“Hidden object” games are probably easiest to define by comparing them to the popular Where’s Waldo line of children’s books. In digital format, you play by diligently searching a cluttered environment for hints, clues, and items. For years, it’s been a popular genre in the casual and mobile markets, with titles such as Big Fish‘s Mystery Case Files or GameHouse‘s Mortimer Beckett.
Giant Celebration is a new hidden object game designed for virtual reality platforms. Developed in the Unity engine by Giant Cranium, a four-person team in Bellevue, Wash., the central gimmick is that at any time, you can grow or shrink at the touch of a button.
One second, you’re picking through an interactive diorama from the perspective of the person building it, and the next, you can be roughly the same size as the human-shaped action figures that the diorama was built out of. The game lets you fly around a room, a building, or a busy street as a fly on the wall, a Godzilla-sized observer, or any point between the two. Your goal is to find several predetermined items that are located throughout the level, each of which are hidden by the environment, your perspective, or various visual tricks.
The Giant Cranium team was at Pacific Science Center in Seattle on Thursday night for Seattle’s VR enthusiast community’s monthly get-together, alongside other projects like Tesseract’s You Are Here. There, I got a chance to run through the first level of Giant Celebration on an Oculus Rift, as part of the first public demo of the game.
I played on an easy setting — I know, I’m that guy — and ended up flying around in an attic full of boxes and toys, where various action figures were standing around on a table, as if waiting for a concert to begin. I had a few simple objects to find in my environment before I could progress to the next stage, where I needed to search for various toys so I could bring them back to the scene where they belonged. Completing one of the scenes makes it erupt into picturesque fireworks; completing a stage causes a full-on interactive fireworks display called a Giant Celebration, complete with giving you the ability to fire off your own rockets on demand.
From the start, Giant Celebration plays with shifts in perspective in an interesting way, as some of the objects are difficult to spot unless you grow or shrink. One item I needed, an old VAX terminal, was hidden underneath the table and was nearly unrecognizable until I was bigger than it was; another was a cassette tape, which I nearly didn’t spot despite it being right in front of me. I was the size of a toy at the time, and at first, I mistook it for a park bench.
In general, Giant Celebration has a feel to it like you’re flying around in a big playset, and deliberately evokes a sort of 1980s aesthetic, full of cassette players, bulky computers, big hair, and skateboarders.
“I grew up in Texas,” said Pete Moss, programmer on the game and Giant Cranium’s CEO, “and there was a field next to my house where all the kids would play. We would dig holes, bring our toys, and set up all these really fantastic scenarios, kind of like what they do on the commercials, or what they did back then. A lot of that is coming into the design of this game, and that’s the tone we’re trying to set. We want people to look back and say, ‘Man, this would’ve been cool when I was a kid. This is what I saw in my head whenever I played with my toys.’ We built the game around it.”
Moss and the other members of Giant Cranium used to be a team in the Creative Content Studio at Unity Technologies, creating demos for third parties like Samsung, Microsoft, Intel, and NASA. They split off from Unity last year and went independent, working on a now-cancelled early project before shifting over to what’s become Giant Celebration.
“For us, VR is about wish fulfillment,” Moss says. “It’s about getting to do things that you can’t do any other way. That’s part of what we’re really trying to hit hard with this game.”
Giant Celebration will be available on Steam Early Access on Dec. 7 for $19.99.