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April 14, 2011

iPhone – Customs (2011) Review

by Master Pillow

Customs is a dreadful attempt at creating a hidden object game that fails on just about every level save one – the nice art of the altogether too curvaceous female customs officer you play.  When the best feature of the game revolves around a 2D piece of character ass…I mean art, you know that you’re in trouble.

The game casts you in the role of Jane, a new customs officer recruit who is tasked to inspect luggage and personal belongings for illegal items.  While the idea of setting a game at the airport customs area is actually sound the gameplay does everything it can to punch you in the gut and annoy you to no end.  The game is split into eight levels with only the first one available when you begin a new game.  By default Customs is set to normal difficulty which gives players a very short amount of time to find all the hidden objects.  Additionally, excessive guessing and taps will cause players to lose 20 seconds off the clock which is quite penalizing considering the timer is already short.

Gameplay is exactly what you expect as each level gives players many objects to find shown through a handy list that can be scrolled through at the top of the screen.  Once a player finds the object all they need to do is tap it with a finger and the game will register it correctly.  However, unlike newer hidden object games there are no mini-games or interactive puzzles whatsoever nor is there any inventory system to add some adventure gaming elements.  This leaves nothing but tiresome object finding for all eight levels a task made all the more tedious because there is no plot to speak of.  You would think that finding two or three firearms, grenades, scissors, various knives and tons of suspect ampoules and white powder within bags would result in something more exciting than a “good work” status screen.

Right away players will notice two things in the first level, one being that the 2D artwork is actually quite pleasant but the second is that the item placement is atrocious not because it doesn’t make sense like having a paper clip flying in the sky but rather because the developer has chosen to hide objects behind others.  While this doesn’t sound too bad it’s much worse since most of the time the object is almost completely obscured.  Thus if you are asked to find a knife expect the game to show you less than half of the hilt.  This might be excusable on the iPad where the larger screen real estate would make finding objects a bit easier but here on the iPhone/iPod Touch it is damn near inexcusable and will cause an inordinate amount of eye strain.

Making matters worse there are two levels where Jane needs to use the X-Ray machine so various bags are shown moving through it from right to left.  This again sounds like it could be cool since most hidden object games are rather stagnant but in practice it’s a nightmare since the conveyor belt is moving too fast meaning players don’t have nearly enough time to look at the current bag before it disappears from view.  Since there is already a timer in place this feels as if the game is punishing the player instead of allowing their deductive abilities to flourish.

While the game does allow players to zoom in all levels except the X-Ray ones it doesn’t magnify nearly enough to provide a better view of the area.  What is befuddling is that players can actually force the game to zoom in more by using the iPhone/iPod Touch’s pinch to zoom touchscreen controls but once fingers come off the screen the view rubberbands back to the default magnification.

There are also a plethora of odd bugs that I encountered mainly all found in the X-Ray levels.  Usually hitting the hint button (of which players are allowed 3 per level) will realign the screen to show you where the object is located but during my time using the X-Ray machine it failed to work as intended.  Therefore, if one of the items is a grenade, pressing the hint button just causes the grenade entry on the item bar to disappear while the screen remains pointed at whatever you were last looking at.  Also, I encountered a weird glitch whereby after I used one hint that the items that I was tasked to look for suddenly were easier to find since the screen stuttered but the objects I needed to locate didn’t thus revealing them immediately.  This obviously was not the developer’s intent but it begs the question if the game had enough time to incubate and was properly tested before its release.

At $1.99, which is apparently already 30% discounted from the normal price, Customs is a dreadful experience and one which will frustrate even the most die-hard hidden object afficiando.  The game does nothing to excite players as it presents a bare-bones object hunt with no incentives to replay levels.  Even if there weren’t other superlative hidden object games on the market Customs would still rank as one tepid experience.  In short, don’t bother.

Note: If you are thinking you need to finish the game to reveal all of Jane’s character art don’t bother as I have already done it for you in the gallery below.

* out of ****

Reviewed On: iPhone 4

Date: April 14, 2011

Reviewed Version: 1.0

Size:  41.5 MB

Developer: 120dpi.com

© 2011 The Galactic Pillow

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