Famous world locations are not a bad backdrop for a hidden object game, although the irony of priorities here must be noted. Eiffel Tower? Whatever. We’ve got a bowling pin and a screw to find!
City Mysteries takes item-finding to the proud metropolises of New York, Paris, Moscow, and London, stuffing each scene with enough requisite random objects to make it look like they’re competing for the next World Hoarders Convention. Each city contains five scenes with puzzles of varying types, making for a somewhat meagre 20 in total.
Of the five puzzles in each city, two are the standard list-ticking affair, two provide the silhouettes of objects that must be found, and the last is a tile-swapping puzzle to reveal a local sculpture or fountain; hidden object scenes will also rearrange the layout and lists of items each time, adding some replayability. The tile puzzles, thank goodness, are not like sliding puzzles. A tile can be picked up and freely swapped with any other, and a satisfying click will sound when a tile is in the right place. A correct tile can still be moved, however, which is a nice little touch to make the player pay attention and avoid slinging tiles around until a match is hit.
Players can choose two ways to play, depending on their mood. Timed mode presents the scenes in order, with a time limit for completing each — failing to find all the objects or complete a tile puzzle in time costs a “life,” and when three are done, the run is over. Casual mode throws restrictions out of the window, allowing a player to freely choose the scene he or she wants to work on with no time limits. Although it’s intended as the more challenging mode, Timed does not feel very stressful. Tapping an incorrect item only comes with a loss of points, not time, and every scene has 3 hints that will directly point at a missing item. When there are only 11 items to find at most, the hints are often more than enough to take care of any headscratchers, if wanted.
The scenes are very nice quality photos, with fuzziness never really an issue. An image of Times Square is so detailed that you can even see the ads for Mamma Mia! and Everybody Hates Chris that were up at the time the photo was taken. Oh! Wait! Sorry, we were mistaken. These are ads for “Mamma Wia!” and “Everybody Loves Chris.” There has obviously been a little doctoring to avoid any sort of infringements, but it doesn’t have a detrimental effect on the photos.
The sightseeing tour isn’t all roses, though. A few of the scenes just seem to be of apartments or homes; there is no context given as to where any scene is or its significance, which is disappointing. Let’s celebrate these cities instead of just stuffing them to the rafters with errata! The game packs these scenes to an almost ridiculous degree, even for a hidden object game. While some hides are particularly clever or hue-matched to blend into a background, others are quite literally the elephant in the room; one suspended vertically, at that.
Navigating scenes will be easy for most, as the top screen provides a full view while the bottom shows a zoomed in portion that can be panned about. The list blocks part of the top screen view, but can be hidden with a simple touch, which is great thinking. Sadly, the Circle Pad is the only way to pan through a scene, meaning lefties might have some discomfort playing — an option to use the right-side buttons for panning would have been helpful.
Although the game has a slider for music, there really isn’t any; there’s only ambient sound, which is actually not that bad on its own. Still, there’s a difference between “music” and “noise,” even if Iggy Azalea can make it on the radio.
Diehard fans of hidden object games will likely find much to like in City Mysteries. It delivers a good core experience with excellent photography, an unobtrusive interface, and plenty of junk to sift through. There is definitely more that could have been hooked onto the world cities theme, however, least of which is a greater selection of scenes and a sense of history or significance to it all. In that sense, City Mysteries just gives the nickel tour.