Review: Highlights Hidden Pictures iPad App

by Steph K on June 14, 2013

in App Reviews, Apps for 4 year olds, Apps for 5 year olds

Scenes from Highlights Hidden Pictures: Left - home screen; Center - a partially completed puzzle; Right - completed puzzle!

Picky Kid Rating: 2.2

For some reason, it’s always way more fun looking for things in games than in real life! Highlights Hidden Pictures is a kid-friendly hidden object game for the iPad. There are lots of things to find (and eighteen puzzles included with the base price!) but challenges with the interface may leave some kids frustrated.

First things first… This review is for Highlights Hidden Pictures developed by Highlights for Children, Inc. There are other Highlights Hidden Pictures apps by other developers, so it can be confusing. We’ve played some of the others, and they all have strengths and weaknesses.

One of the strengths of this version is that there are eighteen puzzles included with the initial app purchase. Four more puzzle sets (of 9 puzzles each) are available as in-app-purchases for 99 cents a pop. So if this app is a hit in your family, there’s plenty to keep them occupied!

When you first start the game, you’ll arrive at a home screen. You can get to the in-app purchases after accessing the “parents” area. To unlock the parents area, you must slide a disc into the correct position. It’s a nice device (we especially like how the disc turns green when it’s in the right place) but it doesn’t always work well. (Reminds me of a ‘childproof’ medicine bottle, in a way!)

The Parents area also contains News (mostly ads from Highlights), a place for you to Register (presumably for an email list), and some game options. There are toggles for music, sound, and vibrations, and buttons to restore in-app purchases or “factory settings”. There’s also a language selector which affects the written text in the game (there are no voiceovers); the options are English, Spanish, Chinese and German.

Once you’ve messed with the parents screen to your heart’s desire, tap the orange arrow to go back to the home screen. Then tap the large orange “Play” (or Play in your language) button to select a puzzle and start finding things.

Highlights Hidden Pictures iPad App - Picky Kid Rating: 2.2/5You’ll see a black and white drawing with a menu area at the top that shows the things you’re supposed to find. When you see one of those things in the picture below, tap it! If you get it right, you’ll hear a positive sound, and the object will fill in with color. Tap something wrong and you’ll hear a sort of “beep beep” sound. A word of warning — sometimes your taps must be very precise — too precise for kids in our opinion. There are cases where we’ve had to tap four or five times on small objects before the game registers our tap correctly.

While finding things is straightforward enough (assuming you can precisely tap them!) we find the menu at the top of the screen to be somewhat confusing. Not all of the objects appear at once, and you must swipe left or right to expose more. As you swipe, a different object will be highlighted in a larger area.

At first, we thought that the highlighted object was the only object we could find, but that’s (thankfully) not the case. Instead, it’s the object that will be circled if you tap the “show a hint” button. There’s also a button to “Hide Clues”. This will remove the panel completely so that you don’t know what you’re supposed to find. This makes for a more challenging game, but it’s doable — especially because many objects you’re looking for are the same between puzzles. There’s often a spoon, a needle (are you sure you want your kid touching that?!) and a toothbrush to find.

So, although the menu is functional, it’s not very intuitive, and children (and adults too) may have trouble figuring it out. One thing’s fairly obvious though… Tap the orange “back” arrow to go back one screen. From a puzzle, you’ll go back to the puzzle selection screen; from the puzzle selection screen, you’ll go back to the home screen.

Back to that home screen… Besides the giant orange play button and parents area, you’ll notice a leaderboard and achievements. These are linked to Apple’s Game Center. We’re not fans of linking kids apps to Game Center… Although kids are allowed to have Game Center accounts (as long as a parent or guardian reads, understands, and accepts the terms on their behalf), most don’t. But should you happen to be playing with an active Game Center account, you can earn achievements, such as “no hints”. Earning achievements is a bit annoying in this game though, since they pop up in a boring-looking dialog box with must be “OK”ed before game play can continue. In addition, the achievements don’t seem to work correctly. When we completed just one puzzle in the “Bedtime” set, we got an achievement that said we’d completed them all. Not true, but we’ll take it, I guess… Except that the leaderboard never shows any scores. Hmm… is it broken?

In terms of design, this app is a mixed bag. The illustrations for the hidden pictures themselves are fine but the rest of the UI is rather uninspired with its blocky buttons. The music and sound effects are quite basic and feel a bit old school (think midi loops and DOS beeps) on such a modern device, but at least they’re not too annoying. The music will stop when you select a puzzle. We never did figure out the vibrate function in the settings… perhaps it only works on the phone?

Download on the App StoreOverall, we’re lukewarm on Highlights Hidden Pictures. Kids who are patient and manage to learn the quirks of the interface could get some value out of it, but you’d have to really love hidden object games! Hopefully some of the challenging UI issues will get worked out in new releases.

[The developer of this app requested a Picky Kid review. No fees were paid.]

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Picky Kid Rating: 2.2/5

Review: Highlights Hidden Pictures iPad App, 2.2 out of 5 based on 1 rating

App info

Highlights Hidden Pictures

Played on: iPad2, iOS6


Price: $1.99, more puzzles available for $0.99 (in-app purchase)

Get it on the App Store!

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