Where’s Wally – Version 2.0
Hidden Through Time is one of those relaxing, highly enjoyable Indie games that takes advantage of a simple concept and maximises it to create something that feels both wholly original and overwhelmingly familiar. In its simplest form, Hidden Through Time is the video game extension of Where’s Wally (Waldo), complete with a cutsey art style, a relaxing (albeit somewhat repetitive) soundtrack and plenty of scope for expansion in the future.
While it’s unlikely to ignite the gaming charts any time soon, what Hidden Through Time lacks in star power it more than makes up for with a polished, refined experience that’s incredibly fun and moreish.
The bulk of the game revolves around a Story Mode although the Map Editor is where the game’s replayability and lasting appeal will thrive (more on that later). Much like the title would suggest, Hidden Through Time is an interactive game of hide and seek, as you’re thrown into detailed, hand-drawn landscapes to find a selection of different items hidden in the pictures. Don’t be fooled though – some of these are incredibly well hidden and will undoubtedly have you scratching your head in befuddlement until that inevitable “oh there it is!” moment that makes this game so effective.
Beginning in the stone age, the various levels progress through different time periods with the choked deserts of Egpyt offering a very different challenge from the Wild West themed backdrops, as an example. There’s a lot of levels to get through but how well adapted you are to playing these sort of puzzles will determine how quickly it’ll take you to get through the game.
The levels can be zoomed in and out of which helps, while the right analog stick moves the entire screen around. The left analog is used for your point and click cursor, in the shape of a hand of course, which can be actioned with a press of X. The actual directional buttons cycle through each of the different items you need to find in the level and these also come with a handy clue as well, which are incredibly useful as some of these items are very hard to find, much to the credit of the game.
Each item in the environment can be interacted with; clicking houses or tents open them up to show the interior (where items are inevitably hidden too!) while hitting pyres or torches add flames to the wood. Each individual figure or item has a sound effect attached to it, and at times some of the items are ingeniously hidden within these mechanic, encouraging you to interact with each level in a way you perhaps wouldn’t if the entire game was statically drawn.
Aesthetically, Hidden Through Time looks great. The isometric view allows each scene to feel like it has some depth and the busy, cluttered areas are juxtaposed by more sparse and minimalist locales around the edges of the map. There’s a constant sense of progression as you move through time too and there’s a satisfaction with finding every artifact in the levels.
Personally, I found the Stone Age to actually be more challenging than the Egyptian locales, while the Western levels pose a greater challenge than the Middle Ages. To be honest, these difficulty spikes will naturally occur between levels, given the nature of the game, so it’s easy to look past this somewhat.
Although the sound effects are welcome, the background music is the one element that lets the game down. It can become a little repetitive listening to the same song again and again, especially given how long some of these levels can take to find all the items. It would have been nice to have a bit of variety across the levels – with perhaps a different background song playing through the changing time periods to add some variety to proceedings.
Once you’re done with the Story Mode, the game boasts an online portion too, complete with a map editor and the ability to play other users’ levels. At the time of writing there were only 20 available to play, with a football pitch and a spooky graveyard backdropped by a few houses standing out as the favourites. Undoubtedly this is a mode that could spark a lot of creativity from the community so it’ll be interesting to see what players come up with in the future.
The map editor itself features a handy Tutorial Mode to get you up to scratch on creating your own maps and although admittedly I’ve only spent a little amount of time with this, there’s certainly a lot to get through that will keep the creatives entertained for a long time after the game has been released.
If you’re a fan of Where’s Wally and other books where you have to scan the pages meticulously to find hidden items, Hidden Through Time is essentially the video game equivalent of this. It’s such an ingeniously developed game and this simplicity makes it the perfect Indie to sit back and relax with. It’s a great coffee break game to play between big blockbusters and one that certainly has a lot of scope to expand in the future.