The Missing Mona Lisa: hidden object gaming for iPad

I'm a huge fan of hidden object games, and have played many over the years. They offer engaging challenges of finding objects in cluttered scenarios. The very best of these (the I Spy series from TOPICS Entertainment and distributed by Scholastic, in my opinion) switch things up with visual puns and clever riddles.

New to iPad, the Missing Mona Lisa HD (US$3.99) represents one of the latest entries in this genre. With high quality graphics, and carefully designed tutorials, Mona Lisa is aimed at a kid audience. You play the hidden objects game while traveling through time to retrieve pieces of the eponymous painting.

I found the app easy to use and fun, even if it was a rather generic entry. Items were all laid out rather plainly, and there wasn't much subtlety in the clues. Worse, the clues often were confusing. Consider the screen shot at the top of this post, for example.

In the first game I played, one of the clues was "red helmet". Notice the items I circled. They are all red helmets. (I know the one in the middle looks a bit orange here, but it was redder on my iPad.) The left item is not a "red helmet" in this game. It is a "baseball helmet". The right one is the "red helmet", the game was prompting for.

The sound effects were fine, adding a nice auditory tactility to the game, although I quickly ended up disabling the background music. Parents might want to do the same before allowing their kids to play.

The game offers two play modes, one more casual, and the other with a higher degree of hint penalties and tap penalties, to avoid the "I'll just tap everywhere on this screen because I'm stuck and I want to get on with playing" scenario. I picked casual, as I hate getting stuck. I didn't experience any crashes and the game played well.

When hidden object games sparkle, they do so because the clues and art are clever, and you feel a sense of mastery upon solving the puzzles. The Missing Mona Lisa was fun enough, and probably a good value at four bucks, but it was no "I Spy".