Hidden Express review

Hidden Express is a new Facebook-based hidden object game from Making Fun. It aims to add an interesting new twist on the conventions of the genre by adding a more frantic time-based element to the mix.

Hidden Express eschews the narrative-heavy approach of most other hidden object games on Facebook, instead splitting its experience into a linear series of levels which the player must complete in order to progress. On each level, rather than a standard static list of objects to find, the player is presented with a “train” moving across the bottom of the screen, with objects to find printed on each carriage. In order to complete the level, the player must remove enough carriages to reveal the engine of the train, then find the object printed on the engine. At this point, the player receives a bonus for every remaining carriage and, assuming their score was enough to take them over the “one star” boundary, they may proceed to the next level. Conversely, if the caboose reaches the far right of the screen, the player fails the level and must try again.

As per usual for the genre, the player has a number of powerups available to them in limited quantities to make life a little easier. The player starts with a magnifying glass that reveals a single random item, and as the player progresses through the levels they earn the option of additional powerups.

Hidden Express is beautifully presented in its hidden object scenes, though the “photorealistic” backdrops do clash somewhat with the very cartoonish map screen from which the player selects a level to play. There are a large number of levels for players to work their way through, each with their own unique backdrop, and seasonal events unlock new sets of levels. At present, a Halloween-themed set of levels is still available, with players finding spooky objects in creepy environments.

The game monetizes in several ways. Firstly, it uses an energy system that it mislabels as “lives” — a life is consumed with each level played, regardless of whether or not the level was successfully completed. The player is occasionally “gifted” a full life refill, but it’s not entirely clear how or why this happens.

Secondly, the game sells powerups prior to each level in exchange for hard currency. And thirdly, the game offers several “permanent upgrade” options, allowing players to increase their maximum number of lives, maximum number of hints per level and the speed at which the “combo” meter in the game decreases, making it easier to attain high scores. Seasonal offers also become available on occasion — at present, to go with the Halloween levels, a limited-edition package is available that includes additional “premium” levels and a special, highly powerful powerup.

Hidden Express is an excellent game, and a very good twist on the hidden object genre. The additional “frantic” feeling brought about by the time limit on each level makes it much more exciting and challenging than the often rather sedate pace of its rival titles, and the presentation throughout is exemplary. The only real issue is the unclear implementation of the “lives” system — typically, players see “lives” and expect to be able to keep them unless they fail a level, whereas “energy” is generally understood to be a resource consumed through normal play, regardless of success or failure. This is a relatively minor issue, however, though any form of session throttling is still a little frustrating for the player.

Overall, then, Hidden Express is well worth a look for an alternative take on the hidden object genre that doesn’t involve dead/missing uncles, restoring an old mansion/garden or a convoluted plot that features a greater-than-average incidence of characters having to search unnaturally messy rooms for “clues.” Its arcade-style gameplay is a lot of fun, and its solid monetization options allow those who are serious about the game to purchase advantages and bonus content, but it remains satisfying for casual, non-paying players for the most part, too.

Hidden Express is not yet listed on our traffic tracking service AppData, but Facebook reports it currently has 530,000 players. Check back shortly to follow its progress by MAU, WAU, DAU and user retention figures.

Play

A great new twist on the hidden object genre.

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