Underwater Exploration 

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It is time for some deep sea exploration and then some seaside development work with a dual title offering from Avanquest.

NatGeo Adventure Ghost Fleet
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With the title of Ghost Fleet you might be expecting the subject matter to concern the Bermuda Triangle or other seafaring stories of ships having been abandoned to sail the oceans with earthbound spirits as their crew.  However nothing could be further from the truth with the National Geographic game of Ghost Fleet which takes you into the murky depths of the Atlantic Ocean as you explore the remains of various ships in their underwater burial ground.

Available as part of the Avanquest catalogue of games on the GSP label, Ghost Fleet comes bundled with the bonus game of Back to the Beach.  This bundling of two unrelated titles (apart from the theme of the sea) can sometimes indicate that the main offering has a certain lack of depth (no pun intended regarding the Atlantic) in its content.  Regrettably this is the case with Ghost Fleet as the game could easily be completed in a single session or a couple of sessions if you are an infrequent player.

The game of Ghost Fleet casts you in the role of Fiona Powell, a National Geographic researcher, whose father has gone missing while undertaking some underwater exploration in a mini sub.  You will need to search the ocean floor for wrecks and clues that might help locate your father.  While there are options of two game modes, namely Normal or Expert, you will have to complete the former before you gain access to the latter which does remove some of the helpful tools initially at your disposal.

Each search starts off on the ocean surface as you use your vessel’s sonar equipment to pinpoint the location of a nearby wreck on the ocean bed.  Once located you can then accept this vessels as your next port of call and a pop-up window will appear giving you more information such as the wrecks name, classification and number of items it contains.  You can then dive in for a closer look.

A list of items that you need to locate will then be displayed.  Any item coloured yellow will require some action being taken before you will be able to collect it.  Along with the listed items, there are 12 artefacts to be located.  These are dotted around various scenes and open up access to bonus wallpaper and screensavers that you can use.  Each artefact also comes with some addition information about it and this information can be displayed on a PDA facility which sits alongside the list of items.

Positioned above the list is your inventory which stores certain items that you locate for use to give you access to various objects that will need uncovering.  In a few cases you will need to explore another location in order to find an object that is required to complete the search of your current location.  You will be informed when this is necessary.

Aiding you in your search is a couple of tools that are not available when you tackle Expert mode.  There is a Hint feature which sits in the top right corner of the screen.  Initially you will be allocated five hints.   Clicking on the Hint feature will completely darken the scene apart from a yet undiscovered item hints.  Additional hints can be located in scenes.  These additional hints are identified by a Question Mark.  Without actively looking for these Question Marks, I finished up the game with a total of 18 unused hints which should give a clear indication as to the difficulty level of this game.  You can also click on an entry in the list to be shown a silhouette of that object as it is positioned in the scene.

At the successful conclusion of each searched wreck you will need to complete a mini-game.  It is doubtful whether any of these mini-games will take more than 3 or 4 minutes to finish as you decide which shell the pearl is under, rotate blocks to create a picture, match pairs of cards and complete a 16-piece jigsaw will all the pieces laid the correct way around.  Mini-games should provide a challenge but this collection does not.

As mentioned earlier, Ghost Fleet could hardly be considered challenging.  The graphics, sound effects and use of a voice to deliver messages are all fine but, with a difficulty level that stays at the lowest level, this counts for little.  There are just 20 wrecks to explore with plenty of assistance on hand making Ghost Fleet more like a quick snack than a full meal.

Bundled with Ghost Fleet is the time management game of Back to the Beach.  With its cartoon style graphics, this game should keep you occupied for far longer than Ghost Fleet.  The game features a seaside town that is in need of redevelopment with green issues foremost in the planning.  Consisting of a range of levels made up of tasks to complete, you will need to consider the environment as well as financial and building considerations.  This is one of those occasions when the bonus item is better than the main product.

Ghost Fleet requires a 1GHz processor.  You will need 256MB of RAM and 100MB of hard disk space with support for DirectX 9.0 running Windows XP and later.  This title is priced at £10.20.

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OverallAvanquest Ghost Fleet rated 60 out of 100

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