Hidden Object Games often get a bad rap as simple games that involve you just finding an item in a cluttered junk of mess filled with random items. Even if you are looking for a whole bunch to bring with you into the game, you usually only get a single item, and not all of the items you collected (I mean, you are finding a knife, why can’t I bring that with me to face the monster instead of this silly cheesecloth?)
But Hidden Object Games (HOG) have been hiding a secret from everyone but those who are real fans of the games. Over the past few years, they’ve grown up. No longer are they the simple I-Spy games of days past, now they are full-blown adventure games with some serious themes, stories, suspense & mystery. In fact, I’d dare say that Hidden Object Games have become the new Adventure Games of years past (think Sierra or LucasArts) and are morphing into those classic Point ‘N’ Click games (Because let’s be honest: Most of those old games required taking every single damn item not nailed down, and finding a hammer to take those too).
These games, which also usually use strong, independent female leads, are well pieced together and have recently been moving more and more away from hidden objects and more to hidden objects + other puzzles, which is refreshing and nice to see.
They also tend to be a bit smaller games, typically around four or five hours of gameplay, making them good light games, while managing to tie a lot of gameplay and story into the game. Sure, they don’t have the plotline of Half-Life or The Walking Dead, but they don’t need to. Maniac Manor didn’t, and neither do these but both do have a storyline that drags you in, interesting characters, sometimes irritating puzzles and plenty of items to go all kleptomaniac on and steal. (Why yes, I will take that ID card on the table, and the bagged lunch? Sure. Oh, and just throw in the hammer and newspaper too. Why not?)
One of the bigger ways old Point ‘N’ Click and today’s Hidden Object Games differ is that they don’t (or at least don’t really) offer options to go and die. In amusing or serious ways. You can’t usually tell the player to go through the second story window or wake up the angry Gru like Sierra, Infocom and early LucasArts would have been glad to let you do, mocking you for your choice. This, though a downside to some, also offers a helping hand to others, making sure they can’t totally screw themselves up.
The other way is that they differ is that Hidden Object Games tend to be quite linear, and you usually need to do this and then do that, while most old Point ‘N’ Clicks allow you to do that or that first, though those games do usually have some essence of linearity where you need to do this to get that to do that.
To illustrate my point that today’s HOG games are like yesteryear’s Point ‘N’ Click games, I’m going to talk about an older, but well put together, HOG from Artifex Mundi (A leading HOG publisher), Enigmatis 2: The Mists of Ravenwood. This 2013 game, which is on most platforms, is a great example of what I have been talking about. It’s also the first HOG I ever played, as a 15-year-old gamer, playing 10-15 minutes every morning before everyone else woke up and I went to school. (WARNING: Minor spoilers for Enigmatis 1 and 2 ahead.)
This game, which puts you in the shoes of an investigator investigating (who’d have guessed) a mysterious seemingly ageless preacher and his otherworldly age-old cult when you are forced off the road by a terrifying truck-sized raven near an old, seemingly abandoned park, the namesake Ravenwood Park. But things soon go off the deep end as you discover remains, terrified children and a menacing park keeper.
As you explore the park, you are tasked with finding objects used to collect other objects and solve puzzles throughout a well imagined and realized forest and related attractions. But scattered throughout the game are other puzzles, such as sliders, codes, spinners, and other skill or knowledge based games that must be solved to continue on. Yes, there are numerous Hidden Object Scenes, but they are kept fun and popping, with options to play alternative games instead, and they all make sense, with items that you’d typically find in the setting they are in.
Steam users seem to agree with my consensus, with numerous people mentioning how they aren’t really into Point ‘N’ Click or HOG games, but like it and find it not as bad as those old I-Spy style games.
Though Enigmatis is only one example, there are hundreds of others coming out of this revived industry, showing that Hidden Object Games are often more than they seem and that they are coming into their own right again, taking the place of the seemingly gone Point ‘N’ Click titles of days past.