Zynga’s newest game, Hidden Chronicles, today joins the sparsely populated hidden object genre on Facebook. This is the developer’s first game launch since its November IPO.
The game was developed in San Francisco by a team of established video game industry veterans hired by Zynga for the project. This includes Gabriel Knight creator Jane Jensen, ex-EA art director Margaret Foley-Mouvais and longtime hidden object developer Cara Ely. as we’ve previously mentioned, the effort Zynga put into building this team suggests a deeper level of commitment to the hidden object genre than a low-cost reskin of rival hidden object games Gardens of Time (Disney Playdom) or Mystery Manor (Game Insight).
In Hidden Chronicles, players are invited to solve the mystery of their fictional uncle’s disappearance in his mansion. Solving the mystery involves completing hidden object puzzles both within the mansion and in other areas on the mansion grounds. Each puzzle completed earns the player soft currency, experience points, a static ranking called Estate Points and potentially unlocks news puzzles in different parts of the mansion. Completing all puzzles in a specific location (or “Chapter”) earns the player another clue in the larger mystery of the uncle’s fate.
The hidden object puzzles themselves are more like Gardens of Time than Mystery Manor. For example, objects remain in the same locations no matter how many times a player attempts a puzzle with only the specific list of objects that the player needs to find changing with each play. Additionally, finding objects in quick succession nets the player a scoring bonus, which earns the player additional rewards like the premium currency Trophies. At launch, the game will only feature one hint item within the puzzles — a spyglass that reveals the general area of where an object is. Ely tells us that additional hint items will be made available through friend gifting or reaching a certain level.
Taking a page from CastleVille’s book, Hidden Chronicles uses Trophies as a means to extend gameplay through land expansions around the uncle’s mansion. Some sections of land contain additional puzzle sites that flesh out the story — such as a tree house area behind the mansion — while others can be used as decoration space, which increases the player’s Estate Points with each decoration purchased. New land expansions also cost the player coins and clue items that can be gifted by friends or purchased with premium currency.
Aside from the traditional single-player hidden object games, Hidden Chronicles also offers mini-games like jigsaw puzzles or card matching as a break from the typical gameplay. The game also features a competitive head-to-head mode where two players race to find as many objects as they can in 60 seconds on special levels. At launch, this mode will allow players to challenge a friend or rematch a friend only once per day each. Ely explains that Zynga may adjust the cap to challenges based on player level.
Beyond the head-to-head mode, social features in Hidden Chronicles are limited to gifting clue items, visiting friends to earn the standard Reputation soft currency featured in most Zynga games, and achievement posts that appear on player walls and news feeds. Interestingly, the wall and news feed stories offer word scrambles rather than the traditional bragging text. Though solving the scramble doesn’t actually have any effect on the game itself, it’ll be interesting to see if the mechanic is more compelling than brag posts that invite players to click to earn in-game rewards.
The game monetizes primarily through level unlocks. It appears as though all puzzles in the game can be unlocked if the player has enough coins, Reputation, Estate Points, Clues and/or is a high enough level. These components can be bought and the requirements bypassed with premium currency (purchased with Facebook Credits), which allows the player to progress through the game more quickly.
Hidden Chronicles launches on Facebook today. Zynga’s last game, CastleVille, currently enjoys 37.1 million monthly active users and 6.7 million daily active users as tracked by our traffic monitoring service, AppData.