Hide and Shriek Review (PC)
It’s late the fall season and that means that Halloween is a big thing, but while the costumes, candy and decorations come out en masse, it’s rare you ever see a video game centered on the holiday outside of some limited-time special events. That’s a big part of what makes FunCom’s Hide and Shriek so interesting. Now holiday-themed games do exist and they have a sketchy history of being gimmicky messes at best, but while Hide and Shriek is a jump-scare ridden game with a simple premise, there’s enough here to give it some depth beneath its holiday charm, as long as you can find a friend that’s willing to play it with you and engage all the way.
The premise of Hide and Shriek is undeniably mischievous. You and your fellow player are sorcerer students of two competing magical schools. Every Halloween the students of these rival institutions have contests to see who the better tricksters are. They cast invisibility on themselves and run around the school after hours trying to collect orbs and sneak them back to pedestals for points. The catch is that if they know where the other student is, they can do a shriek attack to scare the living day lights out of their opponent. To help them with this, there are numerous runes scattered throughout the school that allow the students to cast various spells such firing a fireball or arming a door with a trap that will blow the opener back with a wind blast when touched.
Hide and Shriek is entirely a two player in both public and private matches. One player starts on red side while the other starts on blue and the goal is to search the school for the aforementioned orbs inside cupboards, lockers and desks and try to rush them back to your color’s pedestal before your opponent can stop you with a timely scare or trap. Games last 10 minutes and each orb retrieved nets 10,000 points with various points awarded for tricking your opponent or scaring them with a shriek. However, the game can also end prematurely if you shriek scare your opponent three times. The rules are simple, but the game is deceptively strategic.
For instance, how do you find your opponent to scare them? Observation. You can’t see them, but you can see and hear doors they open or close. Moreover, many spells will signal an opponent’s presence or reveal them outright if they stumble through your cleverly placed magic. Spells are really the best way to get an edge. At the beginning of each game, five runes are revealed for play and each on its own has a specific effect. However, you can collect multiple runes to fuse them and cast various new spells. For instance, one rune might cast a fireball, but combine it with a rune that will reveal nearby traps and you can craft a spell trap that will mark enemies with a sticky bell if they trigger it. Experimenting with what each combination of runes makes is pretty fun and using them effectively against your opponent is key to moving orbs safely or stunning them for a shriek scare. Moreover, once you use a spell, it gets permanently marked down in a grimoire where you can easily refer to study which spells do what.
The shriek scares are downright bloodcurdling too. Before each game you have the opportunity to customize a familiar that will represent your shriek. There are various unlockable scares, ranging from a skull, to a scarecrow, to dead faced masks of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in honor of the election year, and each head has various cosmetic unlockables that can be gained to customize your shriek familiar to your liking. This equates to what your opponents see when they get blasted by your shriek scare, which plays out much like a jump scare akin to the game over screens in Five Nights at Freddy’s. Coming up with your own personal terrifying visage is part of the fun and there’s a lot that becomes available as you continue to play games and level up.
The limitations of Hide and Shriek lie in just how focused it is on the main experience and players properly engaging with it. There’s no single-player content here. Despite the fact that experimentation in an active game is part of the mystery, it also would have been beneficial to at least have a training ground where players could fiddle with the game’s various magic; perhaps once we unlocked the spell in our grimoire. Moreover, there is only one arena in the game, and complex though it may be, this game seems like it would benefit from a variety of maps. Certainly with the classroom aesthetic, one could play around with magic sports complexes, neighborhoods or even some large haunted house. The game does itself a service by changing up where orbs and runes are randomly every game, but variety in arenas would help the game to stave off stagnancy.
The only other problem with Hide and Shriek lies entirely in how much players are willing to engage. It’s a scary game for sure, but we certainly noticed that a game could get pretty dull if players weren’t actively going after one another. The fact is that once you get a couple orbs, you can play defensive and just wait out the clock, camping a room and waiting for the other player to try to figure something out. There’s plenty the game offers to help players balance each other, but one can easily run a game by collecting a few orbs quickly, setting up a series of traps to keep the other player from doing anything about it and just camping a spot till they trip a trap. It’s the kind of game where if you’re not ready and running from the get-go, you might have a hard time.
Despite being themed around a holiday, Hide and Shriek is surprisingly fun and offers some amusing layers. Jump scares and shock horror aside, it’s really the runes that make this game much more fun than it first appears. They add various depths of strategy to the game to make it sort of like a weird game of Halloween cat and mouse. That said, the shrieks most definitely do their job. We can probably deal without having a cheap Hillary or Trump mask screaming at us, but then again, it didn’t stop us from amusement when we managed to catch our opponent with our personal shriek scare. Hide and Shriek is limited in its scope, but that tunnel vision focus on what it wants to accomplish might just be what makes it worth playing.
This review was completed with download codes for Hide and Shriek provided by the publisher for PC.