Having played many, many hidden object games, I can say that they fall in the these few descriptive categories:

  1. Hastily thrown together with objects all over the place, sprites reused everywhere you look, and so easy you could finish each level in 30 seconds
  2. With actual hand drawn visuals, but with objects that doesn’t fit in well enough to suit the game
  3. Well drawn sprites, good background art, decent story, good length
  4. Superb (jaw-dropping) graphics, good story, good puzzles, good game mechanics, painfully short.

What I’m saying is that there is definitely a value to quality ratio, and you can’t have it all. Games that BFG produce themselves definitely fall into #3, with some replay value thrown in. Visions of Gold firmly stands as a contender for #4. It’s probably the only one of its kind I’ve seen so far.

The first time I booted up the game, all I can think of was – THIS IS A CASUAL GAME? The graphics reminded me most of playing a classic point and click with pre-rendered 3D backgrounds.

When it comes to production values, I haven’t seen anything like this in a casual game. Everything is rendered. The background water ripple. The skies move. The breeze drifting through the leaves actually look like wind, and not like someone’s holdinng onto the branch and shaking it up and down. Everything is absolutely drop dead gorgeous. The music, though repetitive, never got on my nerves – there is a choice to turn it down, but it does change itself to suit the environment wherever you happen to be. Visions of Gold is a stunner.

On top of that, VoG gives me one thing I’ve always wanted – a clean minimal heads-up display. There’s a menu button, the key object shortcuts in circles along the bottom, a hint button on the right, and when applicable, a skip button on the left. The beautiful backgrounds are presented in their full screen 1024 x 768 glory.

The core gameplay of VoG consist of finding a “key” object, clicking on it, then finding the objects associated with said key. You don’t need to know what you’re looking for, just how they look. Each level will have a number of key objects, and once you go through them you’re usually presented with a puzzle, be it a light switch puzzle, a jigsaw and so on, none of them being especially difficult. Coupled with a hint & puzzle skip system with no timer, it’s defitely suited to casual gamers.

I only got stuck a few times, and this was solved by moving my mouse all over the screen in a case of classic pixel-hunting. What for? Key objects. One’s usually not available until you finish the one before it, and the only way to find out is to see when your cursor changes to a hand. No help whatsoever by logic. You might get stuck, but for no more than a minute. Just click the hint button. This was a bit of a pet peeve – logical hints somewhat disappeared by the time you get to the old house, and I didn’t want to rely on the hint button.

VoG is almost perfect, BUT the game is painfully short if you know what you’re doing. If you’re stuck all the time and waiting for that hint button to fill up, this will take you a whole week to get through. If you find things pretty quickly and only rely on hints once in a while, you can get through it in two hours. Maybe less. VoG eschews the usual hidden object game’s lengthening mechanic – reusing scenes – instead lengthens the game by putting puzzles in-between scenes.

Some of the puzzles are so easy you could do them with one hand tied behind your back. And remember, there is always a hint button. And a skip button. The little backtracking that the game sometimes make you do take up very little time at all, while the story goes along like a straight arrow so you never end up back in your bedroom. I wish it did, for when the whole thing ended I was quite taken aback. That’s it? To be continued, it says, well, it better.

Is it worth it? Oh yes it is. Even if it is only 2 hours long for me. It’s well worth it. It’s well worth knowing that buying this game means that we keep this great game developer stay in business so they can bring us a sequel. Can we preorder?

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