Admittedly, Hidden Land has a pretty rocky start. The initial five minutes of the storyline are shaky and cheesy at best, with dialog windows that throw you into the game with very little time wasted for explanations. You're the Chosen One, challenged with saving an ancient civilization before it falls into ruin. Discovering a magical portal in the present, you'll be able to travel freely back and forth to and from the past, with each location or hidden object scene having its equal in the other time period.
Quests push you through the story, as you balance your loyalty between the ancient villagers and a modern-day tycoon that wishes to turn your discovery into a miniature Las Vegas, complete with slot machines that you can play with earned currency. Many of the game's quests see you collecting specific items, which is accomplished in a variety of ways, from playing hidden object scenes to trading other collectibles with computer-controlled characters that walk around the village.
Hidden object scenes come in a few varieties, some being more difficult and time consuming than others. While the most common scene is also the most basic, seeing you just finding items off of a text-list, you'll also be challenged to find items using a flashlight in darkness, finding items based on their silhouettes and so on. Each scene can easily be completed in less than 60 seconds, even when taking into account that some items might change location between playthroughs.
Scene mastery will see you replaying the same scene repeatedly for extra experience points and other rewards, multiple hints can be purchased to make completing scenes easier (like one that makes the flashlight beam wider, uncovering more of a scene in the dark), power-ups can be purchased to increase all experience points earned for a short time, and so on. There's a ton of content and boosts here, even if all you wanted to do is complete quests and play hidden object scenes.
Outside of this portion of gameplay, there's the aforementioned Las Vegas mogul that brings gambling to the game. The Past and Present cities each contain a different type of gambling and a different currency. You'll earn more currency over time for free by increasing the land's "Harmony." This brings a light city-building mechanic to the game, as you can purchase more structures for the tourist portion of the island, each of which provides some gambling money over time. While many of these buildings are purchased using premium currency, Hidden Land actually stands out for how much premium currency is given away for free, and how little the developer tries to shove new spending opportunities in your face.
There are still plenty of ways to spend money in Hidden Land, but you can easily breeze your way through the first 10 or 11 levels without ever running out of energy, all due to the amount of freebies the game gives you for completing quests. After this point, the game does develop into more of a "wait-and-play" formula, since scenes consume so much energy with a single play, but if you've made it that far, you're likely already engrossed in the storyline, so you'll be willing to wait for more.
Hidden Land may not be the first mobile game of its kind, but it's definitely one of the best. With lovely graphics full of rich colors, and a storyline that does become much more interesting as it progresses, the game's few shortcomings can be overlooked, especially when you consider that you get all this and much more, all for free.
Download Hidden Land HD on iTunes >
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