If you want a hidden-object adventure that offers all the ghoulish, cheesy thrills of a late-night made-for-TV 1980s horror movie, look no further. Natural Threat: Ominous Shores by Alawar Games stars flesh-eating plants, mad scientists, and a gaggle of spring-break teenagers stranded on an island full of mutated monstrosities! Reeeeeeeee!... that, uh... that was a horror movie sound effect? You know, like... the monster is behind you! Reeeeeeeeee!... yeah, don't worry, I'm keeping my day job. With a gorgeous presentation, delightfully campy surprises, and all the genetically manipulated carnivorous creatures your little heart could desire, it's the perfect choice for an evening of monstrous, goofy fun.
After a short tenure as an assistant for a creepy Jimmy Buffet-turned-mad scientist, you find yourself stranded on an island with a bunch of teenage stereotypes after your boat turns over in the storm. When you come to on the shore and find yourself alone, it's up to you to track down your helpless friends and avoid being turned into fertilizer. Eeeeeeevil fertilizer! Gameplay is rote for something of this type; whenever you're not busy being attacked by eyeball snake plant beasts, you'll be tracking down items and using complex things to solve simple tasks. Hidden-object scenes are marked with some lovely voluminous purple swirlies, the cursor changes to let you know when you can interact with something, and of course the hint and skip buttons are around if you're stuck or just don't feel like using your brain today.
Analysis: With so many games married to the concept that horror has to be grey and serious and full of intense operatic musical scoring, it's a relief to have one grab you by the hand and go, "Wheeeee!" Natural Threat: Ominous Shores is gloriously campy and just plain fun. Packed full of goofy cut-scenes, monsters, mayhem, and more dun-dun-dun than you can shake a stick at, it feels like a celebration of everything wonderful and weird about low-budget horror films. The game is lovely to look at, with its rich colours and imaginative locales, but also features a disappointingly coy soundtrack that kicks in whenever it feels like it, and then vanishes shyly in a flutter if you glance at it sideways. It doesn't really interfere too much with the game, which has a robust amount of ambient sound at least, but it is distracting.
The gameplay unfortunately doesn't share the same wild abandon as the concept and presentation, going for your tried-and-true adventuring and hidden-object seeking. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is sort of like someone giving you a glass of water to go with your peanut cheese bar. Satisfying and sufficient, perhaps, but not nearly as fun and indulgent as the rest. of your dessert. Click detection to pick up or use certain items can be annoyingly fiddly at time, especially when trying to combine things in hidden-object scenes, and it can lead to some confusing moments when you think your solution has failed. In general, however, you'll usually find what you need to get past any given obstacle fairly close by. On the whole, in fact, the game isn't particularly difficult (unless you're bug-phobic), which means it might be less for veterans who're looking for something to stimulate their brains and more for those of us who want a game to unwind with.
Natural Threat: Ominous Shores suffers from a few minor technical flaws and might not be for players who like games with serious drama, but if you're looking for something that doesn't take itself too seriously, this is definitely the game to check out. At around four hours or more, it's a solid length, and is the sort of experience best enjoyed with a big bowl of popcorn on hand. Give the demo a try; while it might not win any awards for gameplay innovation, it's the perfect cure for the "nothing's on TV" blah's, and is just plain fun.