Planning a trip to the top of Mt. Everest? Bet you wouldn't consider packing a neck tie, seashell, butterfly or a baseball, would you? Similar to the Mystery Case Files series, Hidden Expedition: Everest (a follow-up to Hidden Expedition: Titanic) takes the tried-and-true object hunting formula and whisks it away to exotic locations. You play one of several teams of explorers racing to be the first to climb the snowy mountain peak. The path is blocked, however, and the only way up is to locate a mysterious adventurer who knows of a hidden passage. Head off to South America and search the land for clues leading to this strange traveler.
To play Hidden Expedition: Everest, all you have to do is find the objects listed at the bottom of the screen. It's no easy task, however, as they're hidden in some remarkably cunning ways. Each scene is packed with strange items tucked into every conceivable corner: toothbrushes disguised as clouds, swords masquerading as fish in a basket, butterflies perched in a pile of leaves, and so on. Stay focused and work on a group of three or four objects at a time to stay in the game. A limited hint system will narrow the search down, but you only have three, so use them wisely.
As you hunt for items in the jumbled scenes, keep an eye on the moving arrows at the bottom of the screen. The other teams are working as fast as they can to find objects too, adding a little bit of pressure to your eagle-eye hunting. There are also a few extra items to find, such as gems that will give you an extra hint and an hourglass that stalls the other teams for a few seconds.
As you progress in the game, your eyes get sharper and your brain gets faster at locating the hidden items. Fortunately the game increases the number of objects you must find and stashes them in more devious locations, keeping the difficulty fairly balanced in later stages. Interspersed throughout the game are bits of facts about the famous Mt. Everest, dispensed by mountaineer Ed Viesturs. Viesturs took real life expeditions to Everest and shares video and photography as you play (such as during the opening sequence).
Analysis: Just like the Where's Waldo books from days of yore, the Hidden Expedition series plays on our deep-seeded desire to find hidden things in everyday situations. Not only is it fun to explore a scene and examine the tiny details, but the satisfaction you get from noticing a well-hidden toothbrush on the wall of a Mayan temple is grand. Almost like finding your missing car keys in the freezer (don't ask).
Hidden Expedition: Everest plays it safe and keeps the formula almost identical to its predecessors. The interface has been jazzed-up a bit with new visuals and sound effects, but the core mechanics are similar. One down-side are the mini-puzzles you're forced to complete every few levels. Tasks such as piecing together a map of South America or assembling a skeleton try and break up the intense item hunting, but in the end they feel tacked on and rather pointless.
Even for die-hard Hidden Expedition and Mystery Case Files fans, Everest will still charm you with its can't-lose gameplay. Newbies to the object hunting scene should also give Everest a look, as it's a bit more forgiving than other games in the series. Addiction at its most basic form, you'll be surprised how quickly the time passes when you're looking for an airplane in a small rural village.