Let’s start with a confession. I begged to write this review for Vacation Quest: Australia. Alright, "beg" might be a little strong. How about I persuaded Tracy that it would be in her best interest to assign this review to me? After all, compared to the others on the CGG review staff, I’m practically an expert.
Married to one Australian, mother to two more (OK, half Australian, half American), and self-proclaimed "Aussie-phile," who could better evaluate the merits of Vacation Quest: Australia than this dinky di Sheila here? No one, right? Good on ya!
I’m happy to report that Vacation Quest: Australia doesn’t disappoint. For a person who normally likes an absorbing backstory, it was nice for a change to dive into something casual and fun — a lot like the country itself.
The game premise is fairly simplistic. You are embarking upon a three-week holiday down under. The outcome of your trip depends upon your successful navigation of Oz-specific hidden object areas and mini-games. Your introduction to the challenge begins with a choice of two hidden object areas superimposed upon a map of the "sunburned country."
Don’t worry about which you choose; both must be completed for you to advance to the next level, so grab the one that appeals most to solve first.
Remember to keep an eye out for stray boomerangs in each scene. Finding and clicking on these within the hidden object areas adds points and "extends" your tourist visa. Upon completing the first selection of hidden object areas, you’ll be tasked with a mini game like a "match 3" or jigsaw puzzle to finish out the round.
Gameplay proceeds in a similar vein with a new hidden object area added at the beginning and a mini game finishing things up for each new level. Successful completion of each level also rewards you with a little Australian fact of the day and a sample of the colorful slang similar to what my husband spouts on a daily basis.
The hidden object areas are great fun and visually appealing with lots of little "Aussie" touches. The hidden object areas take place in wonderful locales like Perth Harbour, the Barossa Valley, and the Sunshine Coast. Of course, my Sydney born and bred husband took exception to the inclusion of anything Victorian (read: Melbourne and its surrounds). The kids and I were more forgiving, shrieking with delight at every koala, kangaroo, and didgeridoo.
My one criticism would be that a few scenes were uninspired — one being set in a Tasmanian hotel room. Wouldn’t you agree that the inside of one hotel room is largely like another? With so many rich vistas to choose, from the undersea jewel tones of the Great Barrier Reef to the red center of Uluru to cosmopolitan Sydney with its iconic opera house, why would the game developers seize upon a Hobart Holiday Inn?
My close connection to the country notwithstanding, I can’t imagine anyone not having a blast traipsing around Vacation Quest: Australia. It provided a little taste of "Vegemite" for the kids without that pesky 15-hour flight.