I like the notion behind hidden object games. That probably comes out of my old-school love of Where’s Waldo – there’s a sense about finding that which is hidden in plain sight which I find quite satisfying. What I don’t need with a hidden object game is a half-baked story placed on top of it, particularly when the half-baked story isn’t something you as the player control in any way. G5 Entertainment’s latest hidden object title, Romance of Rome, combines all the fun of a hidden object game with the great disappointment of a half-baked story.
Let’s dispose of that story first, shall we? You play as Marcus, a young lad who is heading for Rome in hopes of finding… let’s say fortune and glory. Marcus ends up visiting sites in Rome, making friends, doing favors, and falling in love. But, none of that is anything you have any effect over – most of the story is told in a between levels-comic or as you enter a new location where someone will ask you to find an object. It really doesn’t add to the flavor of the game, but at least the conversations are skip-able.
The actually hidden object finding works very far better. Each level contains several different sites for you to visit and in each you need to find multiple objects. Some of these objects are then utilized to alter things in one of the locations on the level (using a key to unlock a treasure box, a knife to cut a loaf of bread, or something to mop water, etc.). The locations, set in Rome, are numerous, although once you get far enough into the game, some of the objects you need to find do repeat.
Going through the title I found two main gripes with the gameplay. First, on the bottom of the screen you get to see five different objects that you’re searching for in a location. Only by finding one of these objects does it disappear from the screen and allow you to search for another new object (it isn’t uncommon to have 15 to 20 objects to find in a single location). This proves hugely frustrating when you find an object that you’re positive the game is going to want you to search out later but which you can’t get at that moment. There doesn’t seem to be any reason for the order the game selects to show you the objects you need to find, so why it requires you to follow it becomes a matter of no small frustration.
The second real complaint I have revolves around how the objects are hidden. Some of the things you are to find are hidden within the picture in a way that makes them a part of the scene – you need to find an apple in a bowl of fruit or a knife among swords, or something just lying around on the floor. With those objects you can believe that they are actually present within the scene, but then there’s the second type of object that couldn’t physically exist where it is; the object can only be placed as it is because it is a drawing and not real. I think that both types of objects are valid, but that it confuses the issue somewhat to have both present in a single game or single location within a game.
Those issues aside, the scenes themselves are pretty, there is a ton of stuff to find, a hint system for when you get stuck, and Romance of Rome also makes good use of a zoom function so that you can really focus on a single location. You can certainly spend a number of hours going through the title from beginning to end, and those who fancy hidden object games will almost certainly want to do just that. It isn’t a perfect title, but it can be an enjoyable way to pass the time.