Game Review: 'The Hidden'

I may be only thirty years old, but I imagine that the wave of wistful nostalgia that game developers have been putting us through as of late is like a midlife crisis come twenty years early.  I've been reliving my carefree youth with scads of reboots and retro-flavored titles, everything from Mortal Kombat to Splatterhouse to Jurassic Park, and it's been wonderful.

That sense of nostalgia has been further fuelled by the concept of Majesco's The Hidden, an augmented reality (AR) title for the Nintendo 3DS that is about as brilliant and novel a concept as you could imagine: players must hunt and capture ghosts using the cameras on their 3DS, cleaning out the real environment around them.  Unfortunately, there is a vast difference between theory and practice on this one. 

Players are cast as the newest member of G.E.I.S.T., the Ghostly Entity Investigation and Strike Team, a group tasked with…oh the hell with it.  You're a damn Ghostbuster, albeit one without a sweet jumpsuit, iconic logo, or proton pack.  Instead, your weapon is your 3DS and its exterior cameras, which you will use to scan the environment around you, hunting for paranormal entities that you need to…err…bust.  The AR component is intriguing, with 3D phantoms superimposed into the room around you, maintaining the game's illusion that these invisible specters can only be spotted with your handheld system.  It's like a kiddie version of Fatal Frame.

My initial impression of the game was initially quite positive.  I spun around my office like a damn fool, blasting away at the Slimer-like Puks that were coming out of the very walls, slurping up the precious ectoplasm that they left behind—ectoplasm is the game's weapon-buffing currency—and having some good, simple fun.  The creature designs seem all but plagiarized from The Real Ghostbusters (a good thing), the weapons are suitably Ghostbusters-inspired and powerful, and the game was tickling my nostalgic nerve centers.

I cleared the Puk infestation out of my office, entertained enough to keep going.  I checked my in-game email, got a couple of new missions, and went to go find my next gaggle of ghosts.  I walked as the game had instructed…

…and walked…

…and walked.

I walked from my office, to my kitchen, to my dining room, to my bedroom, to my bathroom, to my living room…but no ghosts.   I stepped outside of my apartment—nothing.  I walked down the front steps—nothing.  Finally, I walked outside and my alarm went off: ghosts!

The game was asking me to hunt ghosts on Main Street.  In view of pedestrians.  And passing cars.

Therein lies one of the major issues with the game: it asks too much of you.  Checking into various locations on different days in order to hunt ghosts is difficult to do for many adults, let alone children without their own mode of transportation.  Even worse is the prospect of what will happen when you get there.  I like working out of my local coffee shop too much to be caught twirling in place blasting ghosts.  Plus, sometimes you don't want to have to leave the house.  I know the 3DS is portable, but a game that asks me to put on pants in order to play it is not earning any points with me.

The second rub comes from when the reality sinks in: The Hidden is a barely upgraded version of Face Raiders, a Nintendo game for the 3DS that has you blasting away at superimposed monsters using the 3DS camera.  Face Raiders comes preloaded, for free, on all 3DS hardware; The Hidden is thirty dollars.  That's a pretty steep price to be asking for a thin taste of pseudo-nostalgia.