Nobody enjoys looking for things they’ve lost. I, for instance, am forever losing my keys. They wander off, get grabbed by ghostly spectres, moved by unseen hands, and just when I want to leave the house, they’re not there. Now, I can clearly hear you saying that I am a forgetful silly person, and that I have put them down somewhere and forgotten, but if I was such a person, surely I would know? It’s definitely ghosts.
Despite this, the developers of Hidden Through Time haven’t seemed to realise that I don’t like looking for things. As it turns out though, they’ve followed in the hallowed footsteps of Wally, and those who wonder where he is, in crafting a game where you look for things hidden in plain sight. At the very least they manage to make it fun – well, much more fun than actually looking for your keys, at any rate!
If you’ve ever searched a book for Wally, a Wookie, or perhaps a family of penguins, you should come into Hidden Through Time with a very clear idea of what it’s setting out to do. Each level gives the player a scene to search through, with a varying line up of things to find, and a written clue for each. Those items are sometimes easy to find, but other times you’ll never find them and you’ll go to your grave still thinking about where on earth that lizard could have been.
Hidden Through Time is the exact kind of brain-massaging input everyone needs sometimes, though its soothing nature is tempered by how utterly, boiling-mad angry you can find yourself getting when you’re unable to find a tiny blue arrowhead or a solitary egg. The developers clearly understood that, and if you’re on a pretty steady streak of discovery you can advance to the next story mode stage without having to find absolutely everything. That in and of itself is aggravating. Nobody likes a smug game mechanic.
Unlike the books that inspired it, each scene in Hidden Through Time is lightly animated, and whether perusing bouncy cavemen or friendly Egyptians, they’re delightful to look at. Despite their relative simplicity, it’s still incredibly hard to find specific items in amongst everything else, though each objective’s hint can give you a much needed push in the right direction. It’s all set to a pleasingly relaxed soundtrack, making this the kind of game you can just sink into and while away a few hours.
Once you’re done with Story Mode – there’s no actual story, it’s just a series of levels, but then Wally never needed a narrative – Hidden Through Time’s biggest accomplishment can be found in its creation tools. All players have access to a Map Editor from the off, letting you make your own scene, and subsequently your own hints, giving plenty of space for hilarity and the offer of harmony. Of course, you could choose to be a complete git and making your clues wrong, questionable or pedantic, but I wouldn’t know anything about that…
My eight-year-old son adores the Map Editor, and the tools are simple enough that he was able to work them all out for himself, crafting his very own Jurassic Park-style scene, and adding in the hints for it too. From there, if you’re happy with your creation, you can upload it to the internet for other players to puzzle through, before offering a rating. Some of the things people have already created show a fantastic level of ingenuity, despite the fundamental limits of the assets. Who could have thought up how to create a football pitch scene with ranch entrances for goals?
Hidden Through Time is perfect for families – pretty handy right about now, eh? – and with the scene blown up on the big screen for you to zoom in and out and pan around, it’s mostly a gentle piece of entertainment that’s suitable for absolutely everyone. It also has the advantage of helping you remember which objective you’ve found, which is probably one of the greatest faults of the modern “Where’s” genre, if such a thing exists.