Hide & Secret 2: Cliffhanger Castle offers an onslaught of over-the-top dialogue and madcap situations that are so crazy they actually work – sometimes.
The second game in the series finds main characters Will Scout and Anna Lyze working to convert an old castle into a museum. When Will knocks over a crystal ball and inadvertently summons Merlin the wizard, it dawns on the pair that the castle is no ordinary one, but rather Camelot – home to the legendary King Arthur.
Merlin sends Will and Anna on a quest to find pieces of Arthur’s armor and return them to Camelot to reveal a secret regarding Arthur’s descendants. The far-reaching quest takes them to locations around the world as they must first track down various historic artifacts, like King Tut’s mask and General Tso’s jade dragon, that serve as keys to unlock special locations where the armor is being kept.
Gameplay consists primarily of hidden object and spot-the-difference challenges that will find you completing an eclectic medley of tasks based on a hodge-podge of different locations and historical references. You’ll be searching for hammer-shaped runes on an obelisk or comparing side-by-side images of rows of terracotta warriors one minute, and the next you’ll be clearing out a house of haunted items (including a haunted microscope, life vest and caterpillar!) so that the ghost fluttering on the screen will leave.
Hide & Secret 2 brings a unique twist to the hidden object format in that each set of levels is capped off with a scenario that combines a hidden object search with an action sequence. For example, while investigating King Tut’s tomb, Will and Anna trigger a trap that will fill the pyramid’s interior with water unless they can clear out all the modern items, which involves clicking on all the required items before the water slowly filling the screen reaches the top.
Ridiculous scenarios like the ghosts and haunted items lend Hide & Secret 2 a weird sort of charm, but not everything about the game is as endearing. Will’s constant references to eating, his general cheesiness and groanworthy puns (like when, in Egypt, he says “My back is sore and I need to see the Cairo-practor”) grate on the nerves.
There’s also some confusion about the correct item to click on, as sometimes more than one item on the screen could refer to the name on the list (like “wrench” or “mask”). The translation tasks, which involve picking out tiny symbols and squiggles meant to represent ancient writings from a screen that is chock full of them, can be downright evil in their difficulty. There are a limited number of hints (typically two per level), but thankfully no time limits so you’re free to squint at the symbols for as long as it takes. There’s also no real penalty for random clicking, other than Merlin giving you a warning.
After the game is completed you can use Story mode to watch and listen to all of the cutscenes and dialogue in sequence – like a mini-movie – while skipping all of the puzzle sequences, which is another unique touch. Unfortunately, in spite of wonderful graphics and music, the story is also a bit of a letdown as you can see the “surprise twist” coming from a mile away.
Finally, the game itself is relatively short. Even with 36 levels and 50 locations – a decent number – experienced players shouldn’t need more than about four hours to beat the game from start to finish.
Hide & Secret 2 is definitely an improvement over the first game that brings a few fresh scenarios and new twists to the table, though it appears that there are still some kinks to be worked out if the series ever wants to become as venerated as Mystery Case Files and the other top hidden object adventures. As for Will, he’s just as cheesy as ever, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to change any time soon.