Yard Sale: Hidden Treasures review

Yard Sale: Hidden Treasures is a Facebook game from Method Solutions, developers of Ubisoft’s House M.D. Critical Cases game, among other titles. It’s been available since mid-October but has been showing noticeably strong growth recently, appearing as the No. 19 top gainer by DAU this week, likely due to the developer’s partnership with Zynga.

Yard Sale: Hidden Treasures is a hidden object game in which players root through various junk-covered scenes in an attempt to uncover things they might want to sell at their house. The main goal of the game is to collect various components in order to restore and sell items while at the same time building up the property value of your house. Consequently, a balance must be found between acquiring or purchasing items to “level up” the house while leaving enough items on sale to provide a steady income.

The early part of the game presents the player with a series of quests that focus on the “hidden object” gameplay. Players visit various scenes, each of which is themed around a broadly-stereotyped character — there’s a “spooky gravekeeper” character with a corresponding haunted house scene, a 1950s greaser with a trailer park scene and a sea captain with a nautical-themed scene, for example. As per usual for the genre, the player is given a list of items to locate from among all the junk scattered across the screen, and is awarded higher scores for finding everything quickly and/or in rapid succession. In an interesting twist on the usual conventions of the genre, item locations are semi-randomized each time a scene is played, meaning it becomes more than a simple “memory test.” Sometimes, too, players are tasked with finding several instances of an item rather than just one.

Occasionally, the player will come across pieces of an item that needs restoring. When all the pieces of an item have been collected, it becomes possible to start a minigame to put the item back together. The specifics of this minigame depend on the item in question — the first item like this that the player restores is an old lantern which must have its old shattered glass removed, be spraypainted, have new glass cut and then reassembled into a new, working form. Once the item has been reassembled, it may then be placed in the player’s yard and optionally sold to a non-player character. When an NPC offers to buy an item, the player is able to negotiate for a higher price through use of a sliding scale, though making unreasonable offers will reduce the character’s mood bar and make them less likely to accept offers.

Yard Sale: Hidden Treasures is a nice twist on the usual hidden object game formula. It is a well put together game with excellent presentation — the hidden object scenes in particular look great, even when switched to full-screen on a high resolution display, though it’s clear from some blurriness that the original art was not created at 1920×1080 “full HD” resolution. The gameplay is also solid and the hidden object mechanics make perfect sense with the “yard sale” theme, unlike many other games of the same genre which often shoehorn a far greater-than-average number of “searching an untidy room” scenes into their respective plots.

There’s one slightly annoying aspect, however, and that’s the game’s energy system. Energy is starting to become a less popular mechanic with both developers and players nowadays, which is why it’s so disappointing to see such a harsh implementation of this frustrating, player-unfriendly throttling mechanic here. The player may only have six energy points at any one time, which is only enough to play three hidden object scenes. Playing the item restoration minigame also requires energy. Energy restoration items are sometimes given as rewards for quests, but it won’t be long before the player runs up against a wall and will be unable to proceed without waiting or paying. To add insult to injury, any “overflow” energy that the player acquires by using energy items that take them over the six-point limit “expires” after about 15 minutes, meaning that there’s no means of “stocking up” — it must be used immediately.