Video Game Review – Hidden Folks

Hidden Folks is a hidden object game where the player searches through large crowds of people to find a few distinct individuals or items. The game features 21 levels across five environment types. Some search targets are out in the open, but most require following cryptic hints by cutting through bushes, unzipping tent flaps, peeking behind curtains, operating conveyors, and much more!

Release Date: February 15th 2017
Developer: Adriaan de Jongh, Sylvain Tegroeg
Publisher: Adriaan de Jongh
Format: PC Game
First playthrough time: 4.5 hours

20181216002317_1.jpg
Use buttons and levers in the factory levels to undercover what you’re looking for!

Major Pros:

  • Great attention to detail
  • Good hints and cute scenarios
  • Creative mouth-produced sound effects

Minor Pros:

  • Good representation of female characters in traditionally masculine roles
20181215135037_1.jpg
New area mechanics are often introduce in short levels to teach the player what they can interact with.

Major Cons:

  • No fit-to-screen zoom and resolution degradation at high zoom levels

Minor Cons:

  • Listening to characters scream for help on several levels lost its amusement
20181215135331_1.jpg
This is as far as I could zoom out, and you still can’t appreciate how big this level is.

The goal of Hidden Folks is either to find characters or items in a scene or to learn mechanics for a new area by escorting a character across a short path. The former makes up the vast majority of the gameplay. For each character or item the player is tasked with finding, a hint is given which indicates where to search. Hints may include direct references to nearby objects or may be more cryptic and only lead the player to the type of area to look in and leave them to figure out how to reveal the search target. I enjoyed being able to learn new area mechanics in a short level and then being given a large complex level with clues on where to look. This made the daunting size of most of the levels feel conquerable while also still being challenging.

20181215134107_1.jpg
Hints can be cryptic, but search targets are always oriented and moving such as to match the real thing.

Each scene in Hidden Folks is very detailed. In addition to the many characters moving about, many items such as doors, plants, and mechanical parts are interactive. Even among multiple rows of houses the player has the ability to open doors, windows, garages, and attics to reveal many different items, scenes, and characters in every house. What’s more, every object makes a sound when interacted with and all sounds in the game are mouth-produced by a skilled vocal artist and recording team. There are over 1,600 vocal sounds, everything from simple character voices to plants, water, machinery, and animals. The ambient sounds in each level are combinations of the ambient sounds produced by what’s on screen. Zooming and panning changes the content and volume of effects to match the player’s point of view. I felt this really drew the player into the scene and helped to orient them to larger play areas. In a few cases the sound also served to help guide me toward a search target. One annoyance with the sound however, was that in a few levels there were characters screaming for help. In the first level this occured it was amusing, in later levels which took much longer to beat it became annoying and unpleasant to listen to. This got to the point that I found myself trying to avoid searching in those areas for very long.

20181215144033_1.jpg
All the large windows, doors, garages, and attics on these houses can be interact with, plus the cars and the stuff in the yards!

Every search target in Hidden Folks provides a hint to help the player locate it. For characters these hints often use the character’s name and say something about what the character is doing or thinking as it relates to their surroundings. I found these very flavorful and cute, they were a great way to bring the player in to what was happening in the scene down to the detail of a single character. What was really cool about the hints was that the developers used them to subtly cast some of their female characters into traditionally masculine roles. For instance, characters with female names or pronouns were shown as working as a bank CEO, electrician, and mechanic. I found this to be an unexpected, but very welcome choice that I hope to see more of in the future.

20181215174429_1.jpg
A female character portrayed as working in a science lab.

Zooming and panning are key components to finding the various search targets. The controls for this are smooth and operate with the mouse via click-and-drag or scroll wheel. However I had two minor issues with zooming specifically. First was that there was no way in larger levels to zoom fully out and view the whole level at once. This would’ve been helpful for orienting myself to a new level and getting a sense of its general layout. It also would’ve made it simpler to find “the box area” when a hint directed me there. For the small to medium levels, it was still possible to zoom out such that you could see everything. The second minor issue I had was that zooming in very close felt like it took a noticeable step down in visual quality. This may have been a combination of the resolution I was playing at, and the fact that the art is all hand drawn and thus isn’t vector perfect. I’m not sure how I would’ve gotten around this, but I do wonder if being able to zoom in that far was really necessary for the gameplay.

20181215153502_1.jpg
A dubious scene in an apartment gets resolution problems at max zoom when full screen.

Overall I found Hidden Folks to be a very unique and enjoyable hidden object game with great attention to detail. The player is encouraged to explore and enjoy the scenes and the difficulty felt right at all levels by giving the player hints to follow and direct their focus. I had some minor visual and auditory complaints, but loved the art style and distinctive sound effects. I can recommend Hidden Folks as a stand out in the genre to any player looking to pick up a hidden object game.

Find this game at the publisher’s website or on Steam.