Hidden Folks is a black and white, hand-illustrated, animated Where’s Wally-style experience with more charm than a charming thing on charm pills! In this simplistic and casual game there are no points to be won, and no time-limits to beat, just use the excellently funny clues to find a variety of characters and objects in a range of environments of varying difficulty in order to scour and squint your way to victory.
The first thing that strikes you, as you start out on a simple forest level tasked with finding four things, is how the simplistic art style is layered to build surprisingly complex environments. Beginning by finding an explorer badly hidden behind a tree, you quickly learn that in order to find everything you’ll need to start interacting with the environment, be that cutting down plants or shaking bunches of bananas, everything is interactive and you can easily get distracted just clicking on things to see what they do.
As you spend more time searching, the experience becomes completely immersive and you begin to uncover hidden depths – constant background noise which adjusts as you scroll around and zoom in and out and animations which change based on interactions you have performed on other elements. There is no requirement to find everything in the levels, just a minimum amount to move onward, however, I found myself wanting to spend the time in each area uncovering everything I could including some well-placed pop-culture references (Pikachu, Aladdin and a Mario mushroom to name a few).
Each of the (current) 4 areas of the game start with a smaller, more simplistic level. The difficulty is then increased via the size and complexity of the environment, the number and obscurity of items you need to find, and the sequence of interactions you must perform in order to uncover them; for example, in a later level one person will not appear until you turn on music, but first you need to find the music! Although you are essentially performing the same tasks in each level, they all feel completely different to each other – the desert levels are sparse, but also huge so it feels like a trek to find anything, whereas areas like the city are smaller but have much more packed into them. It’s easy to make the Where’s Wally comparison because of the problem you are tasked with, however, the depth of the levels makes it so much more involved than trawling through the pages of a book.
By far the most enjoyable part of the game is the sounds. Made entirely using the human voice, absolutely every element makes a sound when you interact with it. Screeching birds, buzzing bees and popping balloons are amongst the vast catalogue of noises and each are as charming as the next; even the little ‘ding’ when you correctly find another object is massively satisfying. I was so involved with the sounds to the extent that I found myself sat at my computer imitating them just as I would sing along to a musical score.
The overall UI is excellently thought out, with no elements to distract you from your main task. The things you need to find are in a bar across the bottom, along with a link to the game options, and (once you’ve reached the required number of found objects) a button to move to the next level. Once you’ve hit the required number, a modal is triggered which congratulates you and gives you the options to either move forward or stay where you are. Event the credits screen is on-brand, with each contributor assigned their own character or object with animation and interaction.
The options allow you to adjust brightness, volume and scroll-sensitivity as well as translate into 14 different languages (translated by the community) and toggle the colour mode between black drawings on a white background, black drawings on a slightly pink background or white drawings on a black background. Little touches like this make it clear how much the developer has really thought about the impact of the action you’re asked to perform – essentially, stare really hard at a screen.
The only minor annoyance I had whilst playing was that when you’re zoomed in on a busy area, scrolling around becomes difficult without accidentally interacting with things instead, but this is such a miniscule annoyance it really doesn’t factor into ruining anything about the game,
As you can probably tell, I really enjoyed my playthrough – at 3 hours start to finish it’s just the right length to keep you hooked and leave you wanting more. Luckily, more is on the way, with 2 more levels already in and marked as coming soon, and a mailing list to join on completion for alerts about new content, this looks like a game with the possibility of a long shelf-life with new levels dropped in on a sporadic basis.
Hidden folks releases on Steam and iOS on February 15th 2017 and is set to come to Android at an unconfirmed later date. If you’re a fan of slow-paced immersive pressure-free gaming, I’d definitely recommend grabbing it.