Hidden Chronicles on Facebook: Zynga's echo of a growing trend

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Hidden ChroniclesHidden-object games are nothing new, and they're not even new to Facebook. When Zynga announced Hidden Chronicles late last year, it was tough not to assume it was simply the company's echo of that trend. While it might not necessarily be a bad thing for super fans of the genre, that's exactly what Hidden Chronicles is, save for a few interesting enhancements.

After a first look at the game, courtesy of creative director Cara Ely, it's clear that Hidden Chronicles is an intriguing, more mature step for Zynga. And much of that is likely thanks to Ely's expertise: Before joining Zynga, she spent five years crafting hidden-object games for companies like Sierra Online and iPlay. In short, she knows her stuff, and it shows in Hidden Chronicles throughout. But while it's a slightly more mature experience, Ely promises that newbies won't be left behind.

"This is a game for everyone. If you've ever read Highlights magazine at the dentist's office, that's sort of the childlike version, Ely tells us. "Thematically, we do have this mystery, we have this element of 'The Da Vinci Code' a little bit. There's this thread line of a mystery throughout. I think the storyline is certainly a bit more sophisticated."
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But are there really newbies to the hidden-object genre? Before it became a huge casual game phenomenon years ago, hidden-object games were found--like Ely says--in books and magazines for years. Granted, the more realistic artwork, complete with gorgeous animations and unique soundtracks for each hidden object scene, is somewhat of a first for Zynga. But it's seriously doubtful that the average Facebook game player has never encountered a hidden-object game before.

So, instead of wasting valuable words discussing how Hidden Chronicles plays, an attempt should be made to explore what's new about this hidden-object game. When compared to the downloadable item-finders of yore, Hidden Chronicles is far more social, boasting leader boards and even 60-second scenes that Facebook friends can challenge one another with, called Fast Finds. Ely likens these to the turn-based play of Words With Friends.
Hidden Chronicles Italian Bistro
Players, who arrive at this mysterious estate to investigate their uncle's death, basically inherit the property. This allows you to curate your new mansion with new decorations, which unlock new hidden-object scenes to solve. Of course, you can visit your friends' estates, and hide secret packages for them to find and open. These usually contain coins to buy more decorations with or reputation points, a social staple in Zynga games that, when enough are amassed, unlock even more scenes to tackle.

But that's only how it's different from traditional games in the genre. How does it stand out from its social competition? Players can also find, yes, more hidden-object scenarios to complete by exploring the manor's massive acreage. "You can see something we've really learned from CastleVille," Ely admits, "players love exploring and finding new things on their game board."
Hidden Chronicles Underwater
For instance, completing a hidden-object scene will sometimes reveal a final object that turns out to be far more complex. These range from what amount to jigsaw puzzles of paintings to memory matching games and moving objects around to uncover hidden ones. All of these scenarios are timed, and provide players with bonus points to boost their placing on the social leader boards. "We know these players are puzzle solvers, Ely says. "They really love this idea of being a little bit more immersed in the experience."

Hidden Chronicles appears to do a wonderful job in the visuals and sound department, a Facebook experience perhaps only a studio with Zynga's resources can provide. Ely's vast experience in the hidden-object world shines throughout, and will especially blow away those who have yet to play such a game on Facebook. And while even those that have might have a similar reaction, Hidden Chronicles looks as if it's an (far more robust) echo of those games. Hidden Chronicles launches today on Facebook in 15 languages.



Click here to play Hidden Chronicles on Facebook Now >

What do you think of Hidden Chronicles based on this first look? Is this different enough for you from what's already available? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.
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