Supermassive Games seems to have no qualms with embracing any new game mechanic that Sony throws at them. Until Dawn was the sleeper hit of 2015, mixing choose-your-own-adventure with AAA production, while Until Dawn: Rush of Blood was a wave one title for PSVR. Now Hidden Agenda is their latest game to test the waters of new ways to experience gaming.
If you don’t already know of Sony’s new “friends and family” way to experience certain games: “… PlayLink combines your smartphone or tablet device, TV and a PS4 console, with a collection of brand new games that take advantage of the smartphone or tablet device’s touchscreen and camera capabilities.” Think Until Dawn, then remove the moments that you used controller movement, and add a “majority rule” to the decision making to add group involvement. If you can do that, you should then have a pretty good idea of the mechanics for Hidden Agenda.
The game itself is a psychological thriller. You play as homicide detective, Rebecca Marney, as she tracks down local serial killer, The Trapper. Supermassive Games is very comfortable following genre driving tropes and this game is no different. The story, characters and choices are all very familiar if you’re a fan of thrillers in any medium.
As with Until Dawn, you shape the character’s investigation and the overall story depending on the choices that you make. Each choice and reaction causes a ripple effect that can result in something as simple as earning the trust of a character or result in something as drastic as death.
The game plays surprisingly well in single player mode, as you simply choose your path and maneuver through the occasional QTE until you get your ending. However, cooperative play with an additional player doesn’t really offer much more than a shared single player experience. You must agree on choices made since there is no majority to rule. Where the game comes into its own, however, is with a group playing competitively. A random player is given a hidden Agenda card to try and convince people to vote in a certain way. If the player succeeds, he is awarded 100 points. But, win or lose, if others are able to guess the identity of the antagonist, then they are awarded 50 points.
I did have a couple concerns with the game. As the game progresses, your mobile device shows the conversation and action paths you take. However if you don’t finish the game in one sitting and you come back, all of that shows as unread again, leaving you with the pregame ordeal of scrolling through a ton of information you already know. Since most games will be a single night, this won’t matter to most. But for those that do find that life gets in the way, even for a 2+ hour game, it can be annoying. A second thing is that if you successfully complete certain QTE events, one in particular, you figure out who the main villain is entirely too soon. I was left more not wanting to believe it was that obvious and hoping there was some twist I might not have seen coming.
Hidden Agenda is meant to be played with a group and replayed multiple times. At approximately 2 hours, the game length lends itself nicely to this, or simply to be played as a fun living room party game for a night. The mechanics are very easy to grasp as the only sections demanding a timed response are specific action and conversation paths, QTE events, and the scanning for clues to help broaden the action and conversation tree.
Only because PlayLink caters to parties and family friendly gaming, I feel I should mention that Hidden Agenda does fall in its M rating. So if you were a fan of the family fun from That’s You! and the B movie tropes of Until Dawn and that was all you might be expecting; then know that there is language, violent content, and strong sexual references akin to that of a more mature late night network television drama.
Hidden Agenda is not going to be the next AAA title on everyone’s lips but it is one of the better titles for PlayLink that you will find, and definitely the most polished. At it’s core, PlayLink is simply a digital way to experience that living room, family board game, party night. Just make sure for this night, everyone is at least 16 or older.