Going Casual

Big Fish Games is basically the Valve of casual games. Not only does it run one of the most popular digital distribution systems for its genre of games, it also has two of the best series of games on the market. Now Big Fish just needs to make an announcement about their own in-house operating system and the analogy will be complete.

Hidden Expedition is the yin to Mystery Case Files’s yang. While MCF focuses on paranormal mystery stories, HE tells adventure stories everywhere from the holds of the Titanic to the islands in the Bermuda Triangle. My two favorite games in the series so far have been Everest and Amazon.

In the latest game, they tackle one of the world’s most famous and most notorious shiny stones, the Hope Diamond. Almost as well-known for the trail of bodies that supposedly follows it as for its beauty; the Tavernier Blue is as good a MacGuffin as anything.

If I have one large quibble with this game, it has to be the story. Yes, I’m aware the façade of a story in casual games is a shaky one at best, but when a series is trying to create a big, multi-game story arc, they need to pay more attention. I know they can do it, because they’ve managed to do it with MCF.

So, see if you can follow this: In the first three games of the series, there was really no attempt to make a story. It wasn’t until Devil’s Triangle that it was implied that you were playing the same adventurer, a prized member of the Hidden Expedition organization. Hope Diamond opens with that same organization recruiting you with elaborate puzzles. And no, it’s not a prequel; they specifically mention that your exploits in Everest, etc. drew their attention. So am I a famed Hidden Expedition member or not?

Well, c’est la vie. Like I said, I’m not going to get too hung up on the tissue-thin story premise when there’s so much else to do. The hidden-object scenes are almost outnumbered by the puzzles, but those are all generally decent. You might not find any particularly big challenges, but you might have to stop in several places for careful thought. In a game which isn’t specifically about puzzles, that’s something.

This game is a nice little walk through history, as viewed through the lens of the Smithsonian and the Hope Diamond. It’s not a brain-melting challenge, but there are worse ways to spend a casual evening.

I'm the daughter of a veteran who spent my childhood in Killeen. As of 2013, I have a degree in English from the University of Texas at Austin. I'm a critic of books, films, television, and video games. Find me on Twitter: @rachel_knows

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