Version Reviewed: Steam
Year Published: 2014
Publisher: Phoenix Online Publishing
Developer: Icarus Games
As someone who has played her fair share of hidden object games and written guides for many of them, I can tell you how often they borrow and duplicate elements from one another. It is not unusual to come across the same exact puzzle in five different games made by five different developers. Lost Civilization has the dubious honor of being the first and only hidden object game I'm aware of to cannibalize an entire pre-existing game. Its locations and story were copied from an earlier title called, NiBiRu: Age of Secrets, a game I am not familiar with and would have been none the wiser had some people who are familiar with it not pointed out the similarities on the Steam discussion page. The developers claim it is a remake of that title, which was a more traditional point-and-click adventure, reimagined as a hidden object game. I am guessing something may have gotten lost in the remix.
Scooby, Scooby-Doo, where are you? We've got some work to do now...
Hey, it's Felix the Cat! Sort of...
Archaeologist Suzanne Kheer is suddenly torn from her day job of...sorting files...when her fiance, Michael, is kidnapped while on a dig in Prague. Right away, you can tell something feels off about this plot. Suzanne is supposed to be an archaeologist, but laments the profession and seems to have an ordinary office job. Meanwhile, her boyfriend is the one out doing actual archaeology. This is because the main character roles were reversed from NiBiRu. Luckily for Suzanne, she won't have to do more file sorting or much archaeology. Instead she travels around the streets and hotels of England and Czech Republic, finding junk to give to people who want it. It's good for our reluctant archaeologist, and typical for the hidden object game genre, but it's not so good for us. With a title like Lost Civilization, I would've thought the game would be more about that, and that's my main problem with it: You don't really see the "lost civilization" until the very end, it doesn't go into much detail about it, and it begins making less and less sense when it does.
Nibiru, as you may know, is a name sometimes given to a planet that is prophesied in certain mythologies to collide with Earth, causing a "doomsday" event. In Lost Civilization, the Nazis discovered evidence of Nibiru's existence during World War II, although it is far less deadly in this game than what our legends propose. Instead, they've learned aliens from Nibiru may have visited Earth long ago and left behind technology that can provide endless energy and extend human life. Of course, this is what Michael discovered that got him kidnapped.
I wonder what game that could possibly be???
Definitely take a picture, there's not enough of this type of scenery to go around.
While this is an intriguing setup, the story just doesn't take enough interest in it. Only at the very end do you get to explore the ruined Mayan temples where the aliens' secrets are buried. You never get to meet the aliens and forget about going to Nibiru itself or learning more about it. Maybe that's why the game's title was changed. It also feels like these scenes were rushed. Compare the painstaking ordeals Suzanne has to go through to get to the third floor of a hotel room early in the game to how she simply drives her jeep through the jungle to an "undiscovered" temple that nobody is supposed to know about. How fun is exploring the ruins? One lengthy scenario has Suzanne running up and down stairs to ask a guy to lower a bucket of water down to her...three times.
Okay, so the story is messy, but what does Lost Civilization do right as a hidden object game? Well, at the very least it put a unique twist on some of its HO scenes. Some have you placing items from your inventory back into the scene rather than finding them, I guess because Suzanne takes way too much with her when she goes on a trip. Others have you finding items by opening drawers or dropping a fishing net into the ocean. While this is mildly innovative, it's easy to know if you've opened the drawer with the object you want because its text changes from yellow to white on the list.
A typical Prague street fountain.
Going on an archaelogical dig in somebody's dresser drawers.
Some scenes combine object-finding with puzzle solving, such as one where you find and use artist tools to make a painting, and another where you find puzzle pieces and then assemble them. These hybird scenes are necessary to make up for the shocking lack of puzzles. How few puzzles does this game have? I (spoiler alert) wrote a guide. Yup, that's all. And unlike many other HOGs, there's no bonus chapter. Oh, and on a replay, I discovered that final puzzle can glitch, making it unsolvable. Thank goodness for this genre's standardized skip buttons.
I would've thought that since Lost Civilization was built on the foundation of another game that most of the work had been done and more effort could've been placed on other areas to make it into something better. Alas, it feels more like an attempt to cash in on the genre the easiest way possible: "Hey, we have all these assets, let's just reuse them."
Mildly entertaining for fans of hidden object games.
Some good music, decent scenery, and acceptable voice acting when there actually is any.
Mild innovations in the hidden object scenes.
Game is short and easy, no bonus chapter, not enough puzzles, no Steam achievements.
Story has an interesting premise, but a very unsatisfying conclusion. Too much running around a hotel, not enough aliens and ancient ruins.
Final puzzle sometimes glitches.