Where’s Wally – or Where’s Waldo for my fellow North Americans – is a staple in almost everyone’s childhood.
We all spent hours looking for that red and white striped man with the glasses. Eventually it expanded into searching for an evil Waldo, a wizard, keys, binoculars, and bones. When I came across Hidden Folks on Steam, I had to give it a shot to relive some of the best moments of my childhood.
Just like Where’s Wally, there isn’t really much of a narrative in Hidden Folks. A few characters, like Kiki the Monkey and Classy Jess, make multiple appearances, but don’t have much in the way of personality. As it stands, the game takes place over four different environments: forest, dry lands, city, and factory. Each area has its own unique feeling, which is impressive since the entire game is black and white.
There’s not a speck of colour in the game, save for a sepia-toned mode you can switch to. This makes the task of finding different characters rather challenging, given their monochrome appearance matches their surroundings. To aid with this a little bit, the game gives each hidden object a little riddle that hints at where it may be hidden. Hints like “this truffle is about to be discovered by a hog” allow the player to look for pigs instead of a tiny mushroom on a large map.
Some levels in the game are ridiculously massive. One desert level is almost 70 full screen sizes in scale – though it’s a desert, so it’s pretty desolate for the most part. Other levels fit in a single screen, and serve to teach the player how to interact with the environment for larger maps to come. This variance in scope helps to give each level a different feel; a level that takes place in the suburbs is a totally different experience than one that is confined to a single laboratory room.
Early on in Hidden Folks,you’ll experience a single level that works differently than any other level in the entire game. Every other level in the game requires the player to find a certain percentage of hidden objects to move on (or find all the objects to perfect the level). But the third forest level is a cute little set piece where the player must clear the way for a character trying to walk across the treetop path. The player has to clear the path of obstacles, or in some cases create the path for the little walking man to get to the other side.
This unique walking level, as with all the other levels in Hidden Folks, is a very casual experience. There’s no timer to to race against and nor is there any limit to how many times you can click around the map. And that’s just perfect – the best kind of casual gameplay anyone could ask for: go at your own pace, explore what you like, click on anything just to see what it does. It’s a completely relaxing experience.
Being free to interact with the world and all the unique objects in it allows you to uncover the plethora of mouth-made sound effects in Hidden Folks. Every click of the mouse makes a sound, and every sound was made by the developers’ mouths. The game boasts almost 1,000 unique sound effects that range from ambient whistling winds, to car horns honking, to the “beep boop beep” of a robot arm.
There’s even mouth-generated music in the game, but you’ll only experience it if you find speakers to click on in the level. Otherwise there is no background music in Hidden Folks, which feels a bit peculiar in a casual game where you spend so much time idling around. Still, there are plenty of ambient sounds to keep your ears occupied when exploring the levels. The sound effects are quite unique to each environment, but a little bit of music might give the game a bit more charm, especially when zoomed out.
The only big issue with Hidden Folks is the length. Finding every object in the game only takes about two and a half hours, and at that point there’s really no reason to replay the game. Even though you’ll have unlocked all the achievements, you’ll certainly be left wanting more from this cute little game. Fortunately, the developers have plans to release more content: there are three new levels teased on the menu as ‘coming soon’. We can only hope there will be lots more content to come from Hidden Folks, including some more unique levels like the treetop walkway.
The unique style and charm of Hidden Folks is more than enough to recommend this game. It’s hard to tell whether it’s the mouth-made sound effects, nifty clues, or funny characters that are the cutest part of the game, but it’s easy to lose yourself in its strange and captivating world for a couple of hours. Assuming the developers add a few more levels to the game to give it a bit more bang for your buck, there won’t be much left to nitpick about. If Where’s Wally was a fond memory of your childhood, then make Hidden Folks a fond memory of your adulthood.