The Hidden – Review
This game was reviewed on the Nintendo 3DS.
Every 80s child and even some from the 90s wanted to be a Ghostbuster at one point or another. Now the wait is over with the new 3DS title, The Hidden, from 1st Playable Productions and Majesco. This augmented reality game utilizes the 3DS’s camera during gameplay, allowing you to track and eliminate malicious entities (which they have named Shades) anywhere you go. Accept missions and travel to different locations to rid the world of evil. However, I soon found out that evil was the least of my problems!
Once you start the game up, you are instantly thrust into the world of The Hidden superimposed on your real-world surroundings. You quickly learn that you are a rookie member of a team called G.E.I.S.T. (Ghostly Entity Investigation and Strike Team), allowing you to act like a Ghostbuster in your own world. Suddenly, little blue blob-like Shades (reminiscent of Slimer from Ghostbusters) surround you! Even though I was outnumbered, I got excited; I ain’t ‘fraid of no ghost! It seemed, however, that the ghosts were actually afraid of me.
Every time I got one of the little blue bastards in my sights he would fly off screen at a rather alarming pace. On top of that, two more Shades joined the party, making this first endeavor very overwhelming. This was only the first level, a kind of tutorial if you will, but it felt like you needed prior experience. A pause in combat to explain the situation, or even slowing down the pace, would have been wonderful. Even a type of training room would have been welcome. Unfortunately, it seems like you are tossed into what would be a third or fourth level, with nothing but sheer luck to get you through. I also found that the buttons are never formally introduced to you. I pressed three buttons before I finally fired a weapon. Games should lead you into play, with a bit of guidance provided (as though players have never encountered that game type before). Don’t just drop them in and yell “Go!”, as it becomes a very off-putting situation.
While I was struggling to learn the controls, the little buggers proceeded to attack by shooting energy balls at my screen. The system has a health meter and every time you are hit it decreases a percentage (based on the type of enemy and their strength). Although players have a shield to defend themselves, it is hard to know when to hit the shield button when the enemy is behind you. Instead, I rapidly fired my weapon and, after a while, managed to kill the three baddies. I found that during battle I was spinning, walking in circles around my bedroom floor. That first fight left me a little dizzy not just because of the disorienting gameplay, but also due to the 3D camera.
The 3D effects of The Hidden were flawless. Hands down, they looked amazing. But if you own a 3DS, then you know that the camera quality is – for lack of a better phrase – god awful. I quickly turned the 3D off just to be able to focus more. Sure, the 3D aspect of the system is extremely neat and a great added effect, but it really works best if you are stationary. It would even work better if the enemies did not move so much, or if they moved a bit slower. For a game that requires the player to navigate their physical world, it feels sloppy. You are supposed to be scanning your environment and battling in your surroundings, but when you are moving around, the camera turns your environment into a colorless blur, as if you were playing in a blender. Even if you turn off the 3D there is no improvement in the quality. The camera seems to drain out all of the color from the scene. I played in my room, living room, and even outside and at times they all looked exactly the same through the eyes of the game. The actual game graphics may be astounding, but if the background cannot hold the same quality it doesn’t look right. You really get a break in reality in what is supposed to be an alternate reality game.
You have an email system that alerts you of messages which in turn send you on missions. When you kill enemies you can vacuum up ectoplasm and use certain colors of it to buy power-ups and abilities that you can wield against the Shade forces. The gear and email buttons are accessible from the touch screen, but the icons are so small that it’s difficult to use your finger to click them. I don’t make a habit of always having the stylus in my hand. I feel that is it harder to play a game like The Hidden while holding it, but it seems almost necessary. There were a lot of points during the story where I needed to click Ok when someone conversing with me or giving me a direction. I was constantly going back and forth between holding the stylus and placing it back in the 3DS. This was a bit troublesome when I was in the middle of a battle. Again, immersion is a huge part of video games, especially if it is an alternate reality title, and this breaks away from it. If you constantly have to stop to grab the stylus, the game’s flow is disrupted each time. I learned after a while to just hold onto the stylus to save the immersion and keep my focus.
The Hidden saves locations that you visit and you can name them whatever you like, in case you want to revisit them. You are allowed to scan for Shades at any time and the shades you encounter are saved in a log, which serves as an information guide of each enemy. The game has a lot of content, but seems to fall short in some key aspects.
The story is catchy, but I don’t think that it overpowers the problems that this game presents. The gameplay is extremely difficult without formal instruction, leaving you floundering against enemies that move too fast. Even in big spaces, it seems that you always find yourself spinning in circles. Additionally, the game flow is often interrupted by the constant need to switch between using the stylus and controls, due to the tiny on-screen buttons and miniscule text. The Hidden is really the first attempt at an augmented reality type game for the 3DS, so I think they’re trying to set the bar for future endeavors. 1st Playable and Majesco set out to make a game that is scary, but it seems that the 3DS isn’t well-suited for this type of game.
The Hidden receives a 3.75/5.0
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