There’s a first for everything, and Lost Lands: A Hidden Object Adventure is my initial dip into a free-to-play hidden objects game. Y’know, that mega popular genre where you examine a scene and click on items to check them off a list. Back in the old days, you used to do it on paper, in magazines like Highlights, while waiting in some reception area. It’s strange to see this genre smothered by staple free-to-play elements like energy and special currencies, but it’s free on Steam and sometimes all I want to do is scour a scene for the most random of items, and this kind of fills that desire, but only kind of. Unfortunately, while clicking on crabs, knapsacks, and hidden oars, I also found a number of problems along the way.
Allow me to get the silly out of the way fast and describe the game’s story. Yes, Lost Lands: A Hidden Object Adventure has a plot, if you want to follow it. Right, here we go. A bunch of elves were forced to set sail for a new home after their kingdom ends up in ruins. A terrible storm ends up crushing their ships, forcing them to the shores of a lost island. Unfortunately, despite all the green grass and flowing rivers, this beautiful new world is filled with danger. The elves try to leave the island, but discover it is surrounded by an impenetrable magic storm. Survivors on the island recall a legend about the last of the ancient elves, who they hope will awaken sleeping for a thousand years to help them overcome hardship. Dream big, I guess.
Overly epic plotline aside, gameplay revolves around scanning a scene and finding a number of specific items hidden in the picture. Just like you’ve always done in these games, which my mother was a huge fan of on the Nintendo DS, with titles like Yard Sale Hidden Treasures: Sunnyville in her collection. Sometimes they will list the items by name, sometimes they are silhouettes, and sometimes you have to search the scene at night, which means your point of view is limited by darkness. Each scenario is timed, and if you finish finding everything fast enough, you’ll gain stars (three, two, or one), which feed into upgrading that specific level, allowing you to find more ingredients upon completion. Ingredients are used to complete other quests and help deal with different races without paying gold coins.
Shockingly, I’m barely paying attention to the plot, only interested in which locations I’m supposed to analyze for the right items. Since you have to deal with a limited amount of attempts, I’m finding myself min-maxing every choice to ensure I’m spending those energy points wisely. Occasionally you’ll unlock a treasure chest, but to open it you need to do a Professor Layton-esque mini-game, like hitting all beams of light in a certain order or connecting colored lines without crossing over each other. I am curious to know if there are boss-like battles down the road, and if they are anything more than gathering a bunch of items to clear the path.
Besides the fact that you can’t simply play this to your heart’s content due to a stupid energy meter, there’s a few other issues in Lost Lands: A Hidden Object Adventure that bring the fun down several notches. First, no matter how many times I select “Click to continue,” the game still wants to force its intro movie upon me, which features an old elf speaking like you might suspect an old elf would speak; thankfully, it’s skippable, but the game should remember that I’ve already seen it. I think having a time limit, and a short one at that, negatively affects my enjoyment, forcing me to often click like a madman in hope of nabbing that last item that can’t possibly be found unless I had all the hours in the world to scan every pixel from left to right. Lastly, I’ve popped a bunch of in-game Achievements, but after nearly two hours with the game, not a single one on Steam has unlocked. Sure, that’s a small quibble, but I need my digital rewards, and I’m not sure if the whole thing is borked.
Similar to Taptiles and Microsoft Jackpot, Lost Lands: A Hidden Object Adventure is a game I will probably check in on daily for another week or two, especially to get those daily rewards, and then walk away from entirely once I feel sated. I don’t care whether the elves make it off this island and are safe and happy and making future elf babies to rule the kingdom. I only care about finding the paw print, butterfly net, and shoe quick enough to get three stars and unlock more loot to finish that quest for what’s-his-name faster. Call me a monster, or call me casual. This is the way it is.