Hidden object games on the Xbox tend to be dominated by Artifex Mundi, and they’re not a publisher that’s known for being progressive. So, when a new challenger pops along, we perk up a bit.
Wind Peaks is from Actoon Studio, a debutant Brazilian studio, and it looks lovely. You’re going to be staring deeply at the artwork for hours, so it’s important that it holds up, and Wind Peaks definitely does. There’s a suitably autumnal look to everything, and it could feasibly be a picture book.
You’re following a group of scouts on a field trip to Wind Peaks, and it’s a theme that dovetails nicely with the picture book and hidden objecting. You’re surveying areas that are several game screens in size, like a foldout Where’s Wally book, and a menu of items sits across the bottom of the screen, ready to be found.
To find stuff, you can zoom in and out a few times over, and the cursor changes colour when there’s something that can be prodded or opened. On occasion, you’re given a tool that delicately mixes things up, like a camera and torch. And when you’re stuck, you can select an item and wait a few minutes on a timer before it’s revealed to you.
Levels have a loose outline, like finding clothes for a nude scout, and the levels occasionally ratchet things up by housing puzzles. Slabs of rock can be pushed to trigger a cave to open up, and totem poles stack to unlock achievements.
And that’s it, really. Fourteen levels, escalating in size and items. Should you have a younger or more casual player in the house, they’ll have no trouble with it. We played as a family, with members as young as six, and we all got along just fine. There’s about three hours of play here, and no reason to replay.
And here comes the sigh. We had high hopes for Wind Peaks, looking as lovely as it does, and us being a family of hidden object fans. But while things start at a peak, they continue downhill. Somehow, three hours becomes something akin to a slog.
Finding items is fine, and they’re hidden more slyly than you might expect. Tiny fractions of an item might poke out from behind a fence. But as the levels go on, those same items appear as red herrings, on top of all the other trees and bushes, and the levels get noisy. More often than not, you’ll spot items of interest and scan your menu, only to realise it’s not there, and you’ll get tired of the back and forth. And heaven knows why there’s a three-minute wait for a hint. When you need a hint, you generally want it now, rather than anticipate one in a few minutes’ time.
But it’s the levels that let Wind Peaks down. They’re all rocky forest areas – every last one of them – and the same reused assets appear. We began to name them: oh look, it’s Pride Rock from the Lion King. It’s that bush with a box of Tic Tacs poking out. The repetition gnaws away at you. Wind Peaks also can’t decide whether it wants to let you interact with the environment or not. Some rocks, bushes and trees let you jiggle them, but Actoon Studio get scared of putting objects behind them, for fear of leaving players stuck, so you soon stop bothering.
There’s a story, if it can be called that, told in comic book sequences between the levels, but it never takes the characters anywhere that matters. A scout leader needs the toilet, which brings you to a rocky forest. Some Bigfoot tracks are spotted, bringing you to a rocky forest (needless to say it goes nowhere). A scout loses their clothes in a lake by a rocky forest. They are all excuses to put you in the same environments, without anything that resembles a progressing narrative.
The component parts of Wind Peaks are so good that you wonder how Actoon Studio failed to do anything with them. The characters in Wind Peaks are fun and giggle as you poke them. A scout trip into supernatural surroundings is fertile ground. The art is great. But none of it really comes to anything. It’s such a brilliant toy shop to go poking around in, but Wind Peaks keeps you outside and only lets you window shop. There are hints of a bigger, better version of the game in some ancient relics and hints of alien invaders, but they stay as hints. It’s infuriating and a waste.
Wind Peaks is an indifferent little hidden object game that has all the ingredients of being original or fun but leaves them on the worktop. Don’t be fooled by the characterful picture book scenery, it can be a bland old ramble.
You can buy Wind Peaks from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S