HIDDEN

 

Genre:   Adventure

Developer & Publisher:  Lost Spell

Released:  August 2015

PC Requirements:  

  • OS: Windows: XP / Vista / 7 / 8
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0 GHz, AMD Athlon X2 2.0 GHz
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Intel HD 3000 (dual channel RAM recommended), GeForce 8600 GT, Radeon HD 3650 with 512MB video memory
  • Hard Drive: 4 GB available space

Additional screenshots

 

 

by flotsam

 

Hidden: On the Trail of the Ancients

Lost Spell

If you have read any of my reviews you will know that solitary first person exploration games are my preferred type when it comes to adventures. They still need to be engaging and worth playing, but they probably get a small leg up to begin with, at least until I start playing.

Hidden is one such game.

You play Thomas Farrell, an archaeologist in Buenos Aires in 1934, who is on the trail of an expedition into the Patagonian forests, searching of evidence of an ancient civilisation. We start in an old boarding house, where a colleague of his Uncle Eneko has apparently uncovered some key material. From there itís into the woods themselves, and then to, well, somewhere else.

Billed as point and click horror inspired by writers such as Algernon Blackwood and H. P. Lovecraft, Hidden certainly gave me a jump or two, without being terribly horrific. In that regard the inspiration is probably apt. It did a good job of creating an unsettling environment at the appropriate times, with strained breathing and the occasional freaky vision adding to the mix.

It is almost completely point and click, relying on the keyboard only for pulling up your goals and accessing the menu, and utilising point to point locomotion with the mouse rather than being able to move wherever you want with the WASD keys. I prefer the open movement but I know many players are greater fans of this type of locomotion, and for me itís a small thing. You have free panning from each point, so in that respect exploration isnít hampered. I would though recommend selecting the smooth camera option from the options menu, which removes the jerkiness from the panning. Why it isnít the default I canít imagine, as it is much the better option.

Hotspots are generous although some are very close together, so you might miss a critical item if you donít explore meticulously. You canít reveal them, but I never like to do that anyway. Inventory items are plentiful, but once you leave for the forest your inventory resets except for one or two objects (one of which was a drawing I didnít use, and which seemed completely superfluous in every respect given I had a photo of said drawing). I also didnít use everything in the second part of the game, although some items were clearly red herrings in terms of one solution.

There are also lots of things to open and poke around in that are simply that. So too you can look at things that might or might not be important. Just because you canít take something with you, donít assume it isnít important.

If you are particularly diligent in your exploration, you will uncover a number of ďfindingsĒ. These arenít necessary to complete the game, but purport to add some detail and background to items or events. They are accessed from the menu screen when found, and there are four in the boarding house and two in the forest. I found half of each, so I clearly have work to do. I confess I donít think they added much at all, but I was pleased I found what I did. Should you be determined to find them all, itís a nice touch that Thomas will muse before he leaves both the boarding house and the forest that if he has missed anything he wonít be able to come back for it.

Veterans and novices alike will easily settle into the gameplay, as it is straightforward and simple. Cursors will be activated by the hotspots and will tell you can do or look at something, and selecting an inventory item will allow it to be ďusedĒ at your present location. You do have to select it again if you want to try it somewhere else (so you donít permanently have it in your hand so to speak), and there were times when I found that a little irritating. I also would have liked to able to, for instance, close a draw I had opened, rather than having to click the icon bottom of screen to ďback outĒ of that interaction, as it made the action seem less natural.

The game looks great, richly detailed in its design, and as such the virtually static nature of each screen is not a detriment. Some small animations accompany some exploration and puzzle interactions, and some cutscenes occur at particular points. The score and soundscape is fine, and I always like it when you can adjust the volume of each independently at the options screen, which is the case here.

Puzzling involves finding and using the correct items, and some out and out puzzles. How to use items will often be predicated on finding and understanding the clues, which limits trial and error to some extent. The solutions are also largely organic, in that they make sense within the game, even if a couple are a little too fiddly. The straight out puzzles will again by solved by finding, and in one particular puzzle recognising, the relevant clue. While there was the odd slightly opaque solve, by and large I thought the puzzles did a fine job of challenging and engaging me, while at the same time getting the balance right between progression and road blocks. I include in that the final maze-ish puzzle, which, when I stopped and paid attention, I was able to work my way through.

In that regard, should it be necessary there is a question mark alongside each goal which will give a clue about that particular objective. You will get a notification top left of screen when you have a new goal, and they will be marked completed once that has been achieved. The goals are largely self-evident from the progression, but it is useful that they are kept account of, especially if there is a gap in your playtime.

I said it was solitary, but there are two characters you spend some time conversing with. There is another who seems intent on ripping you to shreds if it gets in the door, so best hope you can prevent that.

You can save at will, and you get more than one slot so you can go back and start from wherever you want or replay bits should you be so minded. It did end a bit abruptly, and mid-stream, so I can only assume that the project on the website called Hidden: Untold will be a continuation. If not, while what went before was rather satisfying, the end will ultimately be a disappointment.

Despite what I just said, Hidden is a very solid piece of adventuring. I look forward to what I hope will be an equally satisfying conclusion.

Grade: B+

I played on:

OS: Windows 7

Processor: Intel i7-3820 4GHz

RAM: 12GB Ripjaw DDR3 2133 Mhz

Video card: AMD Radeon HD 7800 2048MB

 

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