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A Hidden Object Game (often abbreviated HOG) is a subgenre of Casual Video Games where the player has to find a series of objects in a cluttered scene, which are almost always photorealistic. Basically, the "gameplay" consists of just staring at the screen until you find something and clicking on it. Some games will reward you for finding many items in quick succession. The really bad ones don't even try to hide the objects well... or worse yet too well! In most cases, expect objects that have no business being anywhere near the scene pictured and a good helping of Anachronism Stew (a jumbo jet inside the depths of an ancient Egyptian tomb, for example).
A subgenre of this subgenre are Interactive Hidden Object Games, or IHOGs. In these, the regular hidden object screens are mixed with other types of puzzles. There's usually some connection between the hidden object parts and the puzzle parts. For instance, you may collect a set of items by finding them in hidden object screens, then assemble them to get through a puzzle screen.
Fragmented Hidden Object Games (FROGs) are another subgenre. Each item to be found is broken into several pieces. Fortunately, there usually aren't as many items to search for as in a "straight" HOG. Normally each item will automatically reassemble once all the component bits have been found.
Notable games in this genre include:
- Where's Waldo: Trope Maker, albeit a literary one.
- Cate West: The Vanishing Files (and the sequel, The Velvet Keys)
- The Dark Parables series
- Diner Town Detective Agency co-starring Flo and featuring many characters from the Dash series of games.
- Escape The Museum
- I Spy, which began as a series of childrens' books and later became computer games, is probably one of the earliest games of this type.
- Hidden Expedition
- Hidden Pictures of "Highlights" fame is a variant: here, the scenes are cartoony, and the items you're looking aren't just part of the scenery, but rather hidden inside the picture!
- Adult magazine version: finding the hidden bunny logo on the covers of Playboy has become a game with readers.
- Mortimer Beckett
- Mystery Case Files
- The Samantha Swift trilogy with its archaeological storylines.
- Travelogue 360
- The video game adaptation of Agatha Christie's Death on the Nile
- Corpse Party has this as its primary gaming element: in order to avoid a Wrong End, you have to locate certain items while moving through the plot.
The non-electronic counterpart has been around for ages, those little "spot the difference" puzzles typically in newspapers, especially the "kid's section", or on TV , where they show two almost identical pictures next to each other and you've to find the little differences.