This weekend, my son and I had planned to run with an ‘arty’ theme. We were going to etch and smudge on medium-sized canvases, dotting and splotching; pastel our A4 sheets of white paper until they could be pastelled no more and visit galleries in London showing some of his new-found favourite painters he’s been learning about in school. But then it rained.
So we put the canvasses away (metaphorically speaking – they’re still lolling all over the TV table) and decided to do other things. Those other things included spending Saturday baking a very strange-looking rocky road cake (which actually required no baking, just lots of crushing action and galaxy chocolate) and swimming. But then Sunday rolled around and so did the pouring rain. That’s when we decided to try out a computer game we had in the house. You know, those games you see in PC World looking straight through you as they chill out in their big, metal towers, occasionally leaning dangerously over the little bar slot that they live in? Those games.
Amazon Hidden Expedition is a hidden gem. The object of the game is to find a missing Professor, Professor Mandible and to get to a mythical temple to unlock the secrets that wait for you in some seriously gorgeous scenes, which take you on an exciting adventure.
On your journey to find the professor, you get to explore lost cities, temples and ruins and you are tasked with doing a few different things, one among them, finding the Professor’s journal. The journal comes to you in pages, so you find one page at a time. In those pages, are clues to finding the professor and unlocking puzzles to find your way around the Amazon.
It sounds like your usual, basic PC game, but the graphics are so lovely, the sounds so good and the games so addictive that what you think is going to be a thirty minute break exploring the Amazon, turns out to be a three-hour stint, ooing and ahhhing at quirky characters and constantly changing scenarios. At its heart, it’s really divided into three modes: searching, collecting and solving.
Throughout the game, you can find very pretty beatles hiding in each scene and if you collect them all, they can offer you tips and hints to get ahead. You’re also given odd and entertaining objects to find (a little like the Where’s Wally concept) and once you find them all, you move on to the next location. And just to switch things up and make the game more exciting, you also get to place som items in an inventory which you will then use to either unlock secret safes or doors, cross dangerous landscapes or set off a sequence of events that will lead you further into the Amazon.
But the game isn’t just about searching the scenery you find yourself in; it is also about piecing together information and working out where you’re going and where you need to be headed. Another lovely feature of the game is that you travel to different continents collecting clues and things you need, so your scenery changes. You also collect the professor’s journal pages as you go along and they’re very beautifully done. From funny comments and thoughts the Professor writes to amazing diagrams of animals and machines, the journal is a delight to collect and made all the more intriguing as you don’t always collect the pages in the right order.
Other than trying to solve the over-arching riddle, which is the lost Professor’s location, there are lots of games and puzzles to master. Some scenes are designed so that you have to work out a riddle, others so that you work out the code that will unlock the safe or secret location you have to go to next. What makes this game so much fun is the flexible way it works, letting you go backwards and forwards to different locations easily and connects up all the locations so that sometimes the items you collect in one location have to be used in another.
None of these concepts are new to the world of computer games and a seasoned gamer might not be terribly impressed with the level of skill required to play these games, but my son is seven and he really loves playing this game. I am thirty-two and I really love playing this game. It’s relaxing, fun, pretty to look at and feels like a tingly and thoroughly enjoyable head massage. Perfect for replacing a splotchy Sunday with a sploshy one 🙂