It’s hard to believe that the 3DS eShop houses so many hidden object games within its figurative walls. We haven’t tallied an exact count of these games on offer, but we do know that there are very few that we’ve scored higher than average; in most cases we’ve found them to be unsatisfactory. It’s a pity that we've seen a number of these low quality games, but we're remaining optimistic that soon enough we'll receive a hidden object game that gets it right. Could Hideaways: Foggy Valley finally be the one to set a new standard? Well, you probably shouldn't hold your breath.
Before we get into the finer details, consumers should be fully aware that Hideaways: Foggy Valley is not a Halloween nor an Autumn themed game. This is a generic hidden object game that carries no obvious theme. The title and key artwork might suggest that pumpkins, skulls, and spooky locales are the dominant presence throughout the adventure, though that’s not the case. The developer possibly wants you to believe it is to capitalize on sales during the upcoming holiday season, but we now know better. In fact, outside of an occasional pumpkin or black cat mixed into piles of indiscriminately-placed junk, there’s nothing spooky here at all — there’s hardly even a hint of fog.
As is the case with a vast majority of hidden object games, the searchable scenes are constructed in a careless manner. Instead of delicately placing items into the landscapes (which are essentially photographs of real-life locations) in a sensible manner, we’d believe you if you said a program dropped them anywhere it pleased without any rhyme or reason. Does that make the hunt challenging? It sure can. But it doesn’t allow the player to appreciate what’s being presented to them. If the backdrop is of a farm, why not place only farm-related objects in the space? Why not prepare the scene in some way that is an ocular delight, instead of offering up a nonsensical bunch of nonsense to sift through? Long story short, these low-resolution and immensely flat scenes (there's zero use of 3D) just aren’t pleasant to deal with.
The act of searching for the hidden objects requires coping with some clunky interface choices that degrade the potential enjoyment that can come from participating in intuitive and timeless activities like this. While the top screen features a full-frame view of an entire scene, the touch-screen offers a zoomed-in look that must be moved around with the Circle Pad. Even if you don’t like the cramped view presented by the bottom screen, you’re pretty much stuck using it. That’s because, even on a 3DS XL, it’s strenuous on the eyes to seek out the smaller items littered about the large space, especially when many are hidden in devious ways.
There’s very little variation from one stage to the next, but there are a handful of sliding puzzles that show up periodically. While puzzles of this nature typically divide an image into 9-16 squares and then rearrange their positioning, in Hideaways they’re divided into 30 pieces, which makes it a trial-and-error mess. Additionally, instead of sliding the squares only to open spaces, here you’re able to drag and swap them with any other square on the screen. We did enjoy participating in these more than the standard seek-a-thons, but that’s not saying much.
The touch-screen serves its function adequately, but it should be said that it can be unforgiving when attempting to tap on narrow or tiny objects. Because of this we quickly learned to be very careful about our selections, which mostly alleviated the issue. The game is entirely functional from start to finish, so if you’re compelled to give it a play regardless of our warning you can be happy knowing that nothing here is broken. It might be ugly to look at, boring to play, and overall a bit cumbersome, but it does work. You should also be aware that a playthrough shouldn’t last longer than an hour for most (we knocked it out in 43 minutes), and there’s no incentive to return for more once completed.
The simple truth is that the 3DS doesn’t need another hidden object game that feels slopped together. When you think about the success and timelessness of the “Where’s Waldo?” or “I Spy” books, it becomes apparent how absolutely universal and engaging these types of games can be when done right. Give us scenes with objects naturally existing in a landscape instead of giving the impression that they were randomly strewn about with almost no consideration for their placement. The enemy isn’t hidden-object games, it's those we're often given; we deserve better.
Surprise, surprise — Hideaways: Foggy Valley is another sloppy and carelessly constructed hidden object game. There's nothing here that gives the impression that any effort went into making it stand out from the lot of shovelware amassing on the 3DS eShop, and for that reason — along with plenty others — it doesn't deserve your attention. To make matters worse, the title and associated artwork give off the sense that this product explores eerie themes and that it might be an experience that compliments the Halloween season, but neither is the case. Don't be fooled — while Hideaways is functional, it's simply not fun to play.