Hidden Expedition: Amazon (2008 - PC)

It's a little "oldschool" for a hidden object game, but Hidden Expedition: Amazon does have some tough puzzles, use of inventory items, and secondary quests, such as finding all the beetles and journal pages, and trying to score high enough to rank first at the end. The scenery is pretty and has some animation, but it lacks style. Many of the items look like generic clipart and they often blend severely into the background. While this does make them challenging to find, it can also be rough on the eyes. You'll probably find yourself using the silhouette hint feature quite often. I attempted to clear the game once without using it, but gave up on a screen where I could not locate a very tiny green caterpillar on a background comprised of mostly green objects.

The story is written with a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor and that even shows up in the scenery animation sometimes - wait long enough on certain stages and UFOs will fly by in the background. The orchestral score is amazing - the developers got an actual film orchestra to perform it. Overally, HE: Amazon is a game I could recommend to HOG fans who feel that the genre has strayed too far away from its roots of just looking for hidden objects, as many newer games have more focus on puzzle-solving. Sure, it's not the most technologically advanced HOG, but it's one of the best of the oldschool style I've played.


Hidden Expedition: The Crown of Solomon Collector's Edition (2014 - PC)

This sequel is the polar opposite of HE: Amazon. Whereas Amazon was very oldschool with a focus on hidden object scenes, Crown of Solomon is thoroughly modernized with a unique art style, and more of a focus on finding items to solve puzzles instead of just looking for them. Both games took me about the same amount of time to finish, but Crown of Solomon felt easier.

A few things that set it apart... The HO scenes in Crown of Solomon strive for creativity. Instead of always giving you a list of items, sometimes it shows the silhouettes of items to find, or small pictures of them, and sometimes even transitions between a list and pictures in one scene. One scene provides riddles and you look for an item each riddle describes.

The puzzles in Crown of Solomon are mostly very easy, except for a dreaded sliding tile puzzle. However, something hilarious happened while I was trying to solve it. Even though I wasn't all that close to having the tiles in their correct places, it eventually counted it as "solved". Either that was a bug or the game got impatient. The extras that are unlocked upon finishing the main game have a unique feature of a little puzzle you can do before accessing them. For example, one of the extras is to play only the hidden object scenes, so you can do a short HO scene before unlocking it.

Much like HE: Amazon, Crown of Solomon has an amazing orchestral score, and this time the game comes with a free soundtrack. Overall, HE: Amazon has more challenge and replay value, but Crown of Solomon is worth a look for fans of this genre, although I found the story and settings more forgettable than Amazon or Dawn of Prosperity (see below).


Hidden Expedition: Dawn of Prosperity Collector's Edition (2016 - PC)

The best of the Hidden Expedition games I've played so far (although all three took me about the same amount of time to finish - around 5-1/2 hours). Dawn of Prosperity has the most elaborate hidden object scenes I've yet encountered. They don't just ask you to find a list of items. Sometimes you're given an object to start with and by finding the necessary items in the scene, you'll eventually figure out what to do with it. I actually managed to get stuck on this game a few times.

While its art style is typical for the genre, it's the most graphically advanced HOG I've yet played. It has the highest amount of animation, pans, and zooms when moving between areas and examining items that I've seen. It also has a similarly high-quality orchestral score to its predecessors and comes with a free soundtrack. Add to that lots of devious puzzles, a bonus chapter, and a compelling (if typically cheesy) story, and I can highly recommend Dawn of Prosperity to hidden object game fans.


Happiness is an Inside Job: Practicing For a Joyful Life
Author: Sylvia Boorstein, Ph.D.; Reader: Pam Ward
(Audiobook & Original Book - 2007)

One issue I have with this book is that the title is a little misleading. I have a friend who's into Buddhism, so I wondered if it would be a good idea to take some interest in it myself for therapeutic reasons. If you're someone who feels generally unhappy in life, I'm not sure this book is the answer. Mainly what the author does is talk about specific anecdotes from her life where she was involved in stressful situations, usually involving someone's death or terminal illness, and how the teachings of Buddhism helped her remain calm and be helpful. These practices often amount to praying for the victims and remembering that death is inevitable. For the less harrowing tales, such as when a bedroom set ended up costing more than she originally planned to spend, her method of dealing with it is to say, "These things happen." I tend to be concerned about the fine line between not letting all of life's annoyances get to you and allowing people to walk all over you. The books is not always mindful of this distinction.

Maybe if you take some of her lessons to heart, you can learn to be less stressed out over trivial matters. But I'm not real convinced these personal stories will turn your life around, if that's what you're looking for, and maybe that's not even really the intention of the book so much as the implication of its title. It does have a lot of high ratings from people who appear to be fans of the author's other writings. Maybe that's who the book is mostly for. But as an introduction to Buddhism or a lesson on how to be happy in life...it's rather basic, and more in-depth study is likely required.

Rating: 2.5/5

Save Room For Pie
Author & Reader: Roy Blount, Jr.
(Audiobook & Original Book - 2016)

Roy Blount, Jr.'s latest book is a serious of humorous food-related anecdotes and poetry. The degree to which I found the stories interesting or funny depended somewhat on my interest level in the general subject. When he spends a chapter explaining why possum makes a good delicacy, I find myself...unconvinced. But when he goes on about jazz singers and their intrinsic relationship with food, my attention was far more enrapt. It was from this book that I learned that Louis Armstrong apparently once said, "I'll probably never be rich, but I will be a fat man." Words to live by.

While some essays are more entertaining than others (I felt his Adam and Eve story went on too long, but far more enjoyed his political ramblings about watermelon towards the end), I didn't come away with as many recipe ideas as I may have expected. He brings up how well Rotel tomatoes go with Velveeta cheese so often, that I eventually tried it in my omelette. Hmmm...not bad, but I think I still prefer my omelettes without cheese.

Since the author is also a radio personality, there is a lot of benefit to him reading his own audiobook. I only wish there was more pause between the separate stories, because he often rambles right from one into another, and it would get a little confusing. However, I don't know if that's his fault, or the fault of whoever edited or directed the reading.

Rating: 3/5



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