Playing Pure Hidden

For my assignment to play a new kind of game I'd never played before, I played the 60-minute demo version of Pure Hidden, a hidden object game with interludes of other casual puzzle games and interactive toys. (The website also contains a light browser-based version to try.) It was my first time with a hidden object game, and I was pleasantly surprised. I really rather enjoyed playing it.

The basic goal of the game is to locate and click on objects hidden within a scene. Unlike some hidden object games which present a cluttered room or other physical space, the images in Pure Hidden are more like 2-d collages, so the items can be silhouettes, outlines, or transparent overlays, irrespective of solidity and scale.

The game has two modes, “score” and “zen,” and in the latter mode can be played meditatively, for relaxation and pleasure. Hidden picture games live and die by their imagery, and Pure Hidden has beautiful images and very high production values. The smooth visuals and well-designed soundscapes create a very pleasing sensual experience, which is what makes the zen mode appealing even without the challenge of formal limits. I chose to play in the score mode, which introduces pressure to perform in two main areas, speed and accuracy.

In each themed stage there are about 20 items total to find, but your list only contains about half a dozen items at a time. You must click on the listed objects in the scene to clear them and make space for a new item to appear on your list. Clicking anywhere on the screen that does not contain one of the listed objects will incur an accuracy penalty to your score. Objects are for the most part easily recognizable with few ambiguities, although there were occasional pitfalls – for example, a level that contained both a watch and a stopwatch (clicking on the stopwatch when only the watch was on the list incurred a penalty), or the inclusion of cultural items that might not be universally recognizable, like maki in a Japanese-themed scene (which I probably would not have been familiar with if not for all those hours logged rolling them up in Katamari Damacy).

In case of any uncertainty, you must balance the risk of a false click against the time you spend deliberating and searching. Indiscriminate clicking in the hopes of “hitting something” is not a successful strategy and will only tank your score. It is helpful to try to keep several objects in mind as you scan the screen rather than hunting for one at a time. It is also important to note the location of any distinctive objects that you spot – if they are not yet on the list, it will be easier to find them when they do appear.

In between the hidden object levels are several other types of minigames and non-game activities. Generally, these lack the artistic polish of the hidden object levels and are less engaging – they come across as generic and familiar without any innovative twist or even the basic sense-pleasure that might make the experience novel or worthwhile. In one, you must click on a bunch of fast-moving sheep to make them jump over a fence without hitting it; in another, you must rotate a series of pipes to make them connect in a continuous line; in another, you play with a very simple musical toy, popping a series of bubbles to produce sound samples.

These are all good, basic mechanisms that have been used to produce highly successful and engaging casual games, but Pure Hidden doesn’t do much with them to justify the effort. It would have been preferable if Pure Hidden lived up to its name and was just purely hidden images, because the mixed-bag minigames dilute the game’s core strength: attractive, visually interesting hidden object collages with objects that are appealing, recognizable, and just difficult enough to find to create a challenge (with or without formal scoring).

(Reposted from Bluespace, my academic design blog)

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home