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Review – Hidden Folks

Here’s an old idea made new, another game derived from a series of puzzle-books, but this time instead of choose-your-own-adventure games, this time it’s a hidden object game a-la Where’s Wally (that’s Waldo if you’re across the Atlantic), the classic red and white master of hiding in plain sight, the must-have test of your children’s observation skills and patience.

Hidden Folks seizes the concept and turns it into something that is both addictive and strangely adorable. Layers of interactivity, vast scenes in which to seek tiny details with dozens of similar-looking items scattered everywhere, it’s wonderfully simple, and drives you back day after day for just one more game.

There’s not a great deal to discuss on this one, and I have a lot to do for this Saturday and Thursday, so let’s keep it brief…

Story

None here to be found, so that makes life easy. There’s a jungle, a desert, a bustling city, a snowy mountain, and a factory. There will be a beach update at some point in the future, and doubtlessly more to come.

But that’s all you get, it’s a series of pictures that show a rich and complex scene filled with people. You can find little stories dotted around the place, and each person or object that you have to find has a clue attached which tells the story of how it got there, or hints at some story going on in that person’s life.

Style

The simple black and white drawing style may not have the immediate kerb appeal of more colourful games, and the drawing style seems almost intentionally rough around the edges, all uneven lines and basic animations. It almost has the feel of something one would feel doodled in the margins of someone’s maths dissertation, or covering a page in the midst of a notebook of far grander drawings, but to be honest, that is not the most appealing part.

All of the sound effects, from the garbled gibbering of people, the rustling of leaves, to the revving of engines, and the clatter of blinds, all of them are made by the voice of the same guy! Or possibly a mixture of the six people who worked on the game, but it all sounds like the same voice with only the slightest editing, and that really brings this project to life. There’s something so incredibly personal about the sketchbook art style and all-voice recording style makes it feel like you’ve been invited to share in someone’s personal projects, a glimpse into a happy part of their mind.

It may all sound a little overly basic, but while all of the individual components appear that way, the scenes in each section – jungle, desert, city, mountain, and factory – are immense, and only get bigger. My heart dropped a little when I saw the city, vast, towering skyscrapers filled with windows, moving billboards, clouds that drift and block the view, and far below, streets that are utterly packed with detail in which even distinctive objects could be lost in the chaos.

And you have to go find a rock.

Gameplay

The distinctive art style of the game is what may set it apart, but if you want to see how the Where’s Wally (Waldo? Really?) formula has been improved, just look to the way interactivity helps it along. Windows need their blinds opening, manhole covers can be shifted to find what’s underneath, piles of snow disgorge rabbits when clicked, and one of them is the one you’ve been sent to find, Have fun clicking a dozen snow-heaps. Ahh, but it gets better!

Supposing you find the person you’re after. The image is a perfect match, let’s face it, the details are suitably limited that the distinctions are clear enough, but the animation is wrong, why? Well as it turns out, there’s a snowball further up the hill that must be clicked to send it rolling towards its unwitting victim, gaining in size, and leaving the poor woman sitting on the ground, utterly dazed, and identical to the listing in items you need to find! Thank goodness the clue offered some kind of hint.

Each setting opens with a miniature version of the enormous maps to come, to drop a few pointers on the unique puzzles that the future holds, but it’s important not to forget anything that you’ve learned before. Occasionally you may find yourself neglecting an old trick that’s been hiding something that should have been obvious, and you’ll find yourself staring at it for hours without realising.

This is a cheap game, and quick if you’re keen eyed and determined enough. But it’s good fun! There’s something intensely nostalgic and warm about this little black and white game, even the madness that if can drive you to, the fits of anger and frustration at the obtuse clues that seem to give nothing away but become obvious once you’ve already found the object! It all takes me back to long summers where finding a guy in a hat and jumper was more fun than going outside to face the hated sun.

It’s one in the morning, I have too much that I should be doing. But there’s still a white fox to find somewhere near the man with the beard.

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