Review: Hidden Through Time
It’s a pretty good time to be a fan of finding tiny hidden objects, honestly. Hidden Folks appeared to usher in a small new wave of finder games, distinct from their cousins of the hidden object genre in their focus on traditional Where’s Waldo-style searching. Some games have stayed closer to the Hidden Folks mold than others, and one look at Hidden Through Time will tell you where this title falls. But the addition of a level editor and user-created level sharing make this one an entirely different beast, even if the gameplay remains firmly in the pocket of its predecessor.
Hidden Through Time’s gimmick is, unsurprisingly, seeking out specific people and objects in different time periods. The base game is spread across four eras, including the Stone Age, ancient Egypt, the medieval era, and the wild west. Each era contains six or seven levels designed around a theme, like hunting dinosaurs or a jousting tournament. You’ll have a bevy of targets to find in each, from unique folks to tiny critters, towering monuments to a single vegetable. These are often tucked away behind other objects or hidden inside houses you can open up, and with the scope of some of the levels they can blend into the landscape quite easily. However, each item to find has a short text clue if you mouse over it on your list, which generally gives you a very good sense of its whereabouts.
You could also just click rather wildly on the landscape, if you like. It won’t accomplish much in terms of finding items, but it will produce a wonderful array of sounds an animations. One thing that Hidden Folks spoiled me for in these games is its high level of interactions, where virtually every object and surface gave its own charming, unique sound effect and often animation. Hidden Through Time smartly follows this example, granting all sorts of grunts and squeaks and squishes to the many things you can click. The interactions here aren’t so varied, mind you. Only a few structures like houses and tents open up, and some chests can be searched, but mostly you’re getting cute sounds for clicking around. With how cute the whole game is, though, that’s really enough to keep me happy.
It’s a good thing this one carries so much charm, too, because it takes some serious shots at you with its challenge. Hidden Folks could get pretty hard at times, thanks in part to its monochromatic presentation, but Hidden Through Time gets downright devious with some of its item placements. Plenty of levels ask you to find slightly different rocks from the others scattered across the map, or tiny carrots tucked into piles of pumpkins, or green bottles nestled in tangles of vines. Some of these border on the absolutely absurd, and while I wouldn’t call any impossible, they tend to be notably harder than what you’ll find in similar games. The text hints help, of course, but they can only help so much when you’re looking for an arrow stuck in the ground at a particular angle in a field of arrows.
The other pitfall games like this face is how their replay value suffers once you work through the levels once. Sure, the pyramid and castle scenes are lovely to look at, but once you know the trick to finding things, there’s not much left to do. Here, though, the developers smartly added an incredibly intuitive level editor and sharing service to allow players to keep the fun going indefinitely. All of the game’s assets are there for you to arrange into your own devious puzzles, and sharing them with the world is as simple as a few clicks. The online library of user levels is vast, so once you tire of the few dozen levels in the base game, you have literal hundreds more to choose from. Don’t expect the same quality from all of them, of course, but people do seem to take this seriously enough to make plenty of really fun levels.
This is ultimately a very familiar game for folks who have already sought out some hidden types, all the way down to the art style. I won’t deny that the lush colors and details are quite captivating on their own, but I couldn’t help but compare this to Hidden Folks the whole way through. Fortunately, the addition of user generated content really sets Hidden Through Time apart in a way that hugely benefits its replayability. The main game is still a quality, if challenging, series of puzzles to work through, and it’ll be hard not to do so with a smile on your face as you see everything these little people get up to in their kooky eras.