Hidden Agenda is the new innovative, narrative-driven adventure game by Supermassive games. This game was clearly built from the ground up with the new PlayLink design in mind as everything you perform takes place on your phone, whether you’re playing on your own or with up to five friends. This is their first ‘main’ game since Until Dawn (Not counting Rush of Blood) and you can clearly tell that a lot of time and love has gone into creating this. Everything from the choices you make to the subtle changes within the story work perfectly and offer a lot of replayability. I’ll keep this review spoiler free as with games of this genre, it is best played and experiences first hand.
Hidden Agenda is the story of a homicide detective named Rebecca Marney and the district attorney, Felicity Graves. They are working on a case in which the Trapper, a mysterious serial killer, is going around laying traps on their victims, dead or alive, in order to make the discoveries very messy. The basic premise behind this killer isn’t the most original as there have been many killers in real life and fiction which have laid traps on the victims; however, I’ve never heard on one which sets the traps specifically for the first responders. At times, it’s as if they were set for the specific reason to double the kill count and target the police and ambulance crew indirectly. Either solo or with friends, you ‘watch’ the story unfold, search for clues and choose how you want the story to play out. The average length is about 90 minutes per session and I would recommend playing it through in one sitting, even though it does come with chapter breaks where the game tells you to go make yourself a drink.
The biggest difference between Hidden Agenda and Until Dawn is that you no longer have direct control over your character. Just like in Planet of the Apes, you don’t control your character directly but you do choose what you want them to say or do on screen. This is for various reasons, the main being that it is a PlayLink game so you couldn’t have 6 people all choosing to move the character in various directions – this isn’t ‘Twitch plays Hidden Agenda’! I’ll go into the main PlayLink integration further down but I didn’t have any issues with the app at all – even when my phone locked itself and then died mid-way through the game, it never lost its connection and I was able to re-connect and continue where I left off without any issues. This is very important as you wouldn’t want to be kicked out of the game if you got a call or your phone died.
There are two gameplay modes; Story mode, which is as it sounds – you play the game on your own or with friends and choose the options you wish. The game won’t progress until everyone picks the same answer so this is more of a ‘debate’ between yourselves which option you want to pick. Competitive mode is where the game differs from similar games. You play through in a similar fashion to the Story mode but every now and again you may be given a ‘Hidden Agenda’. If you are then it is up to you to try and influence the others to go along with you, even though the choices don’t always say exactly what you will end up doing. One example of this was Eurogamer (another gaming website) were playing it on their YouTube channel and one of their hidden agenda’s was to get a guy to drop his gun. The person chose the option they thought would do this; however, it resulted in the guy jumping off a building and killing himself. So you have to kind of get into the mind of the character and work out what the reaction to your action will be.
The game has a (super)massive thing going for it, which a lot of other games that fall into the ‘adventure’ genre don’t – replayability. I’ve played the game twice to completion, each time I have received different scenes, uncovered new evidence which led to new dialogue and even had different endings based on how I played. There is no scene select, no multiple save slots and no going back – once you have played through a scene then you are done and you have to play the game again if you want to see what the other path leads too. This is great as each time it gets more interesting and creates more “ahh, that’s what that is” moments. So, even though I know who the killer is and I know key plot-points, it’s still entertaining figuring out more of the backstory and the set-up.
Visually the game is amazing. I don’t think you would expect any less from the guys who did Until Dawn. The environments and characters look real, the voice acting is perfect for the characters they are playing and the music/ambient sounds all fit together perfectly. All the way through it really does feel like you are watching a gritty Crime drama on TV, only with you choosing what happens and how the characters act – no more shouting at the TV when they don’t do as you say!
The app for this game is really good. Not only is it the controller via a virtual touchpad but it also acts as a glossary, dossier and secret screen. So what do I mean by these? On screen, when making your choices or searching for evidence, you have a cursor which you can move around using your finger like a mouse. At any point in the game, whilst the story is playing out, you can press a button and you will get all of your case files, character bios and more. The good thing about this is you can only see what you have found out, so the information you have may be different the second time you play through the game as it all depends on what you have seen. Finally, the secret screen is the best feature – this allows everyone to get a card in competitive mode and nobody knows what they each have. Gone are the days where you have to tell people not to peek or you can all see each other’s choices/goals – these are now only known to the player and the game.
Hidden Agenda is a great game to play both on your own and as part of a party. It’s not very long, clocking in at around 90 minutes, but it’s a decent enough length to play through in one sitting without losing interest. Once you know the plot and the killer there is still motivation for replaying the game as there are multiple hidden branches which you can’t view within one playthrough, this will keep you coming back to experiment to see what you can uncover. The only downside would be to ensure you have a smartphone/pad which is compatible with the app before purchase as there is no way to play without one.