Crack cases in the ‘big smoke’ in Hidden Adventures: Shadows of London

Update: Developer MindJolt recently re-branded itself as Social Gaming Network. This post has been updated to reflect that change.

Hidden Adventures: Shadows of London is a story-driven hidden object game from SGN. While the game is a relatively unimaginative example of the genre, it does seem to be gaining some traction at present — at the time of writing, it is showing up as the No. 13 top gainer by DAU.

Hidden Adventures casts players in the role of a rookie detective tasked with solving various crimes around the city of London in the 19th century. This is accomplished by repeatedly completing hidden object scenes and occasionally fulfilling special objectives. Unlike many other popular hidden object titles, there is no “citybuilding” aspect to the game — simply a map screen from which levels may be selected and the hidden object scenes themselves.

The hidden object gameplay itself is very conventional. Players peruse a scene, locate hidden objects from a list and attempt to click on them as quickly as possible. The shorter a period between successful clicks, the higher a combo meter goes and the more points the player scores. There is also a timer ticking down from the start of the scene, which provides players with a score bonus once all objects have been found.

Once all objects have been successfully located, the player receives bonuses according to the highest combo they reached and the amount of time they took. They are then shown their total score and given a star rating. This is cumulative from all attempts at the scene, so it is impossible to get the full three stars in a single play. Some quests require the player earn two or more stars in a particular scene, so each one must be played a number of times.

Certain quests require that the player locate certain specific objects in a scene — for example, an early task sees players locating six pieces of chalk in an apartment. These special objectives do not appear in the item list and must be accomplished alongside the standard hidden object gameplay. Unfortunately, the game does not explain this, meaning some players may find themselves waiting for “chalk” to come up in the item list and never succeeding — and wasting precious energy with each attempt.

The game monetizes through the sales of energy and soft currency, the latter of which may be used to purchase powerups to make the hidden object scenes easier. Certain objectives may also be skipped by spending Facebook Credits directly, and a special “hidden loot room” level may be played more than once per day for Facebook Credits, also. This latter level challenges players to simply find as many objects as they can in 60 seconds, and can be a good means of acquiring extra currency and experience while waiting for energy to refill.

Hidden Adventures is a competent hidden object game. Its visuals are good quality and clear, making the hidden objects challenging but fair to locate. Its sound is rather low in audio quality, but is made up of a number of catchy but unobtrusive background themes accompanied by satisfying sound effects that give the player feedback on how well they are doing.

The main issue is that the game is paced quite badly for free players. It’s easy to come to a screeching halt by running out of energy relatively soon after starting, and if this happens too early players won’t feel they’ve had a good enough run to make their mind up as to whether or not they want to pay to play more. Energy refills upon leveling up, but since the only means of gaining experience is through the hidden object scenes (which cost 10 energy apiece to play) it can be a challenge to reach the next milestone. Part of the reason for the “building” gameplay in other hidden object titles is to give players something to do while energy is refilling — and another means of experience point income.