Our favorite iPad games where you find objects cleverly hidden on-screen and use them to escape from virtual prisons.
Little Things Forever ($0.99/49p/AU$0.99)
Little Things Forever is the purest example of a hidden object game you’re likely to find on the App Store. There’s no overarching quest – no desire to be a sort-of adventure. Instead, you’re presented with a jumble of objects (that, when you squint, form cartoonish artwork), and things to find.
Depending on the challenge you’re tackling, you either get a full list, and aim to get through it as quickly as possible, or a timer and one item at a time to discover. Sporadically, the game has you complete basic jigsaw puzzles, in order to unlock new levels.
On the iPad’s larger screen, the game shines. It’s full of charm, and although the timers add some incentive for those who need it, Little Things Forever is perfectly relaxed if you feel like taking 'forever' on a single puzzle.
realMyst is a new take on Myst, a Mac classic from the early 1990s. It dumps you on a strange island, giving you no clear ideas what to do next. The idea is to explore, check out every nook of the island, find clues, solve puzzles, and find new places in which to poke around.
To say realMyst is obscure is putting it mildly. Its puzzles can be baffling and cryptic, and smart players will arm themselves with a notepad – and a huge amount of patience.
However, this iPad version is a fantastic way to experience a gaming classic, with a more free-form approach to movement, beautiful revamped graphics, and the simple fact you can play it anywhere.
The Room: Old Sins ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)
The Room: Old Sins pits you against devious puzzle boxes. Like previous games in the series, Old Sins is obsessed with the impossible. This time, you’re investigating the disappearance of an engineer and his wife. You spot what appears to be a corpse in a gloomy attic and are abruptly swept inside a doll house.
At this point, it’s all tap, swipe and drag, manipulating objects using your very best logical deduction until things happen. At one point you’ll discover a seemingly unending number of hidden compartments in a tiny model train. Elsewhere, something horrific and otherworldly will scream before forcibly ejecting you from a room.
If you’re a newcomer and puzzle fan, Old Sins is a no-brainer – a superb, coherent title with multiple-location challenges and none of the tedious walking around found in the likes of Myst. As for existing fans, you’ve probably already bought and finished the game anyway. If not, what are you waiting for?
Hidden Folks ($3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99)
Hidden object games are often dull and can be heavy on the pocket, demanding you spend lots of money on IAP. Hidden Folks isn’t either of those things, and has the added bonus of being hugely charming.
You’re presented with hand-drawn scenes, each of which has a strip across the bottom, depicting objects to find. You can tap any of them for a clue, but the scene can also be interacted with, for example to rustle bushes to find someone lurking behind them.
Cute mouth-originated sound effects pepper proceedings, and the pace is varied with differing map sizes, and the odd playable scene, such as helping someone to a destination by adjusting the landscape.
Thus, with its wit and smarts, Hidden Folks very much stands out from the crowd – unlike some of the tiny critters it tasks you with locating.
The Lost City ($1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99)
The Lost City broadly echoes Myst, in that it places you in a fantastical location, and challenges you to explore. In this case, you’ve discovered the titular city recounted to you by an elderly relative that no-one else believed.
As ever, the game involves examining locations, finding useful-looking objects to stash in your inventory, and using them to unlock pathways to further your adventures. But The Lost City has an intriguing hook: you can change the seasons. So if you can’t get past a river, perhaps you might be able to at a different time of year…
With lush (if static) visions, and a journal that handily automatically tracks symbols and clues, The Lost City proves to be a compelling and atmospheric experience.
All That Remains ($1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99)
All That Remains starts off in a harrowing manner, with you waking up in your father’s bunker. An old two-way radio crackles into life, and your distressed sister explains that the world has gone to hell, and that you’ve been locked up for your own safety. You resolve to rescue her from the chaos.
Unfortunately, your father turns out to be part sociopath, part crazy inventor. Rather than furnish you with a serviceable door handle with which to escape, you must figure out the convoluted path to an exit. Cue: lots of poking around, finding clues, figuring out the meaning behind symbols, and piecing everything together. At its best, this is tense, challenging stuff – ideal if you find your existing hidden object games something of a pushover.
Agent A ($4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99)
Agent A combines an escape game with the swagger of a spy movie. It starts with you following Ruby La Rouge, who obliterates a boat – and your boss. Deciding that’s rather out of order, you break into Ruby’s house – and she locks you in. Presumably the glass is very tough, because you can’t smash through it. Instead, you must figure out an absurdly convoluted path to make your escape.
This game has a pleasingly spiky, angular art style, and breezy responses when you interact with objects. The actual puzzles are perhaps a bit pedestrian, but the game frequently neatly ties together details and clues across multiple locations. Also, rather generously, Agent A has expanded from its initial sole chapter to a five-part episodic tale, offering plenty of espionage bang for your bucks.
Forever Lost ($11.99/£11.99/AU$17.99)
The Forever Lost series (three games, available separately if you don’t want the bundle) begins with you waking up in an unfamiliar room. Freaky as though that is, getting out is simple; the scary bit is it’s clear others have been here before you.
Also, when you do escape your confines, you merely find yourself in the bigger prison of an abandoned asylum. The game then follows a familiar pattern of scanning rooms for objects and clues, using them to move your quest onward.
Although visually bleak and drab, Forever Lost’s atmosphere and weirdness keeps you gripped. And you can’t help but love a game with its own in-game camera, to snap objects for later reference, so you don’t have to manually make notes elsewhere.