Review by KFHEWUI

"Lack of story and repetitive game play hurts this otherwise decent hidden object game"

Escape the Emerald Star tasks player with escaping from a luxury line cruiser where they are the sole passenger. Sadly that is the only story development there is, and there is no explanation given as to how the player became stuck on a cruiser with no passengers or where the other passengers went to. Story wise the game is a bust and it is a shame because a story could have helped break up the repetitive nature of the game.

Installing the game does not take too long, and the specs are not too demanding. The game is compatible with Windows XP and 7, and I played through the game on Windows XP.

Escape the Emerald Star spans twenty-six levels, and the first twenty-five levels are composed of several hidden object maps ranging from two up to eight. The game play is composed of maps with a list of hidden objects that are somewhere in the pictures similar to the line of books called I Spy.

Each map has a list of ten items that must be found in the picture before moving on, and sometimes the list will have a task like replacing eggs or cutting an orange. The list of items is usually given as a clue or the title of object. For example one clue says human pump, and the solution is a heart. This is probably one of the tougher clues, and sometimes the clues have double meaning or they will be cryptic like scrambled eggs. The solution is simply the word eggs that have the letters rearranged like scrambled eggs. Most of the items are blatantly obvious, but others are well hidden and can blend right into the background. If the player gets stuck at any time, they can use a hint to help them find the item. Aside from the clues, each map has two anchors, and finding every anchor will unlock bonus mini games that are accessible from the main menu.

There is a time limit for each map, but the game is very generous with the amount of time. Not once did I even come close to running out of time, and the remaining amount of time is counted up and added as points. There are multiple ways to gain points from finding items, finding items quickly one after another, perfect search (hint not used at all), and etc. Points can also be lost by using hints and excessive incorrect guesses.

After each map has been cleared in the level, the player will have to solve a puzzle, and these puzzles range from mahjong, bejeweled like game, word search, and assembling a puzzle. These help break up the monotony of the game, but unfortunately they are too far apart from each other. The game play does get stale quickly, and considering there are twenty-five levels, it gets repetitive and boring fast.

Completing each level will reward the player with an escape item, and there are a total of twenty-five escape items. Level twenty-six simply is assembling the pieces to build a hot air balloon to escape from the cruiser. Success nets the player a congratulations screen then they are booted back to the main menu.

Graphics look good, and there are about twenty-five maps in total. Each one is unique and has its own look with no two areas looking the same.

The controls are very simple, and the mouse is used mainly for the whole game. The keyboard is briefly used for entering the name of the profile, but that is it. Controls are so simple that it takes no time to grasp them at all.

Music is a mix bag for the game, and while the soundtrack is not that bad, it does its job of filling the background. The sound effects are great with the creaking of the boat, and the splashing of waves that does help create an atmosphere.

There are a few bugs that I ran into, and the first one was a sound bug where the music cut out after unpausing the game. The other and more severe bug caused one of the word search puzzles to glitch up so that it was impossible to select the letters, and I was able to get around it by quitting then reloading the game. These bugs only happened once, and they are not that common at all.

Replay value is overall just average, and there are achievements to unlock by completing certain tasks. All of the achievements are not missable except for one that requires fifteen perfect searches. There is also an unlockable mahjong mini game and unlimited seek & find game that are unlocked by finding all the hidden anchors in the game.

Escape the Emerald Star is a decent game, but the lack of story and stale game play gets old fast.

Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 08/23/12

Game Release: Escape the Emerald Star (US, 09/13/11)

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