If you’re going to make a horror game, point-and-click is historically your best bet. The genre has a phenomenal track record. From games like The Lost Crown to classics like Clock Tower, it has it all. Even the popular survival horror genre takes a number of inspirations from adventure games.
What I’m getting at is that Hidden is good. It’s the type of game that wouldn’t work in any other kind of genre. It uses exploration and suspense to create a gripping tale that will spook you to your core if you let it. The downside is that this is only the first half of the game. We’ll have to wait for the full conclusion.
Hidden takes place during the 1930’s. You play as Thomas Farrell, an anthropologist on the hunt for evidence of a long forgotten race called “the ancients”. He’s all set to join an expedition into the unexplored regions of South America. First, however, he’s gotta make a pit stop in Buenos Aires to gather some device from a recently departed colleague.
I can’t go into too much more about the plot without getting into spoilers territory. This is the kind of game that is light on exposition, but heavy on lore. As you explore, you’ll find diaries, maps, and other documents that illuminate the setting. You’ll talk to a few people, but this is kept to a minimum. Instead, you’re left to deal with the creepy drawings and chilling locations all by yourself. It’s really well done, although it has no real conclusion. As this is the first half of the completed work, it kind of just ends on a cliffhanger. Still, what’s here in the game is darn good. It plays on the Lovecraft style of letting you watch insanity slowly creep in. Fans of his work will no doubt enjoy it.
This is not a big budget game. As such, the graphics aren’t particularly mind blowing in terms of technical quality. The art, however, is solid. A decent amount of work was done in the textures department to help each of the two big environments stand out. There’s a boarding house to explore, and a small camp to check out. Each area is chock full of items that you can look at up close, even if they aren’t things you can pick up and use. You might come across the works of Edgar Allen Poe, or a bit of Russian sheet music. It’s quite nice. There are very few animations in the game, and they aren’t that impressive when they come up. The cut scenes are mostly a voice over a static screen, so it’s nothing special. I also experienced a few visual hiccups. Of particular note is that the game is very dark. You’ll likely miss stuff if you don’t jack up the brightness.
The aural side of things is pretty great. There are a handful of voiced characters, and each actor does a solid job. It could have used a bit more variety in emotion, but that’s usually the case for any game. As far as music, it’s used sparingly. Most of the time you’re left with the sound of your footsteps or whatever background noise happens to be in the area. The sound of a ticking clock will drive you as insane as anything. When there are tunes to listen to, they’re solid, if predictable, fare. It’s definitely a game you’ll want headphones for.
Hidden is a point-and-click. It keeps things simple. You move the cursor around the screen and click on things to interact with them. The cursor will change form depending on the action you can take. Arrows mean you can move, eyes mean you can look closer, and hands mean you can manipulate or pick up the object. You can right click to open up your inventory, and select an item in order to attempt to use in on the screen. You don’t have to worry about combining items in your inventory or anything like that. When items are no longer needed, they are discarded. The catch is that some of the items you pick up will never bee used. It’s sneaky like that.
Strangely enough, the game has a form of hint system. You can press “g” on your keyboard to bring up your goals. Each of the goals has a button next to them you can click to get some sort of hint. This isn’t like a casual game, though. You won’t get any sparkles that point you to where you need to go. The clues are often vague enough to where you’ll get the idea, but not necessarily now where to go to proceed. The clues are on a timer, so you’ll have to wait between clicks. Eventually, if you get too stuck, the game will tell you flat out what to do.
Puzzles are important to a game like this, and Hidden makes good use of them. For starters, each puzzle you come across feels connected to the story. For example, the reason you’re fixing that music box is because you’re hoping the caretaker will let you in a locked room if you do. Later on, you need to figure out how to open a chest with a special lock because you know there is a special item inside. It all makes sense, and the solutions are logical. However, there will still be times where you haven’t found an item you need. This takes you back to the inevitable “click on everything till something happens” routine these games are known for.
Trekking through the game will take you around four hours on your attempt. There are plenty of optional items to examine, and bits of lore to uncover in the event you missed them. However, the game warns you if you’re about to leave an area for good, so you can grab everything on your first attempt. There are also the usual achievements to earn if you so desire. For the money, the game doesn’t offer a ton of value, but the experience is solid enough to make up for that.
Short Attention Span Summary
Hidden: On the Trail of the Ancients is the first half of a very promising whole. While you won’t get the complete story until that second half comes out, this game is still a darn good horror point-and-click adventure. The atmosphere is great, the mechanics are solid, and the puzzles are interesting. You really can’t ask for more from this type of game. While the full experience will determine the game’s legacy, this first half is certainly worth a look.