Ever wanted to combine a hidden object game with a riddle-centric room escape title? Like strawberries and bananas, the two genres go together remarkably well, as Elephant Games' Lost in the City eloquently showcases. Steeped in mystery, you travel from room to room finding items, solving puzzles, deciphering riddles and completing simple mini-games as you unravel a particularly intriguing storyline filled with strange plot twists.
Your first date with the charming April went well, and you were quickly falling for this beautiful girl. The bliss didn't last long, however, as you began to feel strange after an innocent cup of coffee. The next thing you know, you awake in an abandoned city, lost and trapped with no knowledge of how you got there. A series of clues seem to be guiding you to something, so with no better plan of action, you set out to follow the path wherever it may lead.
Each room presents you with a handful of items to find as listed on the right side of the screen. A magnifying glass is available to get a 10x zoom on an area of the scene, so don't be afraid to use it for those tiny objects. In addition to finding objects you'll often have tasks to complete such as "play the video tape", "drink the coffee" or "use the phone". How you accomplish these tasks isn't explained, though everything is spelled out quite nicely with the items you pick up and store in your inventory.
For the mini-games, expect nothing more than a few simple "assemble the image" puzzles alongside keypad riddles where you have to figure out the code. Pretty standard stuff, the challenge level is just about right, and you won't be jolted from the game's somewhat intense atmosphere by an ill-fitting puzzle getting shoved in front of your face.
As you move from room to room the storyline is gradually unveiled piece by convoluted piece. Where are you? How did you get here? Who is playing this game with you and why? And most importantly, what role does April play in all of this?
Analysis: Games like Lost in the City are my bread and butter of the casual adventure world. Its strongest feature is by far the story, and I was drawn in from the "oooh"-inducing opening paragraph. It's a bit like watching an episode of Lost, with new questions being raised at every turn. Gotta love a good mystery, and Lost in the City delivers. The game's structure is also pleasing and manages to blend the best parts of the room escape genre with a hidden object game.
There's very little to criticize about Lost in the City, as most potential flaws are smoothed over by the fact that the game doesn't overextend itself and try to be more than the sum of its parts. Yes, the object finding can be a bit tedious, yes, the visual quality of some of the scenes could have been punched up a notch. But in the grand scheme of things, these don't detract from the experience of intrigue and mystery.
One thing I would like to lodge a complaint about is the scoring system. In games of this nature, exploration is what it's all about. What can you click and what happens when you try? Here, however, you're punished for misclicks with a penalty of lost money. Money is used for buying hints and unlocking bonuses from the title screen, both nice extras for any game to have. The problem is I'm afraid to try anything for fear of losing cash, leading to an unfortunately strong sense of game paranoia. The casual mode makes things less stressful than the full-on timer mode, but I still feel the punishment for trying to play the game is far too harsh.
Lost in the City is an excellent blend of casual hidden object gameplay and classic room escape adventuring. If you're a fan of either of these genres, enjoy a good mystery, or have a hankering to solve riddles, taking a stroll through this game is a no-brainer.