Okay, you bring the cheese puffs and the soda, I'll bring my best of the eighties and nineties CD collection, it's time for us to take a little road trip. Antique Road Trip USA is a standard hidden object game with lots of meat on its bones and more than a little Americana sprinkled on for seasoning. And don't worry, this road trip won't involve pit stops at convenience stores with overpriced drinks and lavatories of questionable hygienic value.
Our antiquing adventures across America's heartland center around young newlyweds James and Grace (and their adorably mischievous new puppy) who have decided to chase after their shared lifelong love of antiques. They've even gone so far as to opening their own antique store, only there's one little problem here. With no money, it's kind of hard to buy antiques to sell, let alone decorate the place with that appropriately old fashioned musty look that practically screams antique enthusiasts. As a result, Grace sends dear hubby James, and us vicariously, out and about to go rectify this situation.
Luckily we've built up a pretty broad network of friends and acquaintances all of whom are also antique loving maniacs. Thus we are able to pick up some change and the odd antique knick knack here and there by crisscrossing the country and coming to our friends' aid. This is where the bulk of the gameplay takes place. Each friend you'll meet will periodically ask you to do one of several chores, all of which ultimately boil down to one of three variants of object finding, or one of several other types of mini-games including jigsaw puzzles, and find the difference sequences.
After each chore, you'll get a chance to head on back home and use some of your hard earned cash to build up your own antiques shop. Just don't get too comfortable as it doesn't usually take long before the phone is ringing and Grace is kicking you out the door to help someone else with their junk, I mean antiques. Yeah, antiques.
Analysis: Okay, so I'm sure you're thinking that antiques are not the most exciting things in the world. I would have to disagree, though. I mean, I think that deep down we all kind of wish that the death trap of a crib our parents pass down to us for our first born might not be safe to put the baby in, but will end up paying for her college later on. There's something captivating about the idea that our attics might hold, unbeknownst to us, untold treasures worth a small fortune. Even if that doesn't do it for you, Antique Road Trip USA still provides a pretty fun experience for die hard hidden object fans.
Eschewing adventure game hybridization which has become pretty much the norm for object finders these days, this Road Trip goes back to its genre's roots. Indeed, it would seem that most hidden object games these days have adopted heavy adventure game elements, which is great, but sometimes you just get a hankering for some good old fashioned item hunts without all the extra frills. This is the happy niche that Antique Road Trip USA fills. Further, given the safe and almost non existent story, compared to the common ghost story/murder case plots that run rampant among hidden object games, this Road Trip does a pretty good job of focusing on the fun.
Surprisingly, despite the lack of complex gameplay and in depth story, Road Trip also exhibits some impressive production values as well. The visuals are engaging and animated beautifully, going so far as to inject a little polygon magic here and there. Meanwhile a pretty good selection of toe-tapping bluegrass plays in the background (if you like blue grass, that is. If you can't stand the stuff, you may want to go ahead and turn the music down in the options because there's a lot). Finally, there's just a lot of game here to play with somewhere in the neighborhood of ninety levels to keep you coming back for more.
Unfortunately variety is not one of Road Trip's strong points. While some of the object finding variants are pretty neat, the fact is that for each location you are playing essentially the same types of mini games over and over. They are well done mini-games, but that doesn't mean they don't still get repetitive. Also, if you don't like object finding, there's not a whole lot left in the game for you to enjoy. On top of there being little variety in the mini-games, the story line, for what it is, is far from compelling, edge of your seat drama.
What makes Antique Road Trip USA work is that it does what it does exceptionally well without attempting any pretense at being what it is not. This is clearly not a game seeking to bring new fans under the hidden object umbrella, nor does it attempt to break new ground. Instead it aspires to give fans of the genre a tasty morsel to chew upon, and here, much like soda and cheese puffs, it does a pretty good job.