After two puzzlers, D-Cube Planet and Circles, both of which played well but weren’t exactly visually stunning, Indian developer GameShastra has proved its versatility with Route 66, a minis version of the hidden objects game that has been kicking around on the web for the past couple of months as a download for PC and Mac.
If you’re not familiar with the genre, hidden object games (or HOGs!) are a hugely popular casual gaming phenomenon on the web, and while not spectacular, Route 66 certainly seems like a very absorbing introduction to the genre.
Being a huge fan of old-school point-and-click games, I really like the basic structure of the gameplay which involves looking for hidden objects within a scene, but without the added stress of having to find ingenious ways to use said object to solve an obscure puzzle!
Don’t make the mistake I did of looking for the objects in logical places though, as they could be anywhere! You can expect to see such trippy things as a giant clothes peg disguised as a table leg, a gnome hidden on a motorbike wheel spoke, and a giant muffin hidden in tree bark!
The objects that you have to find are all listed at the bottom of the screen. If you don’t manage to find them all within the time limit, you’ll have an entirely new list of objects to search for when you retry the level.
The controls couldn’t be simpler. Use the analog stick to scroll around the scene, the directional buttons to move the cursor, and X to select an object. Don’t think you can get away with just pressing X repeatedly until you find the right object though, as you’ll be penalised for too many wrong clicks!
If you find yourself really stuck looking for a particular object, you can press O to reveal the general location of one object. Use these very sparingly though, because from what I can see you only get five such hints in the entire game!
As with most HOGs, Route 66 has an elaborate storyline linking the scenes, in this case you’re following the adventures of biker chick “Mad” Madeleine Mayflower who’s taking a road trip along the iconic Route 66 highway in America, accompanied by her grandfather, Muddy.
The iconic Route 66 runs from Santa Monica, California, all the way up to Chicago Illinois, and each of the destinations is marked on the map as you pass through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and so on, adding to the feeling of embarking on an adventure.
The scenes in which the objects are hidden are real life landmarks and tourist attractions that you’d expect to find along Route 66, such as famous diners, old hotels, ghost towns, and the very cool Amarillo Cadillac Ranch.
Before each new scene you’re presented with some historical and geographical facts about your next location, adding to the overall sense of being on an interesting journey.
One slight disappointment is the fact that the mini-games included in the PC and Mac versions of Route 66 appear to have been dropped. I’ve played over half the game and haven’t found any yet, so I’m sure they’re gone. I guess they couldn’t fit everything in, but it seems a shame as it would have added to the longevity and variety of the gameplay.
Another glaring omission is the lack of a leaderboard. You play the game to earn points, but with no leaderboard, earning points seems, um, pointless! It’s not a huge deal, just something that would have made the game even better.
I realise these hidden object games are ten-a-penny on the web, and there’s nothing that spectacular here in terms of the storyline, but the inventive ways in which the objects are hidden, and the beautifully illustrated locations all help to make Route 66 a very absorbing gaming experience.
I’m not sure that you’ll want to make a return trip once you’ve visited all the locations and found all the objects, especially without the mini-games, but Route 66 is still a fun ride while it lasts.