The hidden object genre is a peculiar breed. It is a sort of graphic adventure for those who can’t be bothered with proper exploration but who like to spend their time solving the occasional puzzle while looking for random sheep hiding inexplicably in someone’s office. I must confess I have recently developed a soft spot for such games, believing them eminently suited to mobile play and finding their unique blend of plucky female lead characters, trite dialogue, and eye-watering puzzles strangely compelling. So it was that I approached Hidden Files – Echoes of JFK with interest, wondering if it would live up to my expectations and provide a suitably challenging and gripping experience while providing a bit of insight into what really happened on that infamous grassy knoll.
Much to my delight, I was almost immediately introduced to the aforementioned and requisite plucky young lass, in this case Special Agent Jane Sully, as she investigates the accidental death of a journalist who might just have found out who was really behind JFK’s death. As is fairly typical of the genre, this investigation is made up of a combination of simple environmental and inventory-based puzzles and hidden object scenes. This latter aspect, for the uninitiated, requires you to locate a list of bizarre items cunningly and head-scratchingly situated in backdrops ranging from laboratories to the halls of the CIA, and forms the meat of the game. As the plot unfolds through your inquiries, various shady characters are encountered, lushly detailed environments are explored, and badly lip-synced cutscenes are laughed at with alarming regularity.
Detractors of the hidden object genre point to the fact that if you’ve played one, you’ve played them all and there is some weight to this argument. After all, there are only so many times you can look for six sheep in some dodgy mechanic’s garage or witch’s castle without getting well and truly bored. However, to take this attitude is to deny oneself the pleasure that comes with the eventual discovery of those sheep and when considered in this respect, Echoes of JFK is immensely satisfying. The hidden object sections on display here are highly challenging, even for old hands at this type of thing, although the other puzzles are lacking in difficulty, imagination and variety. There are also too many hidden object sections for my liking, something which breaks up the game’s flow and which can be a bit of a slog at times, but if that’s what you’re after, then Echoes of JFK delivers in spades.
In terms of interface, the game also delivers, with a touchscreen set-up that is suitably precise and responsive and which makes picking out that final, hair-pullingly elusive sheep a simple enough matter. A warning to newcomers though: stabbing wildly at the screen with frustrated fingers just doesn’t work. Patience is the key. Visually, Echoes of JFK lives up to the genre’s usual standards, with plenty of vibrant environments to explore and simply animated but effective cutscenes to convey the conspiracy-laced story (although the aforementioned lip-syncing is laughably bad and seems to have been done by the tea boy). Speaking of which (stories not tea boys), the ending comes rather too suddenly, going out with a whimper rather than a bang, and is likely to leave players nonplussed and wondering what all the fuss was about.
If you’ve never played a hidden object game before and are intrigued by the notion, then Echoes of JFK isn’t a bad place to start, although its by-the-numbers nature means there are better options. The storyline, characters and dialogue are the usual disposable bunkum, unbelievable, bland and wooden respectively, but to be honest that’s part of the genre’s charm. Really, it’s the hidden object sections that are the draws and it’s here that the game scores. The other puzzles are something of a letdown, but there is a reasonable amount of cheesy find-the-random-sheep entertainment to be found here. Just don’t expect to find out what really happened to JFK.
Hidden Files: Echoes of JFK
The game is average, with an even mix of positives and negatives.
Hidden Files – Echoes of JFK is a standard hidden object adventure that features all the genre’s usual clichés but also includes plenty of challenge. Unlikely to convert non-fans, this is a solid but unspectacular introduction to the joys of hidden object games.