The framework of Hidden Folks will be familiar to anyone who’s had the – depending on your outlook – luck or misfortunate to end up armed with a Where’s Wally? book. As with those tomes, Hidden Folks charges you with picking out characters obscured by virtue of existing within a sea of similar figures.
But even if puzzle books aren’t your thing, there’s something about Hidden Folks that grabs hold. Mostly, that something is the game bursting with so much joy and whimsy you’d need a heart of stone to not find yourself enamoured with its hand-drawn, interactive miniature landscapes.
Hide and seek
What’s immediately apparent on playing Hidden Folks is the details. It’s almost the opposite of countless lazy hidden object games that infect the Google Play store, where you half-heartedly prod a chaotic static image until the target object goes ‘ping’. Instead, Hidden Folks feels properly alive.
This starts with its hand-drawn imagery. Chock full of character, it comes across like a professional cartoonist frenziedly scribbled all over your device. And as you poke and prod, whatever you tap reacts – bushes rustle; doors open; water pleasingly goes ‘plip’; and campground speakers make everyone get up and dance to the beat.
Each interaction is accompanied by mouth-originated sound effects. Everything from servers to tent flaps makes some kind of ridiculously cute noise, affording the game bucketloads of personality.
It all feels so friendly and unpretentious, but also like every tiny aspect of Hidden Folks has been hand-crafted with care. This makes you want to explore all the more, even when bamboozled by chaotic larger scenes. And some puzzles in Hidden Folks are very big indeed – with very small targets.
For example, there’s a worm somewhere within a huge desert, a golf ball in the city, and plenty of times where you must locate a person who looks very much like dozens of other people packed into suburban streets or a manic lab floor. It’s not a game to tackle if you’re in a hurry, then, although each target does at least provide a cryptic crossword-style clue to hint at their location – and you needn’t find everything to progress to the next scene.
On paper, then, Hidden Folks could have been in with a shout of winning a dull videogame award. But because it’s not on paper – and is instead a gloriously daft and inventive interactive experience beyond its contemporaries – it’s instead a charming, sweet-natured, perfectly realised slice of hunt and peck.