This summer's Nindies showcase thrust a number of smaller, lesser known and previously unannounced titles into the Nintendo Switch buying publics consciousness, including Mom Hid My Game!. It's fair to say that it was met with a wide spectrum of reactions. Mostly somewhere between bewilderment and ridicule, the game didn't exactly jump to the top of many 'most wanted' lists.
But we've all been there. As a child or a teenager, on the wrong side of the neighbour's fence, or even just being slightly cheeky. Whatever your crime, your parents might have carefully considered what your punishment should be. A fair percentage of you might relate that was at some point the confiscation of your favorite toy, or more specifically, video game. While these days it's more likely that more savvy parents might take away their disenfranchised youths much needed smart device charger, only to watch increasingly growing beads of sweat crawl down their brow as their most recent infatuation shows up as typing on their rapidly depleting social media gateway, back in the day it became a game in of itself for parents to constantly try to outsmart their increasingly persistent offspring.
Turns out that Japanese developer Kemco took that relatable childhood experience rather literally, and as a result, 'Mom hid my game!' is a series of 50 situations that are like mini escape room type puzzles, in which each time you have to find your titular clamshell gaming machine. Starting with day one, clearing a stage will unlock the next day on a calendar style select screen. There's one issue, though - mom is constantly on the look out, along with traps, hazards and red herrings. One wrong move will result in a telling off and a game over. Gather and use different items, manipulate furniture or other characters, even use a bit of old school fighting skills to distract, avoid or trick your parental antagonist and her minions in order to retrieve your prized possession to get your gaming fix. It starts off very straightforward.
Tap the screen or use the left stick to move a cursor around, and 'A' to interact with an object. While handheld and docked are visually identical, and the game fits Switch screen well in handheld, the physical inputs felt a little wayward. Soon, you'll be using items collected in your inventory to try on different objects (or other such things, but that would be spoiling the surprise) to solve the increasingly random scenarios. There's even a tiny bit of story at the end, which is worth reaching, the whole game will only kill an hour and a half or so. Even with a fittingly random gymnastics mini game, there won't be much incentive to go back, aside from introducing someone else to this bizarre yet intriguing title.
After the first few levels, you'll feel like you've got down everything the game will throw at you, and to a certain extent, you're right. There's a degree of lateral thinking needed, even sometimes utilizing the hardware and the puzzles only ever accommodate one or two rooms, severely limiting the possible solutions. There's also the opportunity to earn hints by playing a memory matching mini game. What the game does do, however, is present these tasks with a quirky, whimsy and innocence that is almost impossible not to succumb to. The one single not-quite chip tune track is as infuriatingly catchy as it is just plain infuriating. You'll probably listen to it for all of five seconds, only to mute your system and find yourself humming it unintentionally.
This is pretty indicative of the game as a whole. There's a randomness and humour to the solutions and the liberal use of a soothing 'Wii U blue' with bold illustrations and one or two frame animations that have an 'in flight public service announcement leaflet' quality to them. Yes, it's unashamedly basic, but it's functional, clean presentation adds to the overall experience . After one or two of the more intuitive puzzles, you might just get sucked in and you'll keep going to see what the next wacky puzzle has in store. The game will regularly make you smile, even laugh out loud on occasion with its funny outcomes and clever ideas.
Mom Hid My Game is as easy to adore as it is to dismiss. Sure, it's been out for a year (and is free) on iOS, it's simple, short and oh so random. It's also quite endearing, then, that the modest presentation hides a cute and deceptively astute little game with a fun idea and a heartfelt moral. It's one of the most idiosyncratic games on the eShop, and while its limited credentials and low production are very typical of its mobile roots, the potential of having more content, more complex puzzles or better visuals would in actuality take away its charm. It's a bit of a hard sell on a system with so many fantastic games, but if you like the quirkiness of something like Warioware and you're willing to embrace it for what it is, it will make you smile, as a well as make you think in more ways than one.