I used to spend hours as a kid just poring over my Where’s Wally books and running down the checklists in the back, exhaustively trying to find every last item. Part of the fun was that Marin Handford’s creations were full of life and absurdist comedy. Hidden Folks, from Adriaan de Jongh and Sylvain Tegroeg, is Where’s Wally brought to life, taking those still drawings and elevating them to the next logical level.
The actual concept is all sorts of simple. Hidden Folks is a series of interconnected black and white, handdrawn panels. Tucked away inside these pictures, which could be a jungle river, busy city streets, or a teepee encampment, are hidden people and things to find. All you need to do is click on them. Nearly everything in the environment is animated and interactive however. You’ve got to push and prod things in order to uncover all of the secrets. Taping a tree might cause a monkey to fall out, or tapping a boat may make it sail away.
Each of the objects, animals or people you’re looking for are shown in a bar at the bottom, accompanied by cryptic clues like “fluffy panda does what fluffy panda do”. In this case the panda you’re looking for is sat behind a thicket of bamboo cane which you need to chop down. One in particular that stumped me on an early level was “this chicken was a bite size dinner”. I was checking all the crocodiles in vain before a spotted a particularly plump snake. A few taps brought wedged bird bulging out.
Without the clues Hidden Folk would be skirting dangerously near the legions of hidden object games filling up Steam these days, however the clues, combined with the unique visual style and hilarious sound effects, helps Hidden Folk stand out.
Ah, the sound effects. In a stroke of cost-effective genius, de Jongh and Tegroeg have used a bank of over 960 noises created by sound designer Martin Kvale using entirely mouth-originated sound effects. Click on a crocodile and it lets out an angry grunt for disturbing its slumber, while one of my favourites is the‘doosh’ the lizards sometimes let out when they perform a particularly effective tongue slap. A lot of them are frankly nuts, and it fills Hidden Folks with a peculiar sense of joy that is missing from far too many games.
While things start off small, it isn’t long until the levels absolutely balloon in size. There’s a special thrill to starting up a new stage and zooming right out, seeing what’s in store. That said, Hidden Folks isn’t a particularly long game, although at £6 it feels churlish to complain. You can probably blast through the 20 or so areas in a long afternoon if you’re feeling particularly dedicated, however more areas are in the process of being added.
A nostalgic blast from the past, anyone who ever used to love Where’s Wally and any books of that type will be thrilled by giving Hidden Folks a go. There are no pressures and no limit to speak of, so it really is one of the more relaxing titles around. The sort of game you just want to sit down and play for a couple of chin stroking hours with a piping hot cup of tea.