When I first heard about Hidden Through Time I was quite excited. Here was a game that was putting a spin on Where’s Wally, by sending you on journey through the ages to find hidden objects instead of the famous white-and-red evader. The idea of building your own maps to create your own stories and Goonies-style treasure hunts was an appealing one too. My mind was instantly full of ideas when I saw screenshots of dinosaurs, pyramids and cowboys.
In reality though, it’s a glorified mobile game that I’m quite surprised is even available on PS4 and Xbox One. It’s slightly more forgivable on Switch because it’s a mobile console, but I wouldn’t recommend playing Hidden Through Time on a bumpy commute.
From the get-go I was confused. I booted up Hidden Through Time and wasn’t greeted with a cute, animated intro or any of the charm that the trailers had. There’s no tutorial to demonstrate how to actually play. I had to look up the controls in the Options, and it was only then I realised you could zoom in and out. There are touch controls, which are more intuitive due to years of scrolling and pinching on smartphones, but it’s not particularly responsive when tapping on a hidden item; it’s much easier to use the stick and A button.
If you have poor eyesight or are prone to headaches I wouldn’t recommend Hidden Through Time. Even when fully zoomed in, everything is so tiny. I don’t have 20/20 vision and I rarely get headaches, but after about 30 minutes even I was straining my eyes and massaging my cranium. It’s definitely fine in short periods, which is how it’s probably intended to be played. One or two levels at a time, then a short break to give your vision a chance to adjust.
The map creation tool was something I was excited to get my teeth stuck in to but I struggled with it for maybe 30 minutes before giving up and vowing never to return to it. It was easy to select items and place them on the map but I couldn’t toggle buildings open to decorate the inside. I don’t know if it was a glitch on Switch or if I was doing it wrong. Regardless, I haven’t received a patch to fix it nor are there instructions in the Options of how to do it. Either way, I can’t give an honest opinion on the map creation beyond that.
I wish more thought had gone into the level design and interactivity too. There was a real opportunity here to include some cool, rudimentary puzzle elements. Hidden Through Time certainly teases it; items are hidden inside buildings, coffins and even under blocks of rock, and you’re required to interact with them in some way to find the hidden item. These bits were fun, inventive and should have been expanded on. It would have been cool to have been able to shake a certain bush to find a hidden animal, or shake a certain tree to discover a particular fruit. Ultimately, it was a game mechanic they should have leaned on more.
I think at this point there’s no use trying to convince you how sweet and lovely the art style is, or how God-like interacting with the world can make you feel at times. Clicking on most items will emit an adorable sound; I think my favourite was the soothing tingle gold items and crystals hummed out, and fingering a t-rex never got old. It’s severely lacking how your interaction affects the world though, and it made me question whether it would have been any better as a static picture in a kids’ activity book.
Although I initially had fun scouring for hidden gems and patting myself on the back when I found them, I quickly got bored. Once the levels got so large my tactic was to randomly click on anything that looked suspicious, and at that point am I even playing the game as intended? I don’t think so. Blind luck isn’t a feature; it’s a symptom of complacency.
This has been depressing…
Should you play it? No
Why… The novelty wears thin extremely quickly, and the minuscule items are a literal headache after a few hours. The map creation tool didn’t work adequately for me and that lost Hidden Through Time brownie points.
But… It was fun to begin with, and the art style and sound affects will make you smile. I don’t know, you read the review; what more do you want me to say?
Side Note… For a more positive take please read Ben’s feature because it’s obvious I’m not the target audience. Let Ben explain who Hidden Through Time is really for.
Reviewed on Switch. Review code supplied by Crazy Monkey Studios.