Publisher Artifex Mundi regularly releases hidden object mystery games on Xbox One. As most have a free trial, I’ve played the vast majority – somewhere in the region of fifty(!) to date. These are, understandably, very samey, combining light puzzle solving with single-screen hidden object mini-games. I’ve never reviewed one, but I’ve always felt that if the opportunity arose, it would likely result in a middling 5/10. These are basic games that follow a set formula, usually over in less than two hours. If you’ve ever played one, you’ll also know of their hilariously poor voice acting.
When it came to reviewing Rogueside’s Hidden Through Time 2, I was mostly interested in seeing how a different approach would pan out. Surely a hidden object game relies solely on patiently scouring environments? The only skill it could ever call for is acute observation. True to expectations, Hidden Through Time 2 won’t test your reactions and lateral thinking. It’s essentially an interactive Where’s Wally/Waldo book, requiring you to simply examine cluttered environments carefully.
Pleasingly, there is a degree of interactivity to the proceedings. Most items can be clicked on, either resulting in a sound effect being emitted or a short animation. Animals jump and squirm, instruments play their appropriate noises, and citizens amusingly act as if they’ve been touched by an unknown entity. This helps the four themed worlds – 1001 Knights, Greek Mythology, The Middle Ages, and The Magical ’80s – to feel alive. Each stage also commences with narration, setting the scene, and over time you’ll notice recurring characters, such as a tiny frog who joins Sinbad’s adventure during the Arabian Knights themed campagin.
Artwork is also consistent throughout, with human characters having blank expressions, and most critters falling into the category of ‘cute’.
How quickly you’ll beat each stage depends on your observation skills. One smaller stage took me mere minutes, locating items in quick succession, while a larger stage took in the region of an hour as I painstakingly hunted for a single spoon. While item locations are never fully divulged, each object comes with a clue, most of which are inciteful. Upon being told somebody treasures an item, for example, you’re likely going to find it in a treasure chest. Incidentally, buildings often have multiple rooms and floors to examine, while storage areas (chests, baskets, etc) can be opened and closed.
Each map also has two different variants, such as day and night, or sunny and rainy. Characters and creatures often change location between the two, with citizens going home for the night or going to great lengths to avoid a soaking. Many items can only be located during a certain setting, identified with an icon. There are a few humorous sights to take in too (and of course, the ’80s world is littered with pop culture references) but this is an idea it never fully runs with, so don’t expect much in the way of clever visual jokes. A missed opportunity, perhaps.
The campaign, with its four worlds that can be completed in any order, is reasonably engaging in addition to being quite relaxing, with no means of failure. However, it’s doubtful many will blitz through it in just one or two sittings as repetition settles before long, with a handful of hidden object types repeated surprisingly early on. I found myself playing for an hour (or thereabouts) and then having a break for an evening or two before picking up where I left off.
There is at least another mode to dabble in, and it’s one that proves to be noteworthy. Architect Mode allows budding creative types to generate levels and share them online for others to beat and rate. There’s a full tutorial to explain how to place and assign items, with the interface not too dissimilar to ol’ Microsoft Paint. Hints can even be added here, although typing them out using the Xbox controller is a bit of a pain. I searched the online hub before release, and even in this early state, found lots of fun levels from the developers – including a mock-up of an ‘80s game developer’s studio. This online aspect helps give Hidden Through Time 2 a lot of extra replay value.
This is an ideal game to keep in mind should you find yourself hankering for something a little different and lighthearted. Parents, too, should consider this for a wet weekend. I can easily imagine it stopping the rugrats from climbing the walls for a few hours, huddling around the TV instead. With a bit of luck, it’ll hold their interest for the following weekend too.
Rogueside’s Hidden Through Time 2 launches January 25th on consoles.