Wednesday, April 8, 2020

REVIEW: Hidden Through Time

If you were a kid in the 90s you probably spent a significant portion of your childhood staring endlessly at the pages of Where's Waldo, I Spy, or some knockoff of the sort. They're still around today but not to the extent they once were. I was a big fan of these kinds of books and always wanted to create my own. Twenty years later, that dream is finally possible.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of Hidden Through Time courtesy of Rogueside Games.
Opinions are my own.

Embark on a colourful hand drawn journey of discovery through the ages! From missing dinosaur eggs in the stone age, to a king's crown in medieval times, can you find them all? Discover, create and share worlds with your own hidden treasures in Hidden Through Time!

There are plenty of hidden object games - probably too many. Hidden Through Time is different from the kinds of games that overstuff the mobile market. All of the graphics are hand-drawn in a unique, cartoony style with a creative sense of humor an a rather unique gameplay experience.

Each level of the main story mode features a map very reminiscent of the hidden picture books of my youth. Lots of objects and characters packed into an elaborate, themed storybook scene. You are given a variety of items to find and a short clue as to where each one might be. As you progress through the levels, the game gets more difficult as the maps grow larger, the items you're looking for smaller, and the hits more cryptic.

But this is more than an interactive picture book. The levels are booming with life. Characters, animals, and some objects are animated with some even walking around the map. Players can also interact with certain objects such as opening buildings to find more hidden objects inside.

What makes hidden picture books entertaining beyond finding all of the clues is the added number of vignettes sprinkled throughout. Spend enough time in each level and you'll not only find all of the hidden objects the game wants you to find, but you'll also uncover a few secrets worth a giggle.

As the title suggests, Hidden Through Time features different historical time periods: the stone age, ancient Egypt, the middle ages, and the wild west. While that's only four and I could certainly name a few others I would've liked to have seen, the game really gets its money's worth with the time periods it has.

The stone ages features prehistoric man along side dinosaurs - historically inaccurate, but cool. The middle ages contains a number of fantasy elements including goblins and wizards. Battles between cowboys and Native Americans were an exaggerated myth - but who cares? These are all very reminiscent of classic storybook themes, adding to the nostalgic feel of the game.

At only 26 levels, the story mode is a bit short and there isn't much of a "story" to it. You play through the time periods, the levels get harder, and then it stops. There aren't any recurring immortal characters who appear in every level - at least I haven't found them yet - and an adult can find pretty much every hidden object in two sittings.

However, that's not where the game ends. While the game has a hand drawn style, levels aren't pre-rendered illustrations. The designers created each level by meticulously placing objects to build unique and fantastical worlds. And if they could do it, why can't we?

Hidden Through Time boasts a powerful level creator allowing players to craft their own hidden object puzzles using assets from the game. You can drag and drop every object and then some from the game to build a world and tell a story of your own. Most importantly: you can mix items from different time periods. So go ahead and make that level where a cowboy rides a t-rex while fleeing a locomotive at the Great Pyramid.

After you create your own level, you can share it with other players online. This is where the real magic happens as you discover puzzles created from players all over the world. Some of these maps go for same level of quality as the main game, while others go completely off the rails. Stats for each level help push the better, more popular puzzles to the top - but there is a way to play a completely random level. Do so at your own risk.

One of my favorite user-created levels is titled "Quarentena medieval." Set in the middle ages, this topical level draws from the current world crisis by humorously using the puzzle clues to reference everything from hoarding supplies and empty shopping centers to characters going stir crazy at home and standing at their windows with guitars. Aesthetically, it's not the best designed map I've seen, but it's the kind of community creation that we could only get at a time like this - a time when we need a laugh, and a game, the most.

Hidden Through Time is a nostalgic and whimsical throwback to old-school hidden object picture books. The ability to create your own levels allows for unlimited imaginative play and the ability to share them online opens up endless possibilities.

Hidden Through Time is available for $7.99 on Steam, Nintendo Switch, PS4, and Xbox One. After picking it up, look for my level - Adventurer Camp - and thousands of other user-created maps.