At first glance, The Hidden looks an awful lot like Face Raiders, one of the free augmented reality games pre-installed on every 3DS. Like Face Raiders, The Hiddenis a shooter that uses the 3DS' camera to superimpose things for you to shoot in your real world environment, turning whatever room you're in into a shooting gallery with ghosts coming in from all directions.
But if you got caught up comparing The Hidden to Face Raiders, You'd miss out on the little details that could make The Hidden well worth your attention.
In The Hidden you play as an agent of G.E.I.S.T., or Ghostly Entity Investigation and Strike Team, called into various areas to investigate ghosts who have crossed over to wreak havoc on our realm. If this makes you think "Ghostbusters!", you wouldn't be far off the mark — the Majesco rep demoing the game for us used the film as a point of reference, particularly when asked about the game's tone. "We're shooting for a Teen rating, and we've got a few ghosts that look kind of like Slimer, so if you've seen Ghostbusters, that's what we're going for tonally"
You won't find it in any of the press materials, but The Hidden, set to hit retail shelves in October of this year, could be the 3DS' first augmented reality game that isn't a downloadable title. As such, it's more feature-rich than what we're used to with Augmented Reality games, with an elaborate HUD, weapons to choose from, and a variety of gameplay modes. Although the build Majesco had at the event only permitted me to play the basic "Shooter" mode where I just blasted ghosts, the rep told me about other types of gameplay in the works — like a stealth mission, where you encounter a ghost that's far above your level and you have to escape without getting it's attention, or a containment mission, which would have you trying to capture or repel a ghost from an area rather than defeat it.
But there is one other, important feature that sets The Hidden apart from other games on Nintendo's handheld: It's location based. You can save the locations you've played the game in, like a coffee shop you frequent before work, your living room, or your friend's basement. The game remembers the locations based on both the information you save on them and the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot — used only to help the game identify locations, as the game has no online functionality, so no information will be shared.
What the game then does with these locations you choose to save is that it will notify you of later ghost outbreaks in places you've been, challenging you to go back and take them out — and hopefully you can, because they'll be stronger. But so will you. At it's core, The Hidden is a casual game, meant to be played five or so minutes at a time throughout your day, according to the Majesco rep. So going to different locations to play isn't meant to be intrusive, but rather the game is meant to fit into your daily routine.
Because of this location-based feature that's very much an integral part of the game, there's in an inherent Foursquare-esque feel to the game — and that of itself makes the game unique. Social media is something that's interested in where you are, because other people in your life are too. Social networks are interested in attracting people, so they "game-ify" their services, giving you rewards for leveling up and points for checking in on things like Foursquare and bringing more people in on the experience. And because of this, games with this sort of feature set have been seen on smartphones — which are social media hubs and gaming devices in their own right. This is the domain of games born in the iOS era.
But with The Hidden we have features bleeding over in the opposite direction. And curiously, The Hidden doesn't incorporate more of these features, like leaderboards or co-op or any sort of online functionality that would let your friends know about your progress, kind of like the Autolog feature the Need For Speed games have been using. I wondered if the game would actually be social, and not just suggest it was. When I asked the Majesco rep about this, he said it's something that they wanted to do, but couldn't include in order to release the game on time.
At the very least, it's something to consider for The Hidden 2.