Disclosure ‐ Our thanks go out to Adriaan for passing us a code for Hidden Folks
It feels like it has been such a long time since I last looked at a Where’s Wally book. The thrill of looking through the pages, not just looking for the namesake himself, is what brought those books to life. No matter where you look there is something happening, someone doing something, each page told a story. However, it is all so very static. I would have thought as a child that it would be an impossible to see each of these brought to life, with movement and interactive elements. Hidden Folks, a new game that has just released on Steam and mobile has opted to take on this challenge. Where are all the little folks hiding?
Starting off in the wilds of the jungle players must start by tracking down certain unique or cool things that are hidden around the map. Most of these take the form of folk who are doing something that is a little strange, and definitely quite unique. Unfortunately being unique is such a busy place does not always help them stand out.
But it is this hectic environment, the idea that wherever you look there is something to see, which drove the success of Where’s Wally and vast quantities of pixel art. The micro-stories which you see happening all over the place are exactly what brings these places to life. No individual character comes across as ‘just another person’ or as another background element. They are all special because of what they are doing, where they are doing it, why they are doing it, or who they are doing it with.
This is not to say that some of the aspects come across as a little boiler plate. A lot of the little people, apes or animals appear quite similar. On one hand this increases the challenge of finding your targets, but on the other it does make you wish for just a little more movement or variety. Many of the people you see are standing or sitting, they are immobile. Sometimes you will be tasked with finding a moving target, but these are less common in this world. I would like to see more of these in the future
Hidden Folk ascends beyond the simple ‘find a person’ game; the environment itself is interactive. You will need to open blinds, lift tent flaps, raise and lower signs and expose manholes in order to find everything. This new level of interaction further brings you into the world. Naturally, as folk are so difficult to find, hints are provided to help point people in the correct direction. Click on one of the characters or items that you are looking for an a cryptic clue will appear, giving you just enough information so that you might know where to start looking, but never so much that is spoils the satisfaction of the hunt. There is no shame in using these and in many cases they enhance the experience of the world, adding more flavour, stories and direction to a busy world.
For a searching game, they have also tried to add a little more than just looking for stuff in big maps. They are exploring the use of getting folk to move by getting players to interact with, and clear paths. I do not feel that this really adds much to the game, but nor do I think it harms it.
For a game that has such simple graphics, the audio is a total charmer. Many, if not all, of the sounds are made by people themselves. This adds a lovely personal charm to the whole experience. Admittedly, after a while, some of the noises do become a little repetitive, but I feel that this does not take away from the game in the least. Each map takes 20-40 minutes to clear, and as such they never start to feel like a chore.
Overall, what do I think? Hidden folk is a fantastic re-invention of the hidden people genre. It is a perfect title to sit down with, relax, and then explore the lively and charming world. It challenges players just enough without ever going too overboard, and never enough to make them go crazy. Is it for children or adults? I have no reservations recommending it for everyone. You should play it.