As a kid, I enjoyed the Hardy Boys books from the 60s (although I read them in the 90s). The brothers Frank and Joe were always mixed up in one case or another in their hometown of Bayport in the northeastern US. The book series is still on going, although the Hardy Boys universe has been modernized, and last year, The Adventure Company developed a PC game based known as The Hardy Boys: The Hidden Theft. Fast forward to the present, and the game has been re-released for the Wii.
Should You Take This Case?
After getting out of being grounded for traffic violations with their new motorcycles, the Hardys take on a new case that the Teens Against Crime Agency has given them. The case involves Samuel Spencer, and the theft of $200 million dollars of bonds he had tucked away in a secure safe on the first floor of his mansion. The theft is puzzling in that no forced entry was made into the safe, and the first floor window that was broken looks as though it were broken from the inside. Additionally, the bonds have not been cashed in yet, so it is thought that the thief is still in the area. Samuel is pointing the finger at his brother, Thomas, who was always told the combination every week when Samuel changed it. So, it's up the Hardys to clear Thomas and figure out who is behind the theft.
Hidden Theft uses the Wiimote for control and, like other point and click adventure games on the Wii, it behaves like a mouse does on PC. Players move the Wiimote to control an on screen cursor that changes whenever you are hovering over something interesting or something that you can interact with. These different things can be a character, object, or just a set of footprints that indicate there is more area to explore. The A button acts as a left click while B is for bringing up the inventory. The 2 button brings up your cell phone, which includes notes and contacts (including long time friend Chet Morton and Nancy Drew) that you can ring for some quick advice. Other than the necessity to pixel hunt to find hard to see objects and having to move the cursor all the way to the bottom or edge of the screen to 'back up' or go to a new area, the controls work well enough in Hidden Theft. Pixel-hunting for objects in Hidden Theft is somewhat of a requirement as objects will sometimes be very well hidden, which is a nuisance, but it's a fault many games in the genre have. As it's a PC port, there are no motion control specific actions to perform, which is probably a good thing.
Gameplay is primarily made up of exploring environments for clues (i.e., objects), talking with NPCs, and working through mini-games (puzzles). Unlike most point and click games, you can control either Frank, Joe, or both at the same time, and the Minus key is used to switch in between them whenever they are split up. The detectives will have to split up at times to solve puzzles, and that's a pretty neat mechanic. Sharing inventory items can be a nuisance however, as not all items are automatically shared between the two sleuths. So you might be controlling Frank and need something that Joe has, requiring you to get the two to meet up, for example.
When not working with objects, the Hardys are often interviewing NPCs about the case. The dialogue system is of the normal multiple-choice-branching variety and of course the way to handle this is to exhaust all dialogue options available. The lines are both subtitled and verbalized with voice actors. I've never heard of these two, but teen Hollywood stars Jesse McCartney and Cody Linley lend their voices and their likeness to Frank and Joe Hardy. The voice acting is pretty good and you can skip through dialogue sequences by tapping A.
Solving puzzles and advancing the story is a matter of finding objects, knowing how to use them, talking with the NPCs, and solving mini-games. In general, progress is pretty steady and it's not too hard to forgive the game's miscellaneous shortcomings when all is going well, but I quickly lost interest whenever I wasn't marching through the story. Hidden Theft has its share of problems and is overall just not very captivating and that makes it hard to stick with whenever things are going very smoothly. In other words, the lackluster graphics, stiff character animations, and overall boredom factor became the forefront any time I wasn't making progress. Despite being able to save progress at anytime, this is one of those games that I didn't hesitate to look at a walk through (from last year's PC version) just to get be able to finish it efficiently. That said, it doesn't have a lot of appeal to begin with, and far less for a second play through.
Let's get to the summary...