Hey, kids — remember the movie Ghostbusters? Remember how exciting and fun it looked? Well, be prepared to have that illusion siphoned out of you by The Hidden, which takes the concept of ghost busting and marries it to the embarrassment of walking in circles in public places.
The Hidden bills itself as an "augmented reality ghost hunting game," and we can't fault it for that description, because anybody who enjoys this title has an augmented view of reality indeed.
You are a new recruit at G.E.I.S.T. (which we're convinced stands for "Gaming Experience Inferior to Severing a Toe"), and your job is to investigate mysterious spikes in paranormal activity. Of course, you're equipped with your trusty 3DS, through which you can view the world as you spin around in circles shooting enemies that look more like half-melted gummy bears than ghosts.
Horror games, by their own nature, thrive on atmosphere. The Hidden doesn't seem to understand this, as playing this game in your secure living room strips away any "fear of the unknown" that you might bring to the game by default. But, then again, there's a lot that The Hidden doesn't understand.
The game consists entirely of spinning around until you find a ghost, then zapping or capturing it, and waiting for another wave to appear. Actually, that's not entirely true, as during the waiting periods the game require you to "patrol" the area, which boils down to walking in circles through your house until the plot decides to advance. Nothing happens during these periods; you simply walk around — sometimes for several minutes — until the game decides to let you do something. We think the game is attempting to build suspense. All it's actually doing, though, is giving you several dozen opportunities to trip over your dog.
While walking, messages from your colleagues may or may not appear on the bottom screen. They consist of poorly scripted banter far more often than they contain helpful information, but you'll be glad to see them as they're often the only thing breaking up the experience of walking and waiting. These messages come through so infrequently that it's almost like there really is somebody on the other end, slowly pecking away at a keyboard, as you wait for something to come through and break the monotony.
In fact, if you don't want to spend money on this game, here's a way you can play it for free: ask a friend to send you four text messages over the course of an hour and a half while you pace slowly around your bathroom. Congratulations — you're playing The Hidden!
The fact that the entire game is played through the camera limits interactivity to a devastating extent. Unless you're given something to shoot there's nothing you can even do but wait, and that does not good gaming make. It does at least attempt to incorporate familiar surroundings into your experience, which isn't that problematic until you realise one thing: the game needs more than one level.
Yes, once you're finished busting the ghosts in your own home, you're done until you can find another area with a different WiFi connection from your own. This is so the game knows you aren't trying to play through the entire thing in your house. Because, hey, why on Earth would anybody want to play video games in their house?
You'll need to visit friends' houses, Starbucks, McDonald's, the library and anywhere else with a unique WiFi connection so that the game can recognise them as different "locations." As all you're being asked to do is spin in circles with a game console, it's difficult to comprehend the necessity of this decision. Why can't we play through the entire thing in one place? Why interrupt the experience? Why force people to travel to several locations if they don't want to, or can't?
If you bought your 3DS for the sole purpose of spinning around in the middle of Starbucks while concerned bystanders call the police, then The Hidden is the game for you.
The instruction manual hilariously suggests "work" as a location you can use while playing The Hidden. Nintendo Life takes no responsibility for your termination if you follow this advice.
One would think that with a game played entirely through the camera, that the small amount of graphics and sound effects necessary would receive extra attention, but this is first-year art student stuff, and the sound effects are the stuff of late night science fiction movies. Nothing in The Hidden is unique, except for the fact that it practically requires you to walk into traffic while playing it.
The Hidden, to put it simply, is a mess. It's a glorified tech-demo at best, and we're being supremely generous by using the word "glorified." At heart, The Hidden aims to show you all the real things you can do with the 3DS's camera and gyrometer, but in reality, it just makes you wish you were never born. The need for multiple WiFi hotspots needlessly complicates an already irritating experience, making The Hidden a misguided endeavour at every step of the way.