Hidden Photo Review
Posted by Zach Kaplan
Shutterbug fun, or shudder and run?
Two of today's most cherished timewasters are fun with photographs and hidden object puzzles, so it's a wonder that it's taken so long for someone to combine the two. Continuing on their recent trend of porting retail DS titles to downloadable DSiWare, Most Wanted and Subdued Games bring us Hidden Photo – but is it worth seeking out?
The main attraction here follows the tried and true seek-and-find formula – objects are placed around a photo and you're to find them all within a fairly generous time limit. You can choose from a measly 32 pre-packaged images, but the real fun comes in snapping a new picture or pulling from your on-console library. The game does a good job of placing objects in hard to find spots by shape and colour, modifying them somewhat to blend in with their surroundings, but too often they noticeably stand out or hide impossibly well. Many, however, are fairly hidden and challenging to find – all in all, the split is about even. When it works it's quite entertaining, and the novelty of using your own surroundings as source material makes for an amusing addition. You're allowed a hint or two as well, which can help with those impossible to locate items.
Beyond this, the designers included a mixed bag of minigames: Word Search, where you find letters hidden about photos and then guess what they spell (there's only one correct answer per puzzle – think jumble, not Boggle); Spot the Difference, where elements of a photo are sliced, skewed, copied and scattered about, again evenly splitting them between well-hidden, overly challenging and too easy; Memory Game, which shows you objects atop a picture for ten seconds, removes them and asks you to place them there yourself; and Find Yourself, where you take a picture of your face and then look for it within a group photo.
The former two are the only ones with any replay value, Spot the Difference especially – again, there's the novelty of using your own world as a basis, and when it works, it works well. Word Search is a bit clunky as once you find the letters, you enter a typewriter mode instead of swapping the actual characters you've found, requiring you to get out a pen and paper to keep track of which letters you've already used and which you haven't. Unless you've got your face perfectly mapped to the on-screen guide in Find Yourself, the image will prove incredibly easy to locate as it never quite blends in, and Memory Game is simply not compelling – interacting primarily with objects instead of photographs and struggling to remember exactly where they were placed is a recipe for tedium and frustration. There are microgames to play while your puzzles load, which ask you to rearrange a mixed-up version of the photograph you've selected by way of slide puzzle, square puzzle or something similar, making for fun diversions that award you an extra hint if you solve them in time.
There are 37 achievements ranging from finding an object at midnight to obtaining a certain score, as well as three difficulty levels for each mode. That and the fact that as long as your lens doesn't crack, you have an unlimited amount of puzzles to create and play, make for some added replay value. The images included are of a decent, if not mind-blowing, quality, and the soundtrack is at basically the same level. The items themselves are about as far from interesting to look at as you can get, never going beyond simple silhouettes of various tints, which definitely makes them less fun to locate.
Putting an interesting spin on the hidden object game by allowing you to use your own photographs, Hidden Photo makes for a decent casual title with the added novelty of implementing your own surroundings in your puzzles. The engine that formats images to correspond to your picture's shapes and tints is a novel idea, but it only works well about a third of the time, otherwise making things too easy or too hard to find. That and a mixed bag of additional mini-games make this release a better-than-average on-the-go puzzler, though you probably won't get red eye from extended play.