In the world of gaming, the Hidden Object genre is typically frowned upon, and usually for good reason. The genre is packed full of shovelware that floods the mobile market hoping to make a quick buck. Because they’re mostly focused around still images with random objects strewn about, developers are able to create tons of these levels and in turn create tons of games which then in turn makes tons of market.
While many consider it a staple in the casual market, they do hold some merit in their relaxation and simplicity. People don’t call out Where’s Waldo books for being “ubercasual” or the I Spy books as “surface”. There’s a certain aspect to the genre that allows players to just turn off their brains completely as they scour the land for normal household objects and other fun stuff. The better games can be used to help young brains with their perception skills and, to be honest, who doesn’t have a messy house? Who hasn’t lost a cell phone or misplaced that set of keys now and then? Why not craft a genre from this concept?
Artifex Mundi has a bunch of games in their library. Seriously, they’ve made quite a few titles over the years, many that fall in the hidden object category and some match three puzzlers. My Brother Rabbit seems to be their most streamlined game to date, offering wonderful art and gameplay that blends point and click adventuring and hidden object searching with a touching story. All of these swirl around to make a game that’s relatively short and easy but still engaging enough to not feel too casual or unrewarding.
In some ways the game is split in two separate tones. First, there’s a touching story that seems to be specifically crafted in a lab to tug on the ol’ heart strings. Through beautifully drawn and animated vignettes, you’re lead through a story of a family who’s going through a tough time. The daughter has become ill and the family sticks by her side as she spends time in the care of nurses and doctors. Her loving brother uses his stuffed Rabbit as a means to cope through this trying time which leads the Rabbit on his own little adventure.
The Rabbit’s adventure mirrors that of his real-life counterparts as he’s given the task of aiding his friend back to health as he brings her along a whole world filled with interesting objects and characters – one that evokes the spirit of Alice’s Wonderland and good old fashioned surrealism. While the correlation between the Family’s story and the Rabbit’s story is very apparent, the stuff that happens in Rabbit’s fantasy analog only touches on some aspects of the world it’s trying to mirror while the puzzles themselves are unrelated.
Running into a doctor who wants to x-ray your friend is a great touch that adds to the connective tissue of the two stories. It makes sense that the boy would have these elaborate interpretations of what he’s witnessing in real life. But the puzzles themselves revolve around collecting numerous types of object around the world in order to progress. You’ll be collecting multiples of single items like seashells, blocks, wires, etc. And when I mean multiples, I’m talking up to as many as 8 of the same types of objects. Once you find these items, you go to a panel or object and all those items coalesce into whatever it is you need in order to solve whatever puzzle they give you.
These puzzles can be very simple, but at least they’re varied. There’s a chance you’ve seen all of their variations done elsewhere already, but at least they never take too long and they’re never annoying.
What can be annoying, however, is locating all the pieces of a certain type. You’ll find yourself coming upon most of the items early on and on accident well before you’re able to actually pick them up. The world plenty of random objects thrown around but it’s pretty easy to tell when certain objects are part of a series that you’ll have to collect eventually. Select them before you need them and you’ll get a quick item shake which goes right back to where it was. This leads to a lot of trial and error since some items are to be used only on a singular screen where some are to be collected. When you’ve collected all but the last item of a series, you’ll find yourself scanning each pixel of the screen to find it.
Through a majority of the story I found myself going back and forth from screen to screen in search of an object, though I’m embarrassed to say that it took me awhile to realize that the game tells you on the top of the screen if an object is on the screen or not. Had I know sooner it might’ve saved me some valuable time and made my button presses feel a lot better. I’m sure the developer knows this as well as the main objects you interact with (i.e. puzzle interfaces and arrows for changing screens) have the “Destiny Hold” where you need to hold the select button long enough for the circle to fill up and make it accessible. This stops any unwarranted screen changes when you’re pixel hunting.
Luckily the controls are far better than you’d expect them to be. I would have liked to see some touch controls on the Switch, which seemed like a natural fit, but without them they still worked perfectly and I saw no issues. You’re able to drag the cursor around and select what you want with relative ease. Some neat little additions include the navigation from screen to screen is designated to the arrow buttons and a “Precise Cursor” for the right analog stick that helps you select things a bit easier.
My Brother Rabbit isn’t a difficult game and never overstays its welcome. With just 5 levels and just a few hours of gameplay it won’t take long to see everything the game has to offer without feeling exhausted by the end of it – even if it does end rather abruptly. It’s a beautifully made little package with some great music that feels fresh and old at the same time with its genre-blending puzzle solving. The hidden object genre isn’t for everyone – and never will be – but when they’re this charming I won’t mind playing.