Finding time to finish a video game can be difficult, especially if you only have a few hours a week to play. In our biweekly section Short game, we offer video games that can be started and ended in a weekend.
Often times when I’m not sure what I want to play, I’ll go through the new versions on Steam, Itch.io and Nintendo eShop until something catches my eye. Usually it’s a game that fits my mood, which, like a lot of other people’s moods lately, is a little more anxious than usual. In such a state, I am almost more interested in playing something familiar and relaxing instead of something new. This is probably the reason why I have spent so many hours Animal Crossing: New Horizons and also why Hidden through time caught my attention.
Hidden through time is a game where you locate hidden objects in a scene, similar to the one from 2017 Hidden people, the Where’s Waldo? books, and the puzzles inside the Strong points your childhood doctor’s magazine. It’s about as simple as a game could be: it shows you objects, animals, and / or people at the bottom of your screen, which you need to locate. Once you find enough, you move on to the next level.
This is how things progress in the story mode of the game, which doesn’t really have a story. Rather, it is a 26-level progression that takes place through four fantastic interpretations of specific periods in human history: the Stone Age with dinosaurs, Ancient Egypt with giant walking gods, medieval Europe with goblins and the American Wild West. Each period offers a unique aesthetic, as well as new sets of buildings, objects and people. Besides being visually pleasing, it also helps the gameplay to stagnate.
By the time you are nearing the end of a period, you will have adapted to more effectively analyze the levels you are at, so that it may begin to feel repetitive. In this way, the change of appearance is not only visual, but a new challenge to adapt to the new visual language of the level. For example, the Stone Age period is full of rounded and curved things; lots of greenery between trees, bushes and dinosaurs; and trees and bushes often overlap or hide other objects. In the stages of Ancient Egypt that follow it, it is more yellow, things are more straight and square, while people and buildings are more densely assembled, but do not overlap in the same way.
There are many similar choices that may go unnoticed while you play, but they show that a lot of attention is paid to how things are hidden in a scene. Generally, objects are close to where you expect them to be; a sword will likely be near a knight, and the bread will usually be in a kitchen or at a meal. But the game also uses small scenes in the level to not only seem fun, but also as a way to draw your attention to an area where an object might be. For example, in one step, you are responsible for finding a sword stuck in a stone that happens to be hidden near a sorcerer and a boy, singing Merlin and a young King Arthur.
When the game breaks with your expectations or if you find yourself confused about the location of something, there is a system of clues. These are some of the best tricks I have seen in a game, as they are like their own little puzzle that tells you fair enough to point you in the right direction. A reference to a level for a small stone statue was something to the effect of: “I did this so that I am less alone”, which tells you that you must seek someone or something by him – and maybe they look like the statue.
Perhaps the best feature of the game is that it has a level creation tool, which allows you to quickly create your own levels and upload them so that other people can play them. The editor is fully drag-and-drop, first allowing you to choose the period you want to use, then giving you access to all the buildings, people and objects in it that you can use to fill your level. Or if you’re not interested in creating levels, you can just download other people, which effectively gives you access to many more levels than you could play.
Hidden through time is also available on just about everything – PC, Mac, iOS, Android, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch – so you can play it the way you want anywhere indoors (and, optionally, anywhere exterior) of your home. The game isn’t exactly revolutionary, but what it does, it does very well.
Hidden through time was created by Crazy Monkey Studios. You can get it for $ 7.99 on the Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Steam (Windows and macOS) for $ 1.99 on iOS and $ 2.99 on Android. It takes about three to four hours to complete.