The Search for Amelia Earhart (Review, iPad version)

Several years ago when my husband and I purchased our first iPad, he went hunting for first person shooters and I went hunting for adventurish, puzzley, mystery-type games like Myst. I bumbled upon Big Fish’s Everest: Hidden Expedition in an old dusty app store on a rainy day in New England where the brief online description promised an exciting race to the top of Mt Everest. I should have read that description further because the game wasn’t at all what I expected. It was my first introduction into “hidden object” games where players are given scenes, and they must literally search for and find items from a list before progressing to the next scene. Simplistic and undoubtedly geared toward children, to my secret shame, it was addictive. Late at night, I climbed Mt. Everest several times hunting for traffic cones and beehives and other ridiculous items in each base camp.

Over the years, Big Fish has improved upon this hidden object theme incorporating other puzzles into the mix, along with complete and sometimes surprisingly compelling story lines.

Over the last couple weeks I’d heard some buzz surrounding one of Big Fish’s newer games, The Search for Amelia Earhart. Because I’ve been captivated by Earhart and the mystery of her disappearance since childhood, this game was my first free download when we picked up the new iPad.

While the graphics aren’t necessarily designed for the retina display, the HD version looks fantastic on the new iPad. The music, while brief and repetitive, is only moderately derivative of every uplifting theme you’ve ever heard. That said, I did find it wholly identifiable which is something I enjoy when revisit a game. (I’m calling out the Big Fish Rhinna Ford line of games here and their clearly ripped off X-Files theme. Not fair!)

The Search for Amelia Earhart combines a bit of hidden object with a few other types of puzzles along with a full multimedia experience to create a wholly realized, if abbreviated, biography of this enigmatic historical figure.

I’m typically hyper-critical of attempts to blend history or science into games. Confuse astrology with astronomy and you’ve lost me for good. However, The Search for Amelia Earhart holds it’s own. Like all Big Fish games I’ve encountered, it is designed for young adults, but there is enough substance that it needn’t fall into the total fluff category. I can easily imagine it being a great game to play along with your kids.

As a player you’re taken on a journey through Amelia Earhart’s life. When you progress through each hidden object quest, puzzle and challenge, you’re presented with interesting and little-known facts about Amelia. And as you complete each part of the game, you’re treated to first direct quotes, and ultimately video footage of Amelia herself. The quotes, footage and music are designed to inspire.

Each segment of the game further advances one of the theories surrounding Amelia’s final flight. While none of the theories presented by the game are entirely outlandish, you might find yourself a bit skeptical. It’s up to you to do the research after you finish the game. This shouldn’t be difficult because, coincidentally, the search for Ms. Earhart is all over the news right now based on some newly discovered evidence. It will be interesting to see if the game is updated in the future to incorporate this new information.

Aside from the game being relatively short, my real disappointment was the timing involved when prompted to upgrade from the free version to the paid version. I didn’t know this then and without giving anything away, I was fully halfway through the game at this point. That alone isn’t a big deal, but I will reveal that there are no new puzzle types to encounter when you pull the trigger on the paid version. Yes, there is more game to play. Yes, some of the puzzles become a wee bit more difficult. And yes, there are more theories, more Amelia videos and a tiny denouement.

If you’re a huge dork like I am for strong female historical figures shrouded in mystery, and like your hidden object games beefed up with puzzles and, of course, the online equivalent of flying lessons, you can’t go wrong downloading the free version of The Search for Amelia Earhart for your iPad. You’ve got plenty of game to play before you have to decide whether or not to spend $4.99 on the complete version. Frankly, I’m not convinced I’d do it again. I’d probably play through the free part, spend the money on a latte and google search the hell out of Earhart to satisfy any remaining curiosity.

Final note: The latest iPad HD version of the game is not the same as the PC/Mac version of the game. If you’re researching the game and read any of those reviews, there are no clairvoyants or detectives or intrusive voice overs in the iPad version.

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆ 


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Poker player, lawn chair astronomer, amateur meteoriticist and all around rocket scientologist

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