'Hidden Object' games tend to be limited one-dimensional affairs that revolve around infuriating scavenger hunts for arbitrary scenery items. Romance of Rome attempts to kick things up a notch with some interesting gameplay innovations that go beyond what you'd usually expect from the genre... and manages to deliver a refreshing new experience.
In fact, Romance Of Rome frequently feels like a point 'n' click adventure game rather than a hidden object challenge. Sure, you'll need to locate important items with varying degrees of difficulty (some are very easy to spot, whilst others actually appear to be key parts of the scenery before you remove them)- but once discovered, your inventory can be used to interact with the environment in a number of different ways.
This can be as obvious as using a key to unlock a chest, but puzzles soon become far more interesting once you realise that certain objects are needed to solve puzzles in different scenes. Just how are you going to get that bird down from the top branch with a brick and a snake? This interesting dynamic serves to make the experience much more cerebral - and worthwhile - than the majority of its peers.
Romance Of Rome also sprinkles a few light RPG elements into the mix. Roman citizens frequently task you with a range of objectives that help to root players in the game world as well as fleshing out the entertaining storyline. Finding objects also yields gold coins which can be spent on new clobber for your character, allowing you to gain status and admirers with fancier threads. I was personally surprised to find myself playing it instead of the triple-A console releases we have piling up at the office!
This level of depth tends to be the exception rather than the rule on the App Store itself... let alone the hidden object genre. However, it's worth noting that the base level of challenge is very low and weak-willed players may find themselves relying on the overly generous hint system. Doing so will significantly decrease the value of the package.
Romance Of Rome is no slouch when it comes to presentation. The scenery features sumptuous hand-drawn artwork that stays crisp and sharp even when zoomed in, providing a rich feast for the eyes. Unfortunately the same can't be said of the character art and customisation screen, which looks absolutely bizarre.
Audiophiles may despair at the rampantly hammy voice acting, but considering that most portable titles (including DS and PSP games) don't include full VA, this is definitely a point in G5 Entertainment's favour.
- Solid hidden object gameplay
- Puzzles and RPG elements provide extra value
- Luscious artwork and full voice acting
- Character art is plain bad
- Aggravating mockney accents
- Too easy for £2.99?
Summary: Romance Of Rome is one of the most engaging and addictive hidden object games on the App Store; providing an experience that transcends its target genre. Slick visuals and full voice acting make this a surprisingly worthwhile purchase.
Developer: G5 Entertainment
Compatibility: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Requires iOS 3.0 or later.
Price: £2.99 - App Store