We probably should've known that something was up with the Hidden for 3DS when we received a review copy two weeks after the general public could buy it.
The game promises you a realistic ghost-hunting experience, which it delivers perfectly because while we are open to the possibility of ghosts, ghost hunting is about as legitimate as Metapedia. The idea is actually really damn clever. Using the camera on your 3DS, you hunt through your real-life environment looking for ghosts to kill...again, we guess.
The beginning of The Hidden is an awesome experience. What other system makes you sign in with your thumbprint? You set yourself up with an official ghost-hunting ID, which for shits and giggles we named Jake Kong from the Real Ghostbusters (The one with the gorilla). From there you go right into training mode and learn how to handle the shades from the other side.
Suddenly, there was the little sheet music store that is our daylight employer rendered in perfect 3D through the 3DS screen. Of course, we can get it in HD 3D simply by, you know, lowering the system and looking around. Still, the screen displays your ectoplastic radar, chatter from fellow hunters, and ghosts that suddenly fly in at you from your own familiar surroundings.
Did anyone see the remake of House on Haunted Hill? There's this really brilliant scene where a reporter is exploring the house's basement while filming it with her video camera. While looking at the screen, she comes across a vivisection in progress. When she lowers the screen, the room is empty. When she raises it back up, the spectral doctors stop what they're doing and notice her.
The Hidden is kind of like that scene except that instead of mind-numbingly creepy ghost doctors, all the shades look like a cross between Slimer and the Forever Alone Guy.
The experience does take some getting used to, and make no mistake, you look like a jackass whirling and spinning around holding the console and trying to keep the ghosts in frame, but it is definitely unique and fun.
Then it's not.
After you complete the training courses, you get an e-mail from your superior telling you you need to patrol your area. Well, hell, let's get on that, shall we? That's when we ran into our problem.
A graphic on the screen told us to walk, so we did. We wandered around the store for a good ten minutes, poking into every nook and cranny in the building. No ghosts. Nothing. So then we thought we'd take it home and try wandering around our dark apartment complex at night hunting for spirits. That should be plenty of room to find something, and it would have much more ambience than a brightly lit place of business.
So there we were, wandering around for 30 minutes staring into the screen and trying to make something, anything happen. Every once in a while a blue dot would zoom into frame, then zoom back out again. Even on the rare occasion when we were able to hold it in frame for more than a second, it never materialized into a battle.
We continuously checked and rechecked the game manual, and every single place we could from the game's main menu, desperately trying to find out what we were doing wrong. Nothing. It kept telling us to patrol, to walk. So we did. For 30 minutes.
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We understand what Majesco was going for in making The Hidden. The goal here is that you'll take your system with you, and suddenly bust it out and look for trouble. Your whole city is the play area, and it's up to you to hunt down the invading poltergeists no matter where they hide.
That's fine, but who realistically is going to be able to pull that off? It's not like we're going to haul our 3DS to the grocery store and start ghostbusting near the Little Debbie snack cakes. The portability of the game, and the way it incorporates the real-world environment into the experience, are its selling points, but ultimately it's hampered by the fact that you cannot apparently simply turn it on and play it. Any game that allows five minutes to go by without anything happening, let alone half an hour, isn't really very much of a game.
As an excuse to take a walk it's great, though.
The Hidden is available now on 3DS.