The eye-straining joy of discovery familiar to fans of the Where’s Waldo? books is central to Hidden Folks, a new game released this month on Steam and the App Store. Players click around hand-drawn landscapes including bustling suburbs and cactus-dotted deserts to try to find specific characters, like Newton, who waits under a tree for you to trigger an apple to fall on his head, or elusive objects, like a tiny lizard that “is so well camouflaged it often loses itself.”
Designed by Adriaan de Jongh and illustrated by Sylvain Tegroeg, the black-and-white, sketched, scanned, and animated scenes have an added homespun feel thanks to the soundtrack, which is all mouth-made noises that would likely please the ears of Bobby McFerrin. A crocodile lets out a muttering bellow when clicked, while a peacock has a soft “woo” and fans its tail, and a cheery “bling” voice rewards clicking on the sought-after object. The people, creatures, and odd objects are listed below the landscape, with small hints on their locations. Levels get progressively more dense and complicated as you go, culminating in a frenetic laboratory. Some stages have yet to be released, so although the game is relatively short at the moment, with just 14 levels, it will soon expand.
I played Hidden Folks on my iPhone, which has a vertical interface that you zoom over. I imagine the game is smoother on an iPad or desktop computer, where the clean lines in the panoramas of forests, campgrounds, and desert music festivals would make it easier to explore the 200 different interactions, whether peeling back tent flaps or pestering hissing snakes. It’s a game with a simple idea — point and click and find the hidden “folks” — so there’s not a lot of replay value. But it’s an artful use of hand-drawn illustration in an interactive format.