As a kid I was an avid fan of the Where’s Wally? picture books (that’s Waldo to you North American heretics). And for some reason, it never occurred to me how fitting that format could be for a video game. Enter Hidden Through Time, a game that attempts to fill a void I didn’t know I had, but does the bare minimum required to make it an enjoyable experience.
Hidden Through Time has three modes: Story mode, where you play through about 28 different maps; the map editor, and online, where you can play maps other players have created. In each map, you are presented with a scene involving any number of characters, animals, objects, buildings and other structures from fantastical versions of historical settings – namely the Stone Age, Ancient Egypt, the Middle Ages, and the Wild West. A number of unique items are hidden within each map, and all you have to do is find them – a task that quickly becomes quite tricky, especially when the object you are looking for what might be a single playing card, or a banana. Luckily the placement of hidden items is not usually random. The playing card will probably be found on a table rather than out in a field somewhere, making it possible to take educated guesses at the general area you should be searching in.
Unfortunately there’s really not much else to this game, and so every new level ends up just being more of the same. Even the aesthetic change between time periods only gives a brief sense of novelty.
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I was worried that the Switch might make creating your own levels slow or tedious, but the map editor works really well with Switch controllers. However, given the limited scope of this game’s mechanics (I mean, there is literally nothing else to do except find objects placed around the map) I can’t see much potential for user-generated content.
The game’s “Story Mode” doesn’t tell a story per se. Each level portrays a situation in one of the four time periods, like a medieval feast, or one of my favourites, an exhibition of rock sculptures given by the Stone Age people . The lack of a continuous narrative or even a hook (like a narrative reason why we the Player is looking for all these objects in the first place) feels a bit like a missed opportunity which could have made the game more engaging.
Graphics / Art Direction
Hidden Through Time uses a colourful cartoon style of “hand-drawn” characters and objects placed on an isometric field – at least, the game’s Steam page says it’s hand-drawn, though we must disagree on what the definition of “hand-drawn” is, since the graphics are obviously digitally rendered, even if they were drawn with a tablet. But for the most part the simplistic graphics do very well to declutter what might otherwise be a very messy game. Unfortunately, the cartoony style can actually make it difficult to figure out what you are even looking for; the aforementioned playing-card, for example, is just a tiny white rectangle with no discernible features. Then there’s the generic look of everything, at least compared to the Where’s Wally? books, where every character on every page is drawn uniquely. It would have definitely been worth spending more time adding greater variety to the game’s graphics.
Music / Sound Design
There are, to the best of my knowledge, three tracks in the game’s soundtrack: One for the title screen, one for the level editor, and one for playing levels. If they had been great tracks, maybe I could have forgiven the lack of variety, but the fact that I was bored of them after one listen means I can only recommend to go into the options, turn off the music, and put on something else to listen to while you play.
Final score: 61%
As a short, relaxing game to pass some time on public transport, Hidden Through Time is fine; but among the niche genre I will now term either “Search ‘Em Ups” or “Wally-likes”, you still get far more variety and charm from the classic Wally books, and given how limited the game’s mechanics are, the ability to make your own maps just doesn’t appeal.
Thank you for checking out our Hidden Through Time Switch review, thank you Crazy Monkey Studios for the review code and thank you to our $5 and up Patreon Backer for their ongoing support: