Hidden in Plain Sight

hips-boxart
$3 Overall Score
Creepy Art: 10/10
Game Modes: 10/10
Value: 7/10

Great Party Game With Friends…

…As Long As They’re Sitting Next To You.

Up until now, I’ve done the full review treatment on a game for one of two reasons; either it’s been incredibly fun and I just can’t shut up about extolling its virtues, or it’s a lukewarm to steaming pile of mismatched parts, a broken POS. Hidden in Plain Sight (80 MSP) marks the first time I’m doing a review for initially selfish reasons. To start, it allows me to use the HIPS acronym throughout, which, like COPS (Castle of Pixel Skulls) from the previous Rundown, gives me access and carte blanche to increasingly bad jokes that you’ll have to suffer through for the duration.

Secondly, take a good look at the box art for HIPS. Forget screenshots, or the marketplace description, that ‘pits players against each other in tense battles of guile and subtlety’, as accurate as that is. Rather, pay particular attention to the skeleton with its arm around the girl. Here, the main menu.

Look at it, just don’t look like you’re trying to look at it.

The skeleton’s out of place, sure, probably freezes often in the winter months, but that’s not what unnerves me. No, that honor belongs to the girl, with that creepy wide smile or whatever you’d call it. I actually fear for the skeleton’s safety. Add in the old guys pulling magic out of a hat, ambushed by ninjas, the surprised and/or horrified knight (my reaction as well), MK’s Sub-Zero (?), and a mohawked-man conversing with royalty and sporting a very long tooth, and you’re staring at one big collage of weird, my motivation for writing this.

It’s just off. If I was handed a VHS with a slideshow of these images, and watched it on a dare, I’d immediately get a call saying I had seven days to live. That’s the vibe I got.

Now that I’ve established my lack of comfort with the start screen, it’s time to discuss the game proper. HIPS is an overhead-view version of Clue where players take a proactive approach to finding a culprit, namely by killing them. Unfortunately, that last statement gets the piss taken out of it once you see the game is local-multiplayer ONLY, requiring you to be an adequate social butterfly, or have deep pockets to purchase companionship.

I didn’t come this far along the path of intrigue and oddity to get shutout, so I adapted to fit the style, enlisting the aid of a most unlikely source: my brother. A ‘wrong place wrong time’ scenario for him, since the kid has literally only played a handful of games in his lifetime, making him a less than an ideal adversary for any versus type, but, as they say, desperate times. We cycled through all of the modes starting from the top, playing four to five rounds of each. Instead of summing it up in a few short paragraphs, I’ll highlight and explain the rules and conditions in all five.

Ninja Party (and the rest of the modes as well) plays similar to the mobile Assassin’s Creed multiplayer game released a few years ago. As Ninjas, everyone is asked to make the rounds of the level, touching various statues, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible while weeding out their competitors. Complicating this, of course, is that everyone looks the same. Winning involves either touching all statues, or being the last person standing, and there’s a smoke bomb for making a potentially daring escape.

Catch A Thief splits players into two teams; Thieves, obviously, that blend in and try to collect coins incognito, and Snipers, who have three bullets to find their prey among the crowd. While you’d think Snipers have the advantage, it’s actually tougher to gauge the liars, especially if they’ve got the ‘A.I. shuffle’ down pat. Thieves that collect coins (which don’t disappear when initially touched) will give off a chime every time, and Snipers that move their crosshairs over the already-picked coins will make those coins vanish, putting you on the trail of the thief. A fun mode.

Developer Adam Spragg gives you the details.

Knights vs. Ninjas is another Assassin’s Creed variant, wherein Ninjas blend and attempt to assassinate the roaming Royalty, protected by Knights. While Knights can kill Ninjas outright, Ninjas can only stun their pursuers momentarily. Matches got quite tense going after the last of the surviving Royalty.

Death Race is just that, a race (well, more like a brisk walk) from one side to the other, with the blend formula in effect. There is a run button, which can help once you’re near the end, but it’s a dead (excuse the pun) giveaway otherwise. Another neat twist is that each player has sniping abilities (one shot- make it count), moving their crosshairs up and down the line to sniff out enemy racers. It’s actually quite strategic, as you can also target yourself, a nice tactic for disguising your big push to the finish line.

Assassin plays like a combination of all the modes. Again you’re split into teams, Snipers and Assassins. Snipers have the same goal as last time, three chances to discern the enemy, who assassinates the various NPCs in the level. The twist here is similar to coin collecting, in that when you attack, a sound can be heard, but the target won’t actually drop dead until a Sniper’s crosshairs move over them, setting off another tense run in hunting down the killer.

Where’s Waldo? Man, how should I know? I don’t even know who I am.

Much like Shakira wisely said before me, HIPS don’t lie. Rush to your objectives or the goal, make any sudden, un-A.I.-like moves, and your rivals are going to notice who doesn’t belong real quick. Deception is key, and, given the proximity of the competition, so is your game face. Well, in between the laughing and shouting. Looking over, even my brother is enjoying it, starting to play like a real HIPS-ter. If getting him to play a videogame and crack a smile doesn’t speak to a game’s worth, I don’t know what will.

There’s no doubting its creepy art, but once you delve into the game, it’s undeniably fun, and the added layers of complexity to each of the different modes do well to extend its lifespan. It’s truly a shame then that it’s so limiting. For the majority of us, the solo crowd, lack of online support and zero A.I. bots offline render it simply unplayable. Of all the local-only XBLIGs I’ve played, HIPS has to hurt me the most. Were it online, I’d probably be at it now, praising it non-stop. Since I’m not, I’ll assume all the risk and say that if you should actually have three spare controllers and three acquaintances, Hidden in Plain Sight is probably the most fun you could have with that setup.

 


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Author: Tim Hurley View all posts by
Patron of the Indie. Horde Mode Enthusiast. Purveyor of Finely-Worded Reviews. Nice Guy. Also writes at theXBLIG.com --- Now playing: Binary Domain, Aqualibrium (XBLIG), Penny Arcade 3 (XBLIG), Apple Jack 2 (XBLIG), radiangames Inferno (XBLIG and iOS).
  • http://twitter.com/Dcon6393 Daniel Conner

    Very nice review. I think this game suffers because of the fact it is built solely for multiplayer. How would you feel if you downloaded a trial and it was only multiplayer? Kind of a small market to hit, especially XBLIG. Take Arms sold a decent amount (I think) because it had online and offline play. You could play with or without your friends. I think in a game like this it is almost a necessity if you want the game to sell as well as possible.

    In the end though, this game is very good, if lacking because I don’t have to many friends who are clamoring to come over to my house and play an XBLIG game. 

    • http://twitter.com/HurleyEffect Hurley

      I think I’d feel exactly how I felt after seeing this had local-only: Bummed. In fact, the review would have been a lot more abridged if it were not for the dumb luck of my brother showing up. Something I failed to mention in the review was, I listened to the Gamemarx interview with the Dev, and he basically said ‘Hey, it’s not about the money, or sales data, so much as this is what I wanted to make, how I wanted to do it.’ I have to give him credit for sticking to his ideals, even if it ultimately means significantly less people play it. 

      I’m glad I did, despite the weird art (come on, I can’t be the only person slightly afraid of the start screen, can I?), and even though I think a ‘journalists night’ with HIPS multiplayer would be incredibly awesome, local-only has its advantages as much as faults. Look at GoldenEye. Even with Kairi’s claims that modern games are far superior to the classics, the N64, 4-player local still holds up today, as much fun as it was then. I played the remake on the Wii last year, haven’t yet for the 360 or PS3, but from what I’ve experienced in matches, not anywhere near the same feel as the original.

      • http://twitter.com/AlanWithTea Alan Charlesworth

        I did download the trial, and I was quite annoyed. Even if you don’t put AI in the rest of the game, surely some sort of functional solo tutorial for the trial isn’t too much to ask.

        As it is, I can imagine a lot of people ended up doing the same thing I did: downloading the trial, realising they can’t even play it, then deleting and ignoring.

        I’m sure I’d like the game. It sounds right up my street. But the developer is determined to prevent people playing it, and there’s no much I can do about that. Fifteen years ago when I still lived with my parents, my brother and I would have had loads of fun with this. But now, as an adult, I don’t have a convenient game-playing friend on hand all the time, and when friends come over they want to play things they know, not gamble on an indie game.

        • http://twitter.com/HurleyEffect Hurley

          Yeah, I likely played the only 45 mins. / hour of HIPS I ever will in writing the review, as being old, dammit, means it’s no longer feasible to have local-only. For gaming couples or those still at home / college, they’re probably laughing in my face and enjoying the hell out of it, and that’s even if they have three controllers laying around. It’s an odd choice to exclude a huge part of the community, and I wrestled with giving it a $3 score, but even if all you ever get is an hour with the game, it’s worth it. For those with convenient friends, I can see this becoming habit-forming.

          That’s a statement I wish I didn’t have to make. In a perfect world, there’d be an option for online, but I’d settle for crummy offline AI.

          • http://twitter.com/Dcon6393 Daniel Conner

            While it is a shame that online is not available, he made the game he wanted. I just know that a ton more people would enjoy it if it had online multiplayer. Imagine making a HIPS tourney and playing for a few hours online. That could be very fun. In the end, the game looks great for what it is, and hopefully when I go to the dorms next semester I can play the crap out of it with some friends

          • http://twitter.com/AlanWithTea Alan Charlesworth

            Much though I’ve moaned (elsewhere as well as here) about the self-sabotaging nature of an indie game that is both multiplayer-only AND local-only, I can sympathise with a developer’s dilemma. I’ve only played one XBLIG that had any sort of online community – ZP2KX: Zombies and Pterodactyls. And even that had a mighty six or seven players on at peak times.

            I’ve also heard before the same thing Adam said above, that it’s a lot of extra trouble to include online multiplayer. I can certainly understand the decision that it isn’t worth doing. Having said that, I can’t help thinking that of that old saying “if you don’t ask, the answer will always be ‘no’”. If you include online multiplayer, maybe no one will play it – but if you don’t include it, they’ll DEFINITELY never play it.

  • Eryn_roston

    As the artist responsible for that image you love, I think I can offer somebackground for that box-art/load screen:

    When my good friend Adam asked me if I wanted to throw together a piece of art for this game I was only too happy to say ‘yes’.  I had already done a piece for his previous game: “Battle For Venga Island” (http://www.gamemarx.com/games/action-adventure/1864/battle-for-venga-islands.aspx), and had a lot of fun with that one.

    Anyway, Adam sent me an email with what went on his new game along with some screen shots.  We had an amusing back and forth with me asking, “so what’s this game about?  You’ve got a party with coins all over the place and some trolls, and wizards and…um…ninjas…and uh..snipers?  I mean…what is going on here?  Why are all these people together in the first place”

    His response was basically, “Just draw me something cool damnit!” :)

    So based on those screen shots and game modes like “Ninja Party” and “Death Race” I spit out something…well…kinda random I guess!  Frankly your reaction was exactly what I was hoping for! :)

    • http://twitter.com/HurleyEffect Hurley

      Very nice of you to drop a reply here, and for having a sense of humor about it. I have a sarcastic streak in me a mile long, which doesn’t always transfer well in written form, so you could have just as easily been offended. I actually saw your name in the credits beforehand, as I like to know the person who is making me uncomfortable. Of all the people I respect in this world, writers and game designers, what have you, artists are close behind. Lacking the skill to do anything beyond stick figures, I’m perpetually amazed whenever I see anyone drawing anything.

      Given that you’ve worked with the Dev a couple times now, hopefully that relationship will continue on future projects, and equally as surreal. I’ll just make sure to have all the lights on in the house before I reach the start screen :)

    • Adam

      Hahahah…  poor Eryn.  He really wanted some cohesive theme or backstory about what was going on.  I was like “There is no back story!  It’s just a silly game”.

      I think the image is fantastic, and totally unlike any other box art out there (for better or worse).  :)

      Adman

    • http://twitter.com/AlanWithTea Alan Charlesworth

      Considering the vagueness of the brief, it worked out well. They might seem like bizarre disconnected scenes, but if someone just asked me to draw something cool, I’d probably be stuck (plus I’m not artistic, ha).

      In any case, they’re nicely drawn. They mostly have a sort of 80s comic feel to them, stylistically, and the king reminds me a bit of the work of Gary Chalk (e.g. http://www.projectaon.org/en/xhtml/lw/01fftd/ill19.png ).

  • Anonymous

    The characters in the panel in the bottom right corner look like someone has just walked in on them while they were performing some sort of lewd act.

    • http://twitter.com/HurleyEffect Hurley

      As much as I’m joking when I say this, I still find it fitting that the first thing I thought of when seeing the art was the video from The Ring.

      • Anonymous

        Despite the slightly creepy yet somewhat hypnotic artwork, the game still sounds great. I’ll have to pick it up when I next have a few people round to play it with.

        • http://twitter.com/HurleyEffect Hurley

          In that case, if you’re on Twitter, I’d say to follow the dev @AdamSpragg:twitter and ask nicely for a copy of the game. Seems he has a few codes to give away.

          • Anonymous

            Both excellent suggestions, but I’d feel bad about asking the developer for a free copy of a game that only costs 80MSP, and I’d feel greedy if I entered yet another of your competitions after already having won a couple of times (better give someone else a chance ;-) ) So I’m going to buy the game instead as it really does sound like a lot of fun and my brother-in-law has agreed to play it with me.
            I’m enjoying the hell out of LightFish, by the way.

          • http://twitter.com/HurleyEffect Hurley

            Very noble of you, sir. The world needs more people like you, and I’m sure the Dev, and the indie community at large, appreciates the sale.

            Our pleasure on LightFish :) Thanks for listening to us ramble on about games. 

  • Adam

    Hi everyone!  I’m Adam (the developer of HIPS).

    I feel a bit of an explanation is in order.

    Most of the game ideas that I get are multiplayer games.  I just find games that involved person-to-person interaction much more interesting than single player games.

    When I was developing Hidden in Plain Sight, I started out by making the game that I wanted to make, which was a multiplayer game.  It started out as local multiplayer simply by default, and I figured I could add online multiplayer, or even a single player mode later.

    But the further I got, the less and less I liked those ideas.  First of all, the main thrust of the game is about human interaction and behavior.  How would I even attempt to make a single-player mode for this game?  Make a computer AI that is acting like a human trying to act like a computer?  That’s beyond my skillset.

    Then, there’s the issue of multiplayer. Frankly, I’m not convinced that the work involved to add online multiplayer is worth it for 90% of XBLIG games.  They simply don’t sell enough copies.  Why should I go through the effort of adding online play (which, by the way, is a HUGE effort relative to the rest of the game) when I’m really not convinced of the payoff?  Even though the game has gotten really good reviews, I’m still not sure it would have been worth it.

    In the end, I just went George Lucas and said “screw it…  I’m just going to make the game I want to make, understanding that it won’t be for everyone.”  I knew this would result in fewer sales, obviously, but I’m ok with that.

    For those who don’t have anyone they can play with, I’m sorry, I don’t know what to tell you.  You also can’t play tag or hide-and-seek or a million other games that are designed for multiple people. 

    Again, thanks for the review and the nice comments.  I really enjoyed making this game, and it’s been hugely rewarding to get such enthusiastic feedback.

    I have a million free codes to give away.  If you’re interested in trying the game, go ahead and contact me and I’ll see if I can hook you up (while supplies last).

    Adam

    • http://twitter.com/HurleyEffect Hurley

      After listening to a big part of your interview on Gamemarx, I agree with what you were going for, and, as much as it pains me to say, I understand why it’s local only. I know next to nothing about programming, though with the issues of cost / time versus rewards when it comes to adding an online component, I know it is not an ideal option for most indie devs. The audience is just not there most of the time. That question / criticism has come up more than a few times with XBLIGs we’ve all played, I’m sure, and will likely continue moving forward.

      The bottom line has always been fun, and HIPS achieves that. You’ve instantly released a game that is better than most of the offerings on the marketplace. 

      If you’ve got the time and codes, feel free to email me a few at my address on the right column above. We could run a promotion / giveaway through Gear-Fish here, as I’m sure a few of our readers have friends available that’d be open to giving it a try.  Thanks again for taking the time to reply here, and of course, for making HIPS.  

  • Rogersuce1

     how to play a game like that on PC ?