Marking the fourth game in the series, Samantha Swift and the Fountains of Fate starts off with our tenacious heroine out-surfing the bad guys over some serious waves. This girl never rests, not even between sequels! Still on the trail of Cortez, Samantha embarks upon a quest to recover the Emerald of Judgement, an artifact that may unlock the secrets of the Fountain of Youth!
In another small step away from the series' original adventure/hidden object roots, Fountains of Fate focuses more on object finding than puzzle solving. Each scene is filled with items stashed in clever (and not-so-clever) locations, from camouflage knives attached to huts to coins hidden amongst other round things. Check the list at the bottom of the screen, find the items, and give them a click. Once you complete one set of items another one appears, continuing the hunt for another round on the same screen.
Samantha Swift and the Fountains of Fate introduces blue and green items that are a little more involved that just "find and click". Green items in your list can be found on the screen, but you have to interact with the environment first. Slide a stone to the side or tip the cannon over, your item is there, it just can't be seen. The cursor will change when you're over an area that can be interacted with. Once you nab a green item it stays in your inventory, ready to help you find the even more hidden blue objects.
When an item is marked in blue on your list, you'll have to solve a puzzle to find it. Some of these are pretty abstract, while others make complete logical sense. Either way, areas you can interact with will trigger a cursor change when you hover over them, so finding them is a matter of sweeping the mouse back and forth a bit.
You'll also be happy to know that hints are generous and useful, recharging at a fast rate and finding only the items you want it to find. Samantha's item scanner is also back, allowing you to view a silhouette of any item simply by clicking on it in the list. Frequent mis-clicks result in this scanner falling inactive for a few moments, so use your eyes to find, not your cursor!
Analysis: Whenever a new Samantha Swift game is released, hidden object/adventure fans rightfully get excited. The series made its debut back in 2008 with a grand art style and a tasty combination of genres with an almost perfect balance. Since then, the series has slowly shifted away from the adventure side of things, focusing more on hidden objects while keeping the same high level of detail and production values intact.
Mini-games are less frequent in Fountains of Fate, which isn't really a good or a bad thing. But replay value is better, as now there are special Swift birds to find in each level to unlock the unlimited play mode. They're generally easy to find, you'll probably nab them all your first time through, but it's worth it! You'll also uncover a few trophies while you play, little achievement-like bonuses for doing interesting and challenging things during the game.
Fans of the Samantha Swift series are in for both a good time and a bit of disappointment. You'll feel like one of the elite few when you can follow the story and recognize the characters right off the bat, as Fountains of Fate doesn't bother with introductions or lengthy explanations for series foals.
On the other hand, Fountains of Fate continues the sad tradition of moving away from what originally made the series so great. You won't find as many puzzles or as much adventure in this installment, which is why many of us fell in love with Samantha in the first place. There's still a great game to be had, one that's well-made and entertaining on many levels, so don't dismiss it until you've tried it.