Romance of Rome is a port of AWEM Studio’s PC/Mac hidden object game of the same name, published the iOS platforms by G5 Entertainment. The Roman emperor has announced that thieves have stolen valuable imperial relics and the monarch promises his beautiful daughter’s hand in marriage to the one who brings them back. It’s up to you to help Marcus find the stolen relics and win the heart of the Emperor’s daughter.

Right away, the game’s stunning Retina Display hand-drawn artwork and animated comic book-style cut scenes do a nice job of setting the scene and drawing players back to the days of the Roman Empire. The voice acting is very well done and actually got me to put on my headphones. There is an interesting underlying story that unfolds as you progress through the game. In each of the game’s seven episodes you are presented with a map of Rome containing a number of locations you must visit. At each of these locations, you are given a task that must be completed, usually finding an important lost object for someone. At the bottom of the screen is a list of the items you must find, and as you find these things, new items are added to the list. Some of your found objects will be added to your inventory of “useable items”.

In each location, there are one or more special objects (usually outlined in yellow) that require interaction with one of the items in your inventory. So beyond the standard hidden object game play, there is also a nice puzzle element where you must figure out both in which location and on which object the special items must be used to complete your task. This adds a bit of a point and click adventure feel to the game as well. There was also some sort of money/shop system, but it just didn’t really seem to fit and I don’t understand why it was included. At the end of an episode, you are basically just told you to buy every item in the store.

My main complaint about the game play itself is that on the iPhone there really needs to be one more level of zoom. As it stands right now it is often difficult to find many of the objects, particularly if they are really thin. There were numerous times I found myself accidentally finding something when I just randomly tapped on the screen to scan around. Also, because of the restricted zoom and the fact that this takes place in Ancient Rome, some of the objects you are trying to find (or worse yet, use in the puzzles) are not easily recognizable. This means that sometimes you have absolutely no clue what an object is, and you end up just haphazardly trying to use the unknown item on every yellow outlined object you see, until you finally find one that works. Perhaps a change could be made to display the name of the object in a player’s inventory when it is selected? I have not tried the iPad release, although I suspect this may be a little less of an issue on the iPad’s bigger screen.

The other issue I struggled a bit with was the objects you are seeking. Sometimes they are so distorted in their hiding spots that they bear little resemblance to the reference object displayed at the bottom of the screen. They might be the wrong color or a much different size, or even from a slightly different angle. Those of you expecting a Highlights magazine-style hidden object puzzle, should prepare for a challenge. However I was able to complete the game without using a single hint.

Like G5 Entertainment’s previous hidden object titles, Romance of Rome is only available in separate iPhone and iPad releases at a price of $4.99 and $6.99 respectively. Instead, I really wish G5 would consider offering these types of games as Universal apps in the future. Given the nature of the game, it really somewhat has limited replayability (despite the Game Center achievements), so either a $2.99 iPhone version or a $4.99 Universal app would be a much more appealing option.

In Conclusion

Romance of Rome is a somewhat challenging hidden object game. There is a nice little puzzle aspect to the game which keeps it interesting. To be honest, this is not a genre that I generally gravitate to, but this experience will probably have me visiting some more of G5 Entertainment’s hidden object titles in the future. That being said, iPhone owners should prepare for some frustration with the limited zoom capabilities and may soon find themselves reverting to random screen tapping, or in-game hints. Overall, Romance of Rome was a enjoyable experience, but I couldn’t help but feel it is a game better suited to the iPad.