Developer: Supermassive Games
As someone who generally views video games and reading mystery novels as solitary pursuits, I have to confess that I don’t fully understand the appeal of Hidden Agenda as a murder mystery party game. Sure, it’s built around a taut murder mystery, but a great deal of tension is lost by both the cooperative and competitive modes, since in both cases you have to figure out what your fellow players are thinking, in addition to considering the action taking place on screen. I mean, it works. But no matter how much I liked playing the game with others, I couldn’t help but wish I was playing it solo.
Mind you, Hidden Agenda has its fair share of issues as a single-player game, too. The use of your smartphone as a controller kind of…well, it sucks, to be perfectly blunt. There are multiple points in the game where you have to take part in quick-time events, and every one of them made me appreciate a controller more. Moving your finger around a touchscreen just doesn’t have the same tactile feedback as buttons, and it reminded me of why I was so eager to abandon mobile gaming for proper handhelds like the PSP and the Vita.
The game also has some problems with its story. Nothing game-breaking, to be sure, but there are moments where the plot doesn’t seem to make sense, or where it feels like the action on screen disregards both logic and your input. Obviously, these issues exist whether you’re playing the game alone or with friends, but they’re just that much more noticeable in single-player mode.
Having said that, the things that Hidden Agenda does well far outweigh whatever things it may do poorly. Take the story, for example: sure, there are points here and there where things seem to come out of nowhere, but for the most part, the plot here is better crafted and more intricate than nearly every other game I could name. The characters seem generally believable, they motivations that mostly make sense, and the tight deadline (you have less than 48 hours to figure out whether a death row murderer’s last-minute change of story is true) ensures everything hums along at a nice pace.
Even better, Hidden Agenda looks incredible. Developers Supermassive applied all the lessons they learned from Until Dawn, with the result being yet another game in which the on-screen characters come closer to making it out of the uncanny valley than most. Likewise, the atmosphere is dark and oppressive, just the kind of thing you want when you may or may not be on the trail of a cop-murdering serial killer.
As I said up top, there are certainly reasons to be wary of Hidden Agenda. It’s hard not to search a crime scene for clues with your unresponsive PlayLink app and come away wishing that you were just using a plain controller. But that’s more than outweighed by the fact that the game also does a better job of capturing what makes mystery novels so compelling than nearly anything else I’ve ever played. Hidden Agenda not be perfect, but it knows how to keep you hooked right to the very end.
Sony Interactive Entertainment provided us with a Hidden Agenda PS4 code for review purposes.