Travelogue 360 Paris

On May 28, 2007, in Games, by peterb

While I remain hidebound here in Pittsburgh, co-author psu is taking a few weeks in Paris. But I’m not jealous: I have Travelogue 360 Paris, just released for Windows and Mac. And my Paris has a rhinoceros wandering around the base of the Eiffel Tower.

Travelogue 360 Paris is a bit of a strange beast. I went into the game not knowing anything of its provenance, and was expecting a sort of dreary “virtual room” tour of the French capital. I was pleasantly surprised to find a much simpler and quite addictive game: it’s sort of a videogame version of “Where’s Waldo”, or more accurately the perhaps less well known “I Spy” childrens’ books.

That the game takes place in Paris is somewhat incidental, a framework on which the game designers could hang a riot of color and a map around which to roam. In each location, you are given a list of objects to find. You scroll and zoom around the panoramic photo of your location and try to find the named objects before the timer runs out. After every few locations, you’re given a different minigame (most in the nature of jigsaw puzzles) to solve.

This is the sort of puzzle game that any veteran of Fool’s Errand would feel comfortable playing.

One supposes that Paris was chosen as an exotic and interesting location. This works both for an against the game. It’s a bit disarming (and somewhat giggle inducing) to be standing in the nave of St. Sulpice and start looking around for a boat, a violin, a pretzel, a cherry, a footprint, a book, a dinner fork, and a protractor. It’s made all the more surreal by all of the other objects that litter the landscape as red herrings. I found myself engaging in an ongoing interior dialogue. “Let’s see, where’s that protractor? It’s not near that orangutan next to the altar, or the piece of raw meat on the ceiling. Maybe it’s above the confessional?”

The objects in the game suffuse and infest the panoramic photos that make up each level. Some of them are in plain sight, while others are cleverly melded into the backdrop (for example, a bunch of grapes might be simply sitting on the floor, or they might be in the form of a decorative marble-colored frieze on a pillar.) After a time, I began to think of the game not as Travelogue 360 but as “Paris With Junk.” Everywhere you turn, there is random garbage filling the streets. So, in other words, it’s just like the real place.

The game re-uses locations many times, giving you a different inventory of things to find on each visit. Since the actual images (and objects hidden) don’t change from visit to visit, there’s a tendency to complete subsequent visits faster. If you get stuck there’s a clever hint function which gives you “cold, warm, hot” sort of clues via visual and audio indicators. In the standard game you can use the hint function as much as you want but there’s a fairly long “recharge time” between uses, which in practice helps you not feel too guilty about resorting to it when you’re completely stuck. Levels of the game are times, but the time limits are extremely generous. I never felt like I was in danger of losing due to running out of time. There is also an untimed “tourist mode”, which is appropriate for younger kids.

Travelogue 360 Paris is the sort of game that I often talk myself out of liking. It is, at heart, a one-trick pony. But the thing is it’s a really fun trick, and it’s performed with great polish. Sometimes the simplest pleasures are worth enjoying.

Travelogue 360 Paris, published by Big Fish Games, $19.95. Available for Macintosh or Windows.

Disclosure statement: the publishers graciously provided us with a review copy of the game.


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