpler. A smaller forest makes for a denser ecosystem, with a higher chance of missing sought after objects in a more crowded, compact environment. It's like rifling through a ceiling-high messy closet looking for a lost sock.

Just because the space is small doesn't imply the search is any easier, and Amazon: Hidden Expedition proves the point. While boasting the same polished gameplay as the iPad version, the smaller iPhone makes this South American search and rescue a tricky mission.

Knick-knack paddy-whack

Amazon: Hidden Expedition begins in the Big Apple. With word of a scientist gone missing in pursuit of the fabled Beetle Temple, you decide to follow his trail in the hope of rescuing him and uncovering the location of the legendary ruins yourself.

Like any good adventure, it's all about finding the right artefacts. Instead of ancient treasures, though, you're after knick-knacks and everyday trinkets. Forks, film reels, animals, food - each of the 27 chapters presents a diverse list of hidden objects to find.

Within each chapter are multiple scenes with their own set of items and interactive puzzles. You're free to move between scenes scouting objects, which is great because it ensures you can move onto something else if you're stuck.

Of course, you have to return to complete the scene in order to advance, yet the ability to change scenes at will eases any potential frustration.

Throw me a bone

Clever hint systems also help when you're stumped. Tapping an object on the list displays its silhouette. If that's not enough to help you find the item, you can acquire hints that pinpoint its location. For every five beetles spotted in a scene, you're awarded a hint. Without these hints, finding the best hidden objects would surely end in aggravation.

Even with these hints, acquiring some items is still tough. Objects are regularly placed at the edge of the screen, which can be difficult to navigate due to the way the game likes to pull away from the borders of a scene.

Puzzles cut through the item hunting with original challenges such as cracking a safe crafted in the likeness of King Tutankhamun's sarcophagus and charming snakes with makeshift jam band.

The intricacy require for some of these puzzles - particularly the ancient Egyptian-themed safe - is a poor fit for the small iPhone and iPod touch screen.

The big difference

Support for OpenFeint gives the iPhone and iPod touch version of Amazon: Hidden Expedition an edge, but it feels compressed onto the screen in way that makes it less appealing than its iPad counterpart. Additionally, older handsets may experience memory management issues not apparent on iPad.

Obviously, the larger screen makes for more intuitive searching, but what truly makes the iPad version stand out is the inclusion of an exclusive same-screen multiplayer mode.

The ability to compete with a friend using any of the single-player scenes offers immense value and brings innovation to a largely static genre. There are issues - the edges of scenes are quite difficult to manipulate in multiplayer - yet it's a great concept nonetheless.

With better adapted puzzles for iPhone this universal app would be even in quality, but the iPad-exclusive multiplayer tips it to one side. It's an enjoyable adventure on iPhone, just better on iPad.

Amazon: Hidden Expedition

With phenomenal hint systems, a lengthy adventure, and inventive multiplayer on iPad, Amazon: Hidden Expedition is a delight
Tracy Erickson
Tracy Erickson
Manning our editorial outpost in America, Tracy comes with years of expertise at mashing a keyboard. When he's not out painting the town red, he jets across the home of the brave, covering press events under the Pocket Gamer banner.