Platform(s): Nintendo 3DS
Developer(s): 1st Playable Productions
Genre(s): Augmented Reality/Adventure
Release Date: November 3, 2011 (US)
Price: $29.99 – Available Here
Whether it be on late night cable television or in a famous flick starring Rick Moranis, ghost hunting has been a popular topic for years now. 1st Playable were well aware of the trend and took to using nearly every feature on the 3DS to bring their own ghost snatching romp to the public in The Hidden. As a member of an elite squad known as G.E.I.S.T. (Ghostly Entity Investigation and Strike Team), players must use the 3DS’ augmented reality feature to track down dangerous entities in several different missions located in real-world environments. Yes, it’s quite an ambitious concept, but does this unique formula work? Here is my review for The Hidden on the Nintendo 3DS.
Starting out in The Hidden, players literally get to be a member of a paranormal investigation squad by creating a unique I.D. card for themselves. After your picture is snapped, details are taken, and fingerprint is “scanned”, it’s then your job to set out and find entities and complete your team’s objectives. Luckily, this title shines at making the player feel like they apart of a ghost hunting organization as the menus are cleverly designed to provide them with every tool needed for whatever task is at hand. Each time you receive a new mission or side objective, an email hits your in-game inbox and you must then start a hunt to find the ghost plaguing an area while receiving constant feedback in the process.
Whenever you are hunting a ghost (or “shade” as they are called here), the complete experience is done using the augmented reality function. The bottom screen is used to display all of your high tech weaponry and tools, while the top uses the 3DS’ camera to capture the environment you may be in along with the HUD. Whenever a shade is found, they will slowly appear on screen and can be scanned and then fought with the player’s upgradeable arsenal. If you think this sounds like Face Raiders, then you would be right as everything controls in nearly the same manner. The Hidden however is much more complex though as these shades must be logged as well as destroyed. This isn’t a game you can play while just sitting in one spot either as you must actually walk from area to area to seek out specific entities to complete missions. I personally didn’t mind this at all as it certainly gives a nice feeling of actual progression to the experience, but I would also imagine those who are just wanting to sit and play a game will be put off with the constant requirement of movement.
When a shade is encountered, they usually float around in all directions and the player must spin around and use the face buttons on the handheld to fire their weapons. Battles usually consist of the same kind of push and pull mechanic seen in the likes of Luigi’s mansion, where you must also use the circle pad to keep your target locked on to. Once defeated, ectoplasm is dropped which in turn can be used to upgrade weapons. It’s a well made upgrading system that offers a lot of variety, but the way players actually discover these ghosts leaves a lot to be desired. You see, the game uses a form of “wireless” technology to distinguish where the player is located so you must constantly change up your surroundings. This concept sounds fantastic, but I found it nearly impossible at times to find a shade. At first, there were no problems and one shade after another made themselves present and an intense battle followed. After that though, I walked around for a lengthy period of time just to find nothing at all. I walked outdoors, in a shopping mall (with all the shoppers in my sights), and several other locations, only to land one shade outside my own home. One can look at this in a good light as it certainly makes things feel realistic, but I did however wonder if the tracking system was broken at times as the number of ghosts I found were just so few and far between.
That isn’t to say The Hidden isn’t still clever, as there are maps that can track where you have been and a log can keep track and take photos of every ghost the player has found. Sadly, all of these great ideas felt wasted as the longer it took myself to find a shade, the less invested I became in the overall experience. I’m usually patient with any game that requires actual effort to play, but the wireless tracking left me walking for what felt like miles and I had hardly anything to show for it all in the end except for a few slightly upgraded weapons, begging to be used.
The Hidden utilizes the 3D visuals of the handheld well and when you do find a shade, they can seem to be ready to fly right out of the screen. Due to all of the movement, I honestly expected the 3D to not work but since the player is required to hold the 3DS upright, the “sweet spot” is always in focus and no one should have any problem in getting that same “popping” effect at all times. As far as art style goes, shades appear a bit cartoony, usually resembling a colored blob or spirit of some sort. The menus are very impressively designed and the HUD being active in every area the player is in makes hunting these ghosts an interesting adventure as all of the small details make everything feel authentic to the premise presented.
The sound in the game is also well done. The music can be a bit forgettable, but all other effects such as your radar, emails, and the grimacing shades within set a nice atmosphere on top of your own real world environment that can add a ton of incentive to keep walking and searching. Weapons all have their own distinct sound when taking on a shade and the variety of satisfying blasts you can unlock is yet another factor that makes progression (and the collection of ectoplasm) more rewarding overall.
When it boils down to it, The Hidden is the most ambitious game the 3DS has seen so far. Unfortunately, even with all the useful and fluid mechanics in tact, the wireless tracking system doesn’t let the player find many ghosts to start with and the game falls a bit flat as a result. That doesn’t mean I don’t recommend this title’s unique offerings, as those who want something that thinks outside the box and that feels different are in for quite a treat. However, if your patience wears thin easily and you simply want to sit and not be bothered in taking your beloved 3DS with you everywhere, you may want to leave ghost hunting to the experts and give this one a pass.