This animated homage to ‘Where’s Wally?’ is ideal for keeping younger gamers entertained while cooped up inside.
- Developer: Crazy Monkey Studios
- Publisher: Crazy Monkey Studios
- Release date: 12th March 2020
- Genre: Puzzle – Hidden Object
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Android, Microsoft Windows, macOS, Macintosh operating systems
- Reviewed on: Xbox One X
- Game Supplied by: Publisher
Hidden Through Time plays like an animated version of the ‘Where’s Wally?’ picture books. It’s delightfully simple, yet deceptively challenging.
As the name would suggest, you are tasked with finding a selection of hidden objects, animals, people and more, all carefully secreted throughout a selection of levels (loosely) based on historical themes. Beginning with the stone age and progressing through Medieval, Egyptian and Western-themed levels, each environment is designed in a very child-friendly cartoonish style.
Each scene is filled with micro-stories being enacted by the inhabitants. Environments are brought to life with animated characters roaming around the scenes; whether it be the stone age, animal skin wearing cavemen enjoying a game of bowling and visiting the dinosaur zoo, or bandits robbing a stagecoach and squaring off against cowboys. There’s a healthy dose of humour, too. A personal favourite was the square-wheeled carts of the stone age – there are many of these subtle and thoughtful chuckle-worthy things to find.
The opening levels are very simple, using just a small amount of the available space, but as the game progresses, these levels increase in size, complexity and challenge. In early levels, you may only need to find a few simple, easy to find objects, though later in the game you may be tasked with finding up to fifteen things. As many different objects as there are to find, there are even more places where they could be hidden. Many objects can be interacted with, from buildings you can click on to see what’s inside to stone blocks you can demolish, revealing miniature statues that may be the object you are looking for.
Some of the things you have to find are tiny, however, thanks to a handy zoom function you can get a close-up view to help you try to find them. Even so, some things are exceptionally hard to find, but it manages to avoid the pitfall of becoming too frustrating to find them. If you find you have spent too long on a level and want a break, you aren’t forced to find everything before progressing and can move back and forth between levels at will, with all progress saved, although the option is there to reset a level if you want to find them all again.
To help you out, each item you need to find is given a clue, and these are invaluable when searching for some of the more obscure items. Some clues are cryptic and many are funny: Although you may need to help younger gamers decipher some of these clues, they give a good hint to steer you in the right direction without just telling you where to look.
Controls are very straightforward when you’re searching for objects. The left stick controls the cursor, the right stick moves the map, bumpers zoom in and out, pressing A searches the area under the cursor and the D-pad lets you move between clues. It’s simple enough for even very young children to get to grips with quickly, and it will keep kids engrossed for hours.
As you can imagine, once you’ve been through all of the initial levels and memorised the locations of all the objects, there’s not much to warrant another playthrough. Hidden Through Time has the perfect solution, though, with an excellent map editor, and the option to upload and download creations online for others to play. All of the objects, scenery pieces and characters from the main game can be used. A simplistic yet detailed tutorial will teach you everything you need to know, right down to how to animate objects, create pathing for character movements, and even writing your own hints.
User creations can be searched out with a selection of filters, that let you narrow them down by criteria such as competition percentage, played or not played, percentage of likes a level has received and more. It’s very easy to find additional maps to play, and with a pool of content that is shared between all platforms, there’s an ever-growing library of levels to enjoy. Some are excessively hard, with objects hidden in such a way that you can barely see a small part of the object you are supposed to find, but thankfully not all creators are sadistic and have made some excellent levels with well-balanced difficulty.
Graphically, Hidden Through Time is beautifully crafted. Sticking to a cartoon style has perfectly captured the comic book aesthetic of hidden-object books that you have probably read and enjoyed at some point. This simple, clean and distinct art-style is exactly as detailed as it needs to be, and as such, it doesn’t do anything too taxing, meaning performance is very smooth. If I had to nitpick, they could have added more detail to the backgrounds of the environments, but it really doesn’t need it, and they’ve struck an excellent balance that works perfectly for the game.
Playing like an animated picture book, there’s not really much need for complicated audio. It’s a very peaceful game, with a few ambient effects when interacting with some objects, and very subtle and unobtrusive background music. In this case, less is definitely more.
Hidden Through Time is a fantastic game to give to kids and a breath of fresh air in amongst increasingly complex gameplay mechanics. It’s ideal for younger children, with its simple art style, straightforward gameplay and child-friendly humour, while for older children, the level design feature allows them to express their creativity.
The included levels are very well designed and numerous, while online map sharing means there is a huge and potentially limitless amount of new levels to play. I’d recommend this game to anyone who needs a fun, family-friendly distraction for their kids on a rainy day or while cooped up at home.