Mobile games like Hidden Folks are perfect for the Switch

Well over a year into the Nintendo Switch’s life, it’s still exciting and surprising to see huge console games like Wolfenstein or Diablo make their way to the tablet. There’s something inherently captivating about having an experience of that scale in the palm of your hands, or to be able to jump back and forth between your TV and tablet while using the same device. But the Switch has also proven itself to be a great place for smaller games, particularly from indie developers. Lately, some of those games have originated from an unlikely source: smartphones. And they’re so good it’s making me want more of my favorite mobile games on the Switch.

Today sees the launch of Hidden Folks on Nintendo’s tablet. The game first debuted on mobile back in 2017, and it’s essentially what would happen if Where’s Waldo? was a) fun and b) designed for a touchscreen. The black-and-white game gives you a series of vague clues, and huge, densely packed levels where you have to find characters, animals, or objects. There’s no time limit or scoring, so it’s very relaxing, and it’s also ridiculously charming. The art is cute, the descriptions witty and funny, and the sound effects are downright silly. Since it launched, the game has been updated with a number of new levels, most recently a beach section.

In portable mode on the Switch, Hidden Folks works exactly as you’d expect. You tap the screen to read a clue or find something, and you can pinch and pull to zoom in and out. It’s just like on mobile. Things are a bit different on your TV. Without a touchscreen, you instead use the Joy-Con controllers to navigate. The triggers zoom in or out, while the left stick moves a cursor around the screen. It’s not quite as intuitive, but it works well enough, and it also turns Hidden Folks into a more social experience. I played much of the game with other people helping me by pointing out things on the TV.

The Switch version of Hidden Folks keeps everything that’s great about the original mobile game, but also adds new things that are only really possible because of how the device straddles the line between tablet and console. The same goes for the recent Switch port of The Room, the classic touchscreen puzzle box game. It feels great to play in portable mode, just as well as it does on your smartphone, but it’s also nice to be able to see the beautiful, intricate creations blown up on your television.

Not every mobile game fits so nicely on Nintendo’s tablet. Free-to-play games like Pokémon Quest, the kind that ask you to check in multiple times a week or day, are still better on a device you always have with you. But there’s a certain breed of smartphone game — we tend to call them “premium” games — that is ideal for the Switch. Think of experiences like Monument Valley or Alto’s Odyssey, the kinds of games you really want to settle in with and enjoy for long stretches. The Switch is already a great home for sprawling open worlds, lengthy role-playing games, retro games, action games, puzzle games, and more — now you can add mobile games to that list.

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