Hidden Folks : A game with different strokes

You know when you lose your keys and you spend half hour trying to find them? And then you find them in the most logical place that makes you judge your own sanity for a few moments? Well Hidden Folks is basically a game build around that sensation.

Hidden Folks is a new point-and-find puzzle game avaliable on Steam and iOS. And having grown up on a literacy diet of Where’s Wally and Where’s Wally knock-offs I was first in line. But is Hidden Folks a childish endeavor or a whimsical afternoon of exploring?

As the player you’re presented with a vast scene of cute think-ink rimmed people going about their daily lives. Sitting over the environment like a child over an ant hill you’re also given a shopping list of items to find. The orthographic worlds feature interactive elements throughout that the player can tinker with. Every window, garage, and car boot can be explored to find hidden items. Helpful clues provided on the items means the answer can be roughly narrowed down. “John’s been getting too much sun” means he’s probably on rooftop tanning himself.

Hidden Folks is addictive. Exploring areas and hunting out objects is a very satisfying itch to scratch. Often the subtle clues given by the game to objects locations is enough to keep you hunting for up to twenty minutes just to find one item. However it’s no lie that it can be overwhelming trying to go for 100% completion on a level. Having to explore endlessly for an item only a few pixels across can be pretty tiresome so it’s a smart move on the part of the developer that the player can progress to a new environment after only finding a handful of items.

Wherever I May Roam

But even at a fairly low price barrier Hidden Folks is a little on the light side.  The playable scenes across the game scale in size from the pointlessly tiny to the overwhelmingly excessive. Overall to find 100% of items in the game will take your only around two to three hurs. And throughout these hours I often felt as though Hidden Folks just wasn’t firing on all cylinders. As though the game could have dug a little deeper and showed a bit more personality.

For example the environments themselves can actually feel very isolating. Interactive elements are rarely more than a simple slide of a door or the rolling of a hay stack. The omnipotent player actually has very little control over the world of the little folks. The repetition of openings doors and blinds hundreds of times quickly becomes jarring rendering this interactive elements to frustrating requirements.

What made the world’s of Where’s Wally so enjoyable was the jokes hidden within the scenes found by exploring. In comparison Hidden Folks worlds are populated with repetitive sprites often doing little more than turning their heads left and right. There are no stories to find in these worlds and interactions don’t have hilarious results. Maybe it’s a bit harsh to expect the developers to have built a world of entirely unique elements, but by the time the player has been forced to open a hundred doors only to find a plant pot or a box behind you start to feel this world is more annoying than quaint.

Hidden Folk Music

Graphically the game is fascinating to see and when you pull all the way back on an environment you can really take in the scale and effort that has been put into the scenes. This same level of effort has been displayed in the audio of the game but sadly doesn’t hit the mark as well. The thousands of interactions and sound effects are all human-made impressions which although fun at first soon had me reaching for the volume control. There are only so many times you can hear a human being say “sploosh” before it gets annoying.

Hidden Folks is a fun to game play. The obvious comparisons to Where’s Wally aside it’s a fairly unique game on the market and for that reason alone it’s a pleasure to play. But I couldn’t help feel deep down that the game had more potential to deliver. Interactive elements become stale. The stories in the worlds are shallow. And with a short completion time it’s certainly a game best left for a quick blast on a rainy afternoon.