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Family Vacation: California

Score: 80%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Meridian4
Developer: Ocean Media
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Puzzle (Hidden Object)/ Action/ Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:

The graphics in Family Vacation: California are bright and cheerful, while still maintaining a sense of realism, at least when it comes to the items you will be searching for. The Simmons family has a cartoony look to them, but when you are looking for objects in the various locations, items like cell phones, safety pins, buttons and oranges look like they should.

The story is one that will take the Simmons family from their home all the way to sunny California on the family vacation of a lifetime, all so that Barb Simmons can be a contestant on The Price is Nice. The locations you'll be searching will be anywhere from rooms in the Simmons' home, to places in the airport, to tourist hotspots they'll visit while in California, finally ending up on the game show itself. Whether it's Venice Beach, the enormous 3-park theme park complex they'll visit, the ballpark or the game show, everything looks good and conveys a nice sense of California.

There's no dialogue to speak of, but the background music is perky and cheerful. There are also sound effects here and there and a nice little honking sound when your hint is ready to be used. Overall, the game has a pleasant presentation.


Family Vacation: California is a hidden object game that mixes mini-games in between levels to change things up a bit. They always relate to the situation at hand, but they aren't always a lot of fun. But first, the hidden object aspect.

You'll begin at the Simmons home, as they ready themselves for their trip to California. You'll begin by clicking on the suitcase for a particular family member, helping them pack by doing a hidden object screen in their room. Then you'll progress to the airport and the various locations within, like a gift shop and an eatery, with the plane ride itself as a hidden object puzzle. Once arriving in California, you'll visit the hotel, the tourist attractions the family wants to visit, and finally the game show. As you play, the story will unfold as each family member has specific places they want to visit and things they want to do. It's a nice way to weave the family-centric story into your gameplay across the 25 levels.

The hidden object puzzles do something a little bit different than typical hidden object games. In addition to your standard list of items to gather, there will always be three items highlighted in blue, which means these are hidden from view. You have to work your mouse over the screen to find the hidden location, which could be a desk drawer or behind something, and when it flashes blue, you click it, revealing more items to sort through. A number of times, the "hidden" areas didn't really seem to make sense, so those would often catch me off guard as I wouldn't notice they were blue and would spend time searching for the items instead of the hidden locale. At other times, you may see an item with a puzzle piece next to it. This indicates that there are several components you'll need to find to make up the hidden object, like a toy rocket ship or dinosaur. When you click on the name of the item, a visual reference for the group of items pops up, although they are colored grey. As you find the objects in the group, their color will fill in. The Hint feature is pictured as a red van in the lower right corner and will fill over time. There is no time limit, so it's really more of a casual hidden object experience.


There are no difficulty modes in Family Vacation: California. You simply play the game as it is. With the Hint system in place, you'll never be stuck for more than a few minutes and while I found the game presented a decent challenge, it was never really trying. This is a causal game in every sense of the word and it has a very laid-back pace to it. Family Vacation: California is something you might play while you are on the phone or when you just want to kill some time. There's no pressure whatsoever and as far as hidden object games go, it's fairly easy. The developers even maintain the proper size and perspective for items, so you are never looking for an orange the size of a beach ball or a kitten the size of a thimble and nonsense like that.

Game Mechanics:

There's not much to controlling Family Vacation: California; you'll use the Left Click of your Mouse for everything, whether it be hidden onject or mini-games. The 15 mini-games/puzzles that you'll encounter are really pretty varied and include slide puzzle variants, word searches, puzzles where you must fit a number of mixed-sized objects exactly into a fixed space and "pipes" variants. You'll rotate pipe pieces to create a flowing path or move cars back and forth in parking places, or even use your mouse to "circle" words like the old fashion word search puzzles. Some were tedious, but all are doable with a little effort. I really liked the word search puzzle and wished there had been more than one as I really liked that one.

Overall, I found Family Vacation: California to be an okay hidden object game. It's not my favorite, but I enjoyed playing it. I didn't like the way some objects were "hidden" in an area you couldn't perceive with your eye, because it just didn't make sense to me. If you have a hidden object game, you should be able to spot the items. That being said, it's a nice, family-friendly game that won't tax your brain. Keep in mind, however, that once you have beaten the game, you can't go back and replay any of the screens or puzzles; you simply have to restart the game. Check out the demo in the links below to see if Family Vacation: California is for you.

-Psibabe, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ashley Perkins

Minimum System Requirements:

OS: Windows XP/Vista, CPU: 1.2 GHz, RAM: 512 MB, DirectX: 9.0, Hard Drive: 188 MB

Test System:

Windows Vista, 2 GHz AMD Phenom 9500 Quad-Core Processor, 8GB RAM, Realtek High Definition Audio On-Board Sound, NVIDIA GeForce 8300

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