Ah, the jungles of South America, hot, steamy, lush, and mysterious. A perfect setting for an adventure/hidden object expedition to find a lost artifact! But what if you don't want to go through the trouble of downloading one of the many hybrid titles out there? Just click and check out Legend of the Golden Mask by Candystand, of course!
As the first scene opens you will get the complete story of the (tense-looking) unnamed female protagonist. Her grandfather went missing on an expedition and it falls to her and her mother to clean out the old guy's house. While sifting through the massive piles of extraneous objects, however, you find pieces of the grandfather's journal and learn about the legend that led to his disappearance. Let the adventure begin!
Gameplay begins with a standard hidden object search. Lists of objects to find will show up, along with extras to locate such as gold cubes, pieces of a journal, hint objects, etc. Once you've cleared the scene of one list, an optional second (and harder) list will pop up, giving you an opportunity to search for more objects and increase your score.
What is really refreshing about Legend of the Golden Mask is that Candystand has invested all of the production values of a downloadable game into something that can be played for free in a browser. The artwork is glorious, bright, and near photorealistic. The music is a nice mix of South American rhythms, featuring some rather haunting flute work. The story, although short, is a complete one, with a beginning, middle, and resolution. Gaming can commence in a timed mode (for experienced HOG fans) and a non-timed mode for relaxed, casual gameplay.
Analysis: Legend of the Golden Mask has everything that you might find in a pay/download adventure/hidden object hybrid. Lots of hidden objects (of course), mini-games and puzzles, a storyline that takes you to exotic places, appropriate music, etc. What makes the game special is that it is not just a "play one chapter free" type of enticement to buy the game, but a whole game in and of itself!
Cluttered rooms and objects stashed behind other objects can be slightly irritating in any hidden object game, but in a smaller Flash browser screen, it can be downright painful. Legend of the Golden Mask unfortunately falls victim to this common problem, so the next time you visit your optometrist, tell him you need the special hidden object game lenses. The game is also a bit stingy with the hints, as you can only earn three per level and they don't roll over from scene to scene.
Other than size and hint issues, there is not much to complain about. The mini-games and puzzles are ones that have been used many times before in HOG titles, but it is still a pleasant surprise to find such a variety in a Flash game. Jigsaw-type puzzles, hidden match puzzles, find the differences, even a gear puzzle show up to make the gaming experience feel like the real, full-sized downloadable thing. Another wonderful feature is high replay value. Each time you start the game, the list of objects to find is different, as are puzzle solutions!
While not as long as a full-sized downloadable game, Legend of the Golden Mask is a complete adventure, a perfect way to while away an afternoon, or a coffee break. Ultimately a fun, casual gameplay experience can be had by all.