REVIEW: Wind Peaks

Oct
25

REVIEW: Wind Peaks

This isn’t a bad attempt at a hidden object game, but it’s remarkably short and doesn’t have enough distracting background objects to make locations more interesting.

Released: Steam
Type: Single-Player
Genres: Hidden Object
Developer: Actoon Studio
Publisher: Actoon Studio
Release date: 29 July, 2020

First Impressions

Hidden object games (HOG) tend to bore me because of how unoriginal and cookie cutter they tend to be. They almost always involve supernatural forces, battling against a nefarious plot, and finding random puzzle pieces and tools in order to get past a handful of stock puzzles. From what I saw with Wind Peaks (WP) in the trailers, it appeared to be more of a Where’s Waldo style of HOG. Looking for items in a forest setting, where wide-open spaces would be the environment to search in was also of greater interest than rooting around in somebody’s cluttered old house, so I got the game and beat it before I knew it.

This was the first non-tutorial level of the game, and you’re looking for some interesting items.

Gameplay

I’ve somewhat already given the ghost away on this, but WP plays out as a variant of HOG. Instead of moving from one location to the next, making trips back and forth, you only leave an area after finding everything on your checklist. The number of objects you’re looking for starts out quite small, and goes a bit higher than a dozen by the time you finish the game. The trailer shows 1 of the very few puzzles in the game, where you deal with floating blocks. Looking at the few that weren’t shown, they’re all incredibly simplistic, providing a thin layer of busy work to get another item in the area. I appreciate the concept, but it’s not developed enough to do anything more than slightly delay you.

The flashlight is both an item to find and a tool to be used, but this is the only time this mechanic is used in the whole game.

Controls

As a HOG, the controls are all centered around the use of a mouse. Right-clicking and holding down will allow you to scroll the screen in order to look around the area. Scrolling up on the scroll wheel zooms in the perspective, and scrolling down zooms it back out. Left-clicking is how you interact with objects, such as opening doors, as well as clicking on the items you’re looking for. My only issue was that sometimes I would be clicking on an object, but seemingly I was not in the right vicinity, so it didn’t acknowledge my mouse cursor. I’m unsure if the detection area is smaller than expected, quite precise, or if it was being unresponsive.

This is a simple way to teach players how the game functions, as well as the controls.

Story

There are only minor cutscenes that play out in-between certain stages and at the start and end of them. They convey a general sense of what’s going on, but with no dialogue, identification of any of the people, and a setting that’s not been clearly established, it’s hard to know anything specifically. For instance, it looks like a handful of children are being led on a camping expedition by a single scout-leader, who has come across a treasure map, which they take as legitimate I guess. They go into an area that looks somewhat abandoned, with implications of witchcraft and supernatural happenstance, but nothing significant ever happens, until the very end. Considering the innuendo of people being abducted or killed, hence all the loose clothes strewn about, this was quite a let-down. To me it comes across like a reference to recent successful shows like Gravity Falls, yet without much pay-off. I will mention that there’s a To Be Continued ending when you beat WP, though again, since there’s not been any development in the setting or characters, I’m not all that invested in what’s going on.

I’m sure this adult is trustworthy enough to properly care for 5 children.

Graphics

When intentionally looking at the graphics for the game, it can look rough in certain areas. For instance, some objects come off as flat or don’t look very good, such as the shoes and bottles. However, unless I look up-close at the game’s graphics, I overall find it to be pleasant, with a cute, charming appeal to it. There’s a decent use of color, and it has a storybook look to it, especially with how the cutscenes are presented.

Who deserves the crown? The frog or the crocodile?

Something that starts out as a benefit, winds up working against WP, which is its setting. Before long, each area starts to look similar to previous locations, and it’s hard to distinguish one place from another. This wouldn’t be so noticeable if the flora and fauna weren’t copy and pasted so many times, but there’s not enough variety in the trees and shrubbery. It works alright for an individual location where you’re searching for hidden objects, but it’d help make new locations stand out more if these weren’t always the same. Exacerbating this, items you found in previous areas are reused as well, increasing the sense of not moving on and exploring new places.

Within one of these trees is a hidden item you’re looking for on the checklist.

Sound Design

I had to double check this, but there actually isn’t any music in the game, except for specific circumstances, such as the title screen and cutscenes. Otherwise, what you hear when playing WP is ambient noise, as you might find in a relaxing, nature-based CD. Even then it’s only made up of animal sound effects, with no accompanying beat or instrumental backdrop. It works to an extent, since it allows you to focus on looking for the hidden items. However, I would have appreciated a few faint tracks that would play in the background. Similarly, except for a few items that can be interacted with, such as turning on a tractor, there’s not many sound effects to discuss. The few I noticed seemed appropriate enough.

Only by clicking on the small bit of tail shown in the tree will you be able to find the monkey. The discrepancy between the object you’re looking for and what you actually find can be quite large.

Pros

  • There’s some semblance of humor in the game, though like many other factors, I would have liked seeing more of it.
  • The tutorial segments in the game are unobtrusive and easily comprehended.

Cons

  • The game is very short. Even with my stumbling around, I still finished the game in a single session, at around 70 minutes. Plus, although there are technically 10 stages to play, 2 of them are so simple that they are just there to explain the controls.
  • With how it reuses the same created objects to fill out stages, instead of having a greater variety of miscellaneous distractions, it winds up making the game look rushed.
  • Except for the final, largest area, I was zoomed in too closely for my own preferences. I’d have preferred a larger view of everything in order to conduct my search.

Tips

  • To use the hint system, click on the item you aren’t able to find, which will trigger a 3:00 countdown. After it’s done, there will be an icon directing you to the general vicinity of the hidden object. It doesn’t just give you a free pass, but being in the right place was always enough for me to find that one object that had eluded me.
  • You have a visual checklist showing you what it is you’re looking for. However, they may not fully represent the object as you’ll find it. For instance, I found a rake that was almost completely obscured from sight, instead of being able to see the entirety of it.
  • Though you can interact with some background objects, which theoretically could hide something from your checklist, this is only incorporated a few times in WP. Otherwise, the shrubs and rock piles are only set-pieces not worth diligently checking.

Final Thoughts

I find that I like WP more for it not being the stereotypical hidden-object game than for what it actually does and has to offer. To be honest though, I finished the game so suddenly, I really hadn’t developed all that much of an opinion on it by then. It’s apparently the first game put out by this team, and it’s not bad for a first foray into making a game. However, it certainly isn’t worth the price tag of $9 that it’s being sold for. It could be worth supporting this team if you feel passionately about indie developers, but I’d hold off for a future project to see if they take things to a better level. WP is otherwise too short and lackluster, especially since there are an abundance of HOG available.

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