Sometimes I purchase games outside of my favoured genres for the sake of offering a little variety on the site, but going HOG wild for a period was a result of a confluence of various circumstances. One of those was a period of game fatigue when nothing appealed in the genres I normally play and I was also just plain tired of having to apply some sort of fix to every new game I fired up. So I turned to something different and discovered a couple of new genres I ended up liking very much.
My first experience with Hogs and Hopas was a group of the well-received games developed and published by Artifex Mundi. So, I bought a bundle from Indie Gala, which was promptly relegated to my backlog. However, sometime later, when I was looking for something that could be played in a short amount of time, these fit the bill perfectly. I had been labouring under the impression that this genre was just a point-and-click where you go pixel hunting for hidden stuff, but I was wrong. Hidden Object Games (HOGs) are a sort of point-and-click and you do search for hidden objects, but they're not point-and-click in the traditional sense. So, I was very pleasantly surprised to find I enjoyed them so much and could add Hogs to the list of genres I like. Since my confluence of circumstances lasted a couple of months, I went on the hunt for more of the same.
For those of you that might not know, HOG is short for Hidden Object Game or HOPA, which is short for Hidden Object Puzzle Adventure. These are different from traditional point-and-click games as they are primarily built around puzzle solving and you never see your character except perhaps in a cut-scene. There is no character movement except to one-click into another area, no tedious walking through endless screens of nothingness, and usually no long reams of dialogue to wade through. The hidden object tag comes from the mechanic of being given a list of items to find amongst a screen of all kinds of other objects. Once you have found them all, you will receive one item for your inventory which can be used to solve a different puzzle. The best of the HOGs and HOPAs these days offer a story, great graphics and many other types of puzzles as well. These games also have quick downloads and will save at exactly the point you decide to quit, making them great for short and mostly problem-free gaming sessions.
Because the entire HOG and HOPA genre pretty much utilizes the same methods and features, I decided not to do a full review of each game, but instead break them down by developer. My criteria for rating them from good to bad is story, graphics, intuitive puzzles, bonus content, and how well the game instructs you on the actual mechanics it requires to solve the puzzles.
My first experience with HOG games was with Artifex Mundi and it was a good one. That sent me on a quest for more developers offering these types of games and MagicIndie Softworks did just that. The following three games will scratch the itch if you like this genre. A rating of ♥♥♥ falls somewhere in the middle. It's neither really good nor really bad.
From the beginning Magicindie focused on casual titles, especially hidden-object adventure games, and now employs over 30 people. However, we are unlikely to see many more PC Hog's or Hopa's from this studio as they have shifted their attention to the free-to-pay mobile market. It's a let-down for fans of the genre as the few HOPAs they did develop for PC were of fairly good quality.