Review: Hidden Through Time 2: Myths & Magic
Some of the games I review on this site are like nesting dolls, and each time you think you have a handle on what the game is, you find yourself diving down another layer deeper. Other games are exactly what they appear to be. I mentioned this during a recent review, but I think this is something that is doubly true when it comes to Hidden Through Time 2: Myths & Magic because right away, you can see what the game is supposed to be. It does not pretend otherwise. This is a hidden object game set in various fantastical locales. If this does not sound like something you will enjoy, you should not engage with it.
Of course, the game has been out on PC for a couple of months now, but it is launching on the Nintendo Switch today. So does the game still work on the console instead of with a mouse and keyboard? Does it hold up as a puzzler? And what does it offer to keep you playing after your first jaunt through the handcrafted puzzles?
Those Who Seek, Find
Obviously, there’s not really any story to be shared with this game, but each individual scene does start with a little introduction read over by some rather charming narration. One you get that, though, it’s time to engaged with the actual game. Along the bottom of the screen you have a number of different objectives you need to find, most of them spread between two different states of the scene (day and night, sunny and rainy, bright or snowing… you get the idea). You click on each of them, and as you click them, they’re added to your found objects.
In and of itself this is all pretty standard and not terribly different from what you could get from, say, a book filled with hidden images aside from the split of two different scene compositions. However, it is added and enhanced by the fact that you can not only click to go inside of buildings, but also to interact with various objects in the world. See a closed chest? The item you’re looking for might be stashed away therein. A folding screen? Tap it to move it and find more hidden objects. It’s an important distinction that keeps you looking not just for the list of objects but also keeping an eye on the wider scene.
Of course, the controls are going to be paramount here, because this is the sort of game that is generally easiest to play with a mouse and keyboard. Fortunately, the Switch controls were well-considered. The ZL and ZR buttons handle zooming in and out, while L and R move through the hints for hidden objects. Left stick moves your cursor, right stick moves around the map, and the face buttons handle clicking, toggling between the states, and even moving on to the next level once you’ve unlocked enough items.
Fortunately for players of the campaign, you are not required to get 100% of the items from any given scene in order to progress. The majority from the first scene are needed, but from there you can really progress as you want – try to clear every single map, or get enough to move on and anything else that’s easy to find. It is, yes, possible to open up a map and find you can already move on to the next map.
It’s a hidden object game, of course. That’s inherently a little simple… which means that one of the key features is using the game’s engine to build and produce your own map, something that I believe the screenshot below will prove I have already mastered.
Now, despite my (obviously not terribly developed) map there, it should be noted that there are a lot of tools in this mode. You can carefully move objects through layers and turn, customize humanoid figures, drag and drop, and so forth. There are even tools for making things move about in a pre-determined path, and the game helpfully runs checks for each objective to make sure that you can’t make an object truly invisible or have a half-dozen things that would all qualify for the same objective.
At the same time, it’s here where the limitations of working with a console are painfully apparent. Dragging and dropping with the Switch controller is not something I could consider super intuitive. It’s not that the interface is bad, it all works, it’s just very clear that the editor is something better developed for the PC that has been made to work within the limitations of the console controls. That’s an impressive accomplishment, but it does mean there are certain limitations to the feel of that interface.
Still, I have to give props to any game that is confident enough in its presentation and engine to give players access to its creation tools – and even if you never want to make a map yourself, this does mean that there are plenty of other maps out there to play through. So that’s a lot of fun, at least.
It Has the Look
The isometric pixel art look of the game is charming, at least to me. No, it’s not heavily pixelated, but it still has that feeling of a whole bunch of chunky sprites placed throughout a tiled world, in no small part because it is very clear from the creation tools that this is exactly what the game is. Each of the items on display has tons of personality, and beyond that, every scene oozes personality and incidental animation. Clicking on random NPCs produces animations and a bit of noise, and that includes animals as well as people. It’s nice.
As mentioned above, the narration is the only real voice acting, but it works well. Beyond that, the graphics scroll smoothly and the sound effects are nice; the music is a bit generic, but not painfully so. All good stuff, and properly tuned as something you can just idly relax and click away at assuming that’s your bag.
The one downside that I did notice is that, at least on my Switch, the game had some rather substantial load times when switching to new scenes or starting the game cold. This is probably just due to the sheer density of these scenes, so it’s hardly unforgivable, but it will slow things up a little bit.
Keep an Eye Out
Full disclosure, I have never really been a fan of hidden object games or art books. As a younger child I’d find Waldo because the books happened to be there, then I’d find myself getting bored on about the fifth or sixth drawing. The art was gorgeous, but the fundamental construction never seemed super engaging to me, and these are not the games I tend to play on my own.
But as I’ve said before, it’s not what a game is about, but how it is about it. This game does not need to be an amazing experience on par with dazzling triple-A games, it needs to be a fun, cute, and relaxing hidden object game. It is very much that. The list of things to find might seem a little short at first, but it’s remarkably devious and should keep you searching for a consistent stretch. If you see the scenes above and think “that looks like fun,” hey, you are probably going to have a good time.
Review copy provided by Rogueside for Switch. Screenshots courtesy of Rogueside and the reviewer.