The thing about vacations is that once you go back somewhere, no matter how much you loved it the first time, it's never really going to be quite the same. The people are new, the places might have changed, and your overall experience is likely to be largely different. This isn't the case with Vacation Adventures: Park Ranger 2, however, which has the player return to Pinecreek Hills Park for an identical adventure based around item-hunting and the occasional mini-game.
Whether you've played the first title in the series or not, the player is welcomed back with open arms and once again set to work as a Pinecreek Hills park ranger. Your role is simple, amounting to leisurely strolls around the various locations and fixing whatever problems you find along the way. There are plenty of idyllic vistas to enjoy at first, but a forest fire eventually spreads a little panic, resulting in some bizarre scenes where you try to spot cute animals amid the charred remains of the forest. It's primarily business as usual though, moving from one generally static image to the next as you check items off your list.
There's been no change to the formula since developer Microvalue last opened the gates to Pinecreek, so returning players can jump right in and select the 'challenge' option, which removes the tutorial and slows your ability to skip puzzles and use hints. First timers can go casual with a basic tutorial and faster ways to move through the game, but these changes are actually fairly minor. No matter which you choose, it's the same set of locations and the playtime comes in at only a couple of hours.
Like before, each scene comes complete with a list of named items to find, presented six at a time and hidden somewhere around the area. Sometimes these can be found behind or within other objects, or even provide little jobs for your ranger to accomplish, such as dragging a coffee pot to the mug or bringing a chainsaw to cut a fallen tree stump. The game will mark these jobs in purple, and tapping one object will let you know what's missing to complete the task, removing too much confusion from the equation. Aside from these central objectives, there's also the option to hunt down all that hideous litter that ravages the park's good image, and spot some silhouetted wildlife while you're at it. The latter replaces Lost and Found from the previous title, but it's the exact same concept that's just been repackaged with extra fur.
Finding the items is a breeze, as you can zoom in or out of the scene using L and R, and move around with the Circle Pad, D-Pad or by dragging with the stylus. Taps are easily registered, and you'll never end up stuck for too long, as the hint system easily points out whatever you've missed. We assumed that our park ranger had been eating or smoking a bit too much of the local flora, as from faces in trees to symbols floating in mid-air, the range of objects on your list don't always remain within the confines of reality. Tapping the correct item also phases it out of existence, so you'll eventually find yourself plucking the Moon from the sky, and causing giant observatories to vanish into thin air. It's all in the name of keeping your park clean, just don't think about it too much.
Between levels, you'll be challenged with an additional mini-game to help break up the gameplay. These usually amount to piecing together images or some simple logic puzzle with an outdoorsy twist, such as turning the rings on a tree stump to match up. It's forgettable at best and yawn-worthy at worst, so thankfully these can also be skipped entirely at the cost of a few bonus points — which don't really mean anything anyway.
We've seen hidden object games explore everywhere from haunted mansions and sunken ships to the streets of Hollywood California, but the National Park setting continues to fit particularly well with the genre's casual play style. The twangy acoustic guitar soundtrack fits the easygoing atmosphere, and the visuals are crisp once you zoom in close. From afar they're a blurry mess, so it's just as well you're required to zoom in to find most of the items. Just be warned: during the course of normal play we experienced two game crashes, which booted us back to the home menu and knocked our save data back by several stages on both occasions.
We had to try not to repeat ourselves too much with this review, but Vacation Adventures: Park Ranger 2 made that very difficult indeed. It's almost entirely the same game as the first, only with new areas to pick apart and a few slight alterations to the formula. So having said that; if you liked the first then this provides more of the same, and if you didn't then this won't change your mind. The visuals and relaxing atmosphere continue to hold up, making this a viable choice for object-hunting fanatics, but other than that it's a bog-standard experience that brings nothing new to the overly cluttered table.