It’s rare than a game fills me with a joy so pure and enthralling that it leaves me enraptured to my very core, unable to turn away for fear of losing such an enchanting beacon of delightfulness. Often, games stir within me a bubbling cauldron of emotions ranging from harrowing fear to nerve-popping anger, and yet they seldom instil within me a sense of happiness and laughter. Hidden Folks, by Adriaan de Jongh and Sylvain Tegroeg, does just that with its gorgeous visuals and incredibly inventive sound design, ushering me forth into a world that both captivates and enlivens my pleasure senses unlike almost anything else on the market today.
The basic concept of Hidden Folks is that of the classic hidden object genre popularised by the Where’s Wally series, requiring you to undertake a pixel-hint jamboree across vast and richly detailed environments to find some craftily concealed characters. It’s nothing new in terms of gameplay, and Hidden Folks does little to truly innovate or expand upon the age-old idea of looking at something from a prolonged amount of time before being driven to insanity due to your lack of observation expertise. That said however, I still thoroughly enjoyed the experience of hunting out each and every hidden object nestled within gloriously gargantuan environments in Hidden Folks.
The game utilises a hints system that provides you with a much-welcomed one-liner per object in an effort to aid in your initial escapades, preventing the early onset of chronic frustration without sacrificing the overall sense of challenge. While such an addition might alienate the masochist contingent, the hints system allows the game to achieve a near-perfect balance between enjoyment and challenge, and I rarely felt like I had an unfair advantage or that the game was handing things to me of a monochrome platter. The largest and most complex levels generally took me around ten to fifteen minutes on average to complete, and by the end of my hour and a half playthrough I had finished the entirety of the game’s fifteen levels, with only three or so objects alluding my piercing gaze. I do wish that the game was slightly longer, but with more levels promised in the future, I think it’s safe to say that there is plenty of content here to justify the £5.99 price point. I boy can it not wait for those succulent new levels to manifest themselves, as the artistry that goes into making them is what makes Hidden Folks an unforgettable and soul-pleasing experience.
What makes Hidden Folks such an enthralling game to play is its simply breath-taking artistic expression; most notably its enchanting sound design that is like a jubilee of maple syrup-draped Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream goodness for your eye-drums. That smile, that feeling of unbridled happiness that such a cocktail of sugary confectionary evokes is exact how this game’s sound made me feel. Every single sound effect in the game (and there are over 960!) are mouth-originated, essentially meaning that were all achieved with nothing more than the human voice. Hearing the cries of a monkey, the toot-toot of a revving car, and the swish of a canvas flap via the medium of the human voice is pure, uninhibited joy. I could not stop smiling, even after hearing the same sound effect time and time again. Couple this with the gorgeous monochromatic visual design and the vast, sprawling and richly detailed environments and Hidden Folks managed to charm the pants of me. I was a rosy-checked country boy, utterly charmed by the sensual, artistic graces of the metropolitan/hipster Hidden Folks.
The game is a brilliant demonstration of how a unique and utterly evocative artistic direction can comprehensively reinvigorate a genre that I believed couldn’t possibly be revitalised. It’s by no means revolutionary, yet in some indescribable way it so is. Where’s Wally has entertained both children and some disputing adults for generations, and yet it has never been able to conquer the digital generation. Hidden Folks does is grand style, and, despite its limitations, it is a must-play for all. That’s all folks!