Samantha Swift and the
Hidden Roses of Athena
Standing toe to toe with games like Azada: Ancient Magic, Dream Chronicles 2: The Eternal Maze, and even the Mystery Case Files series isn't an easy job, but Samantha Swift and the Hidden Roses of Athena matches (and, in many areas, surpasses) its contemporaries with a fun blend of adventure and hidden object gaming. Each scene is vivid and unique, packed with hand-drawn artwork, simple item finding (read: no gigantic items confusingly camouflaged in the foreground), and a strong emphasis on using objects you find to interact with the scenery to solve puzzles. It's a balanced and enjoyable game you won't want to turn away from once you've started playing.
Samantha Swift is an archaeologist on the lookout for new and exciting artifacts to bring back to her museum. A nefarious competitor swoops in at the last moment and steals her prize find, but Samantha learns of an even bigger fish to fry. Piecing together the Shield of Athena, we learn of six roses that are missing from its face. Samantha immediately sets out to find them, but her rivals are hot on her heels!
Each scene in Samantha Swift is packed with items, just like every other hidden object game on the market. A scanner helps you out by showing a silhouette of any list item you click, and you have a handful of hints to use at any moment. Items are usually pretty easy to find, and in many cases you can pick up most of the list before you even read what's on it! If you're looking for a hidden object experience, however, you're missing two thirds of this extraordinary game.
After you track down a handful of things on the screen, you can begin to uncover little secrets using your inventory. Finding a shovel, for example, sends it to your Tools bar, and if the cursor turns blue over the soil, you can bet some digging will be in order. A few mini-game-style puzzles can also be found, and each fits perfectly in the story and setting.
You travel the world with Ms. Swift, visiting Italy, Guatemala, France, and more. The locations are unique and illustrated with a superb art style that's bright, lively and interesting. Many areas offer several scenes you'll need to travel back and forth between in order to find all of the items and solve every puzzle. Not much backtracking, but enough to make you feel like you have a large area to explore.
Analysis: It's a bold thing to say, but Samantha Swift and the Hidden Roses of Athena is a game that gets just about everything right. From the overall design angle to the little gameplay details, everything fits together in perfect harmony. Common annoyances I've had with hidden object games are absent in this game. In fact, Samantha Swift made me realize a few things about other games in the genre that bug me, like a hint system that randomly shows you where an item is. Here, using a hint lets you choose which item you'd like to find, a subtle improvement that really brightened my gaming experience!
The only possible detractors to this game are its relatively short length and low level of difficulty. Puzzles, however creative and interesting, don't pose too much of a challenge, though they're always fun to complete. And even though you can charge through the game in one or two sittings, you can replay the game afterwards with different lists of items to find.
Samantha Swift and the Hidden Roses of Athena is easily one of the best adventure/hidden object hybrids I've played. It's not perfect, but it's a fresh and fun experience that trumps most other games out there.