Private Eye: Greatest Unsolved Mysteries was brought to us by the same folks who made Paparazzi, and it shows. The graphical style for the characters and in-game objects is unmistakable. From the music and backgrounds to the oddball characters, it’s all here. Fortunately, that’s where the similarities end.

I was not impressed with Paparazzi: objects that were drawn “dreamily” and lacking detail; very little replayability since every time you go back they seem to give you the same list of objects; overall a very short game that was easily finished in a matter of 2 hours. Private Eye – Greatest Unsolved Mysteries (hereby known as PE-GUM. What’s with the long game names lately?) is easily twice to three times as long as its predecessor, with more detailed objects and a more varied and random objects list.

PE-GUM has a totally 12 levels, and 3 screens in each. 4 of those levels involve going back to the previous 3 to hunt for a few new items, so there are really 9×3=27 unique screens of mess to hunt through. In every level there is also a spot-the-difference game thrown in where you need to find the difference between two screens compared side by side – with no hints. If you fail to do it, it’ll just start that mini-game over.

The hint system has been dramatically improved in this game over Paparazzi. Instead of asking for a huge chunk of points each time you use a hint and scaling it up exponentially as you use more hints, PE-GUM’s hints work on a timer. Once you use it, it’ll take a little longer to recharge each time, and it’s reset at the beginning of each level. In making that easier, it increased the penalty for random clicks from 10 to 50.

Instead of the usual hidden objects game’s way of presenting you with a number of screens and letting you go through it at your own pace, PE-GUM requires you to finish one to two screen first before allowing you to go on to the next. It does this by making one part of the screen a hotspot that you can either travel through or zoom into. This is a very neat idea that livens up the scenes a bit and makes them seem more like locations rather than just messy screens.

As a side mini-game, each screen also contain stamps for you to collect that would be shown in your stamp book. They add points to your game, so be sure to pick them up. The other mini-games that was in Paparazzi where you have to take pictures of a suspect has been improved as well. Instead of having to catch the culprit EVERY time, it now allows you to catch him/her until the timer runs out. There’s also a mini-game where you have to click on words as they appear on the screen, but that feels more like work than game.

The one thing that hasn’t been improved over Paparazzi is the hud. It takes up roughly 1/3-1/4 of the screen, and honestly that is too much. The top portion where it shows the list of items is reasonable, but the bottom portion with the big giant camera in the middle and the large icons along the side is completely unnecessary, especially during the spot-the-difference game. The rest of the time it’s ugly, but while you’re playing that mini-game it’s in the way.

PE-GUM is a well done, well polished game that has a few strange quirks that happens to be my personal pet-peeves; a customization screen that means practically nothing, mini-games that requires more dexterity than should be needed in hidden objects game, a really clunky on-screen GUI, and the inability to save halfway through a level. A level can take up to 20-30 minutes, depending on how good you are, and not being able to save halfway is very frustrating. There’s a customization part to the profile where you can fill in some information, which is subsequently ignored for the rest of the game. There’s also no timeless mode, which makes playing this game with little ones a bit of a challenge. If you don’t have toddlers tugging at your cuffs, however, this is a nice diversion and has elements that should add to the genre versus the rest of the clones.

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