A few of us here at Out of Lives have been playing Hidden Through Time, a hidden object “Where’s Wally?” style game from Crazy Monkey Studios. Lucy discussed it on Tanked Up a couple of weeks ago and Lee wrote his review last week. Both of them praised the game for its charming, colourful art style with Lucy having a relaxing time with it, it was super comfort food for her. Lee, however, was a little more critical suggesting that it didn’t quite live up to its potential.
I’ve been playing the game differently to both of them. I’ve been playing with my family. My family and I don’t play a huge amount of video games together. My wife isn’t interested in the high octane shooters or racers and prefers to allow me the controls of a story game or on decision making mechanics. She’ll occasionally have a hankering to batter me on street fighter but that’s it. Equally, my daughter, who’s 3 ½, isn’t that interested in games. She’s played a couple of games, mostly enjoying side-scrolling sonic as she can just about direct and jump using the DS4.
Hidden Through Time is a change of pace to anything we’ve tried to play together before. Its relaxed play is perfect for cuddling together and searching the screen for items. Often cute scenes, animals and recognisable objects, based on the time period, elicit a laugh. The colourful art style is easy to navigate and interesting enough to keep little minds intrigued. Clicking a character or creature on-screen is followed by some fun sounds so even if the hidden object is hard to find the scene has a lot to interact with. So far the stone age scenes have been my daughter’s favourite because, well, Dinosaurs; and who doesn’t love Dinosaurs?
When playing we’ve gone from all having a go navigating to just me controlling and the others pointing or describing where an item is. This is great to help my daughter develop several skills. With no urgency to the play she can use the pad to navigate, developing her fine motor skills. She needs accuracy to select an item and this can take some time to get just right. It’s also helping her explanation skills when she wants to describe where something is or where to navigate to. It also helps her thinking skills, each of the objects to be found has a clue with them. I can read the clue and she will take some time to look at the scene and figure it out. She’s getting much better at this even in the short time we’ve been playing.
One thing Lee discussed in his review was the control scheme and how it feels like it should be a touch screen game. My daughter would agree. She often walks over to the TV and touches the object only to then remember she needs to tap X on the pad. I’ve had to steady the TV once or twice after a hefty, victorious tap of an object. We can’t get away from that on the TV but the scale of the scenes suit the TV size well. The cartoon aesthetic keeps things pretty clear and we haven’t had to spend too long on any one map. This is another great kid-friendly design element. None of the maps are complicated. The later maps of each age can have over ten objects to find. We probably spend a max of 15 to 20 minutes playing. This can see us get through a few of the smaller maps or complete one of the bigger scenes. It suits small minds who’s attention spans wain pretty quickly.
I’m really impressed with Hidden Through Time as an experience suited to families. Its simplicity allows my wife and daughter to play, frustration-free, without me; I’d rather they didn’t as I’m enjoying the experience together. The relaxed style keeps us all playing with no sense of urgency, which would put my wife straight off it, and the cute cartoon art style and sound design are engaging for my daughter who wants to click on everything to see it dance and move. I hope it’s a game which could be expanded upon with new asset sets for those players producing their own maps, new time periods and cultures explored. It would provide even more teaching moments in discussing those settings and the people in them.