Hidden Folks is the hidden object game I've been waiting for

2017 GOTY AWARDS

Alongside our team-selected 2017 Game of the Year awards, each member of the PC Gamer team gets to champion one favorite from the year. We'll continue to post new personal picks until the end of 2017. 

When I was a kid I read a lot of books that concealed things within expansive and lush illustrations, like Kit Williams' books, Graeme Base's Animalia and The Eleventh Hour, and a series called For Eagle Eyes Only that briefly convinced me I had special powers because my eyesight was so good. I thought I'd get the same enjoyment from hidden object games, but never quite did. The actual find-the-object bits felt completely disconnected from the stories around them, like afterthoughts (although I did enjoy Nightmares From the Deep, which at least had skeleton pirates).

Hidden Folks finally gave me what I wanted. For starters there's no plot, no story vegetables to click through before you're allowed to eat dessert. But more importantly, the art's hand-drawn in a perfect children's book-style, black and white and full of delight. Tiny people wave from windows, monkeys hide in bushes, curly tailed pigs trot about on a farm. Parts of the scenes react as you click on them, so you can roll up tent flaps or chop down bamboo or send a boat down the river to find a certain person or animal or banana or whatever. 

Every action is accompanied by a noise, and the homemade whimsy of the art is mirrored by the sound effects, which were all made by one of the designers using his mouth. A crocodile delivers a rarrr that sounds like an old man, cars honk at each other by going NOOT NOOT, it's all so damn delightful. Once you've uncovered enough of the hidden stuff you get the option to move on to another level or stay behind and keep playing. You can track down the harder things, every last worm or basket of eggs if you want, or jump ahead if you're getting bored.

Each new area is so much bigger than I expected. They make me exhale like a mechanic about to say, "This'll be a big job." There's jungle and city and a desert hippie gathering that looks like Burning Man only fun. New places have been added in updates, and I'm looking forward to trying out the snow levels soon.

Hidden Folks chucks out the mediocre story and adventure-game puzzles that regular hidden object games pad themselves out with like they're one of those crap salads that's 80 percent lettuce. This is just a game about finding things, getting hypnotized and putting your face as close to the screen as you can while you click around on all the interactive bits. It's like a book that reacts to your desire to see what's concealed behind this bus and around the corner of that house.

And when you find that last person tucked away behind a billboard or inside the mouth of a crocodile you feel like the government's about to come and take you away for secret tests, because you're clearly an extraordinary child with a special gift and your country probably needs you.