Games are rarely wholesome. Often there’s some nefarious angle. A cosmic warlord coming to smite the planet. Some evil dude decided it would be cool to try and open the floodgates to Hell. You catch my drift. Hidden Folks is so far removed from that and it's remarkably satisfying.
If you ever had a Where’s Waldo? Book as a kid you’ll be familiar with the gameplay. This little indie gem drops you into a number of highly detailed environments and simply asks you to find the ‘Hidden Folks’. The game allows you to explore 15 beautifully hand drawn areas, finding over 120 targets. The environments are cute and tons of fun, ranging from bustling cities to dense jungles.
Hidden Folks is a great respite from other, more intensive games that require fast reflexes. The game is a collaboration between Game Designer Adriaan de Jongh and Illustrator Sylvain Tegroeg, and the small group of people behind its development just packs on the charm. The animations are all fun to discover and play around with, and despite being completely devoid of colour, it radiates life in a really charming way.
The game presents you with a number of interesting characters to find in each level, with a few hints used to tease their location at the bottom. You have to find a number of the characters before you can progress to the next level, with the difficulty increasing as you go on.
I started playing Hidden Folks in small pockets. I’d complete a level whilst listening to a podcast, or take a quick break after playing a few hours of Grand Theft Auto, and it bowled me over with how soothing and relaxing it can be. The sense of otherness it provides from the rest of my Steam library was something that I really enjoyed. Eventually, I wasn’t loading up my AAA titles; I was pining to explore these small, intricate worlds for an hour or two.
The sound is also all man-made, and whilst it was a bit loud at first, as long as you don’t have an itchy clicker-finger it shouldn’t grate on you. From cheeky monkeys to earnest explorers, the little groans of the characters are a delight, and the latent soundtrack gives each environment a cute, lo-fi atmosphere.
Overall, Hidden Folks gave me a very similar feeling to when I first played Double Fine’s ‘Stacking’. It was a simple, light-hearted puzzle game that is as cute as it is funny. If you’re looking for a Where’s Wally nostalgia kick, or just something to escape in to when you want to relax, you’d struggle to find a more fitting game than Hidden Folks. The developers have made it clear that you don’t need a big team or a ton of features to make an enticing, enjoyable game that will keep your attention for hours on end.