Do you like fine art? Probably not, as I don’t think the demographics of TechRaptor include a lot of people who actually enjoy old paintings on a regular basis. You’ve likely seen a few, perhaps even been to an art museum by choice or because your high school forced you. You’ve almost certainly picked up a hidden object book like I Spy at some point. If you can put the two together in your mind you have The Hunt for Red Panda, which is a mobile game on iOS and Android that is basically every hidden object game ever. The twist is that the objects are hidden in pre-19th century era paintings. You are an art detective (or as the description says, THE Art Detective), and must find out who has been vandalizing famous works of art from across the world. You don’t really need to since the game actually tells you the first time you open it, but it’s the thought that counts.
This is an odd game. The task at hand really is as simple as described above, but there is a charm to it all the same. The game doesn’t just throw you into a painting and tell you to start looking. There was actually some thought put into the authentic presentation. Red Panda really makes it feel like you’re restoring a piece of art instead of just pointing out what’s wrong with it. To save a piece of art, you must first identify something out of place, and then pull out the correct tool to fix it. If you accidentally use the wrong tool or get carried away, you can accidentally damage the painting, leaving you having to spend time patching it up.
Players have to find all the issues (or complete the occasional special challenge) within a pretty short time frame too. You get a certain amount of money for your work, and you’ll eventually get enough to reopen your current museum and move on to the next one. All the while, you find clues to figure out the identity of the mysterious Red Panda, which is a pretty good moniker for an art vandal.
The whole thing is basic enough, but there are issues here and there. The game can occasionally be almost infuriatingly picky about whether you have clicked things or not, particularly for smaller objects. When playing, I would sometimes have to tap two or three times before I got it. That wouldn’t be so bad if not for the fact that you lose time whenever you try to identify an object, even if you’re wrong. Whenever you successfully fix an object, you get more time as a reward, but this doesn’t fix the underlying problem. For example, if I find an object with only a few seconds left, I can’t possibly identify it, as that will just run out my timer. It’s the only major mechanical problem I had with the game, but it was irritating nonetheless.
To be fair, you can go back into levels and try them again. Rather than starting players from scratch, most levels will just let you find however many you missed the first time around. For instance, if a painting has thirty errors and you found twenty-eight, you only have to find the remaining two to succeed. It’s worth noting that the timer does get significantly shorter depending on how many errors you have left, so there is still some challenge there.
Along with the basic “Find Everything” levels, there are special challenge modes where you have to specifically find the smallest objects, or remember where objects were and find them from memory. After you complete these challenges, you get a description of the painting itself, its title and the year it was painted. There are also minigames to earn hints, and there are no microtransactions in sight. The game already has a price tag, but that doesn’t stop a lot of other mobile games from nickel and diming players.
My biggest complaint with the game is with the paintings themselves. All the paintings presented here are authentic, but they also follow an almost identical style. Most are realistic paintings which are still famous, but not commonly recognized by a majority of people. It’s understandable to use lesser known paintings, as most players would find it too easy to find an out of place objects or two while looking at the Mona Lisa.
However, only using realistic paintings from similar eras is disappointing, as it means that a lot of the types of out of place objects are repeated (like characters in the painting wearing converse, or the occasional dinosaur in the bushes). There are no abstract paintings, no real fantastical paintings, and only a couple of them didn’t include humans. It may have been more difficult to implement, but it would’ve been a lot more interesting and kept players on their toes if they would have varied the selection. For what is in the game, the objects are often well hidden. Some obviously stand out just because they are clearly not in the same style as the painting, but others blend right in and it can be hard to tell. Still, some more variety of paintings may have made it more challenging. Later paintings don’t feel more difficult, there are just more things to find instead.
The Hunt for Red Panda was fun overall, and a good way to pass the time. It only takes a minute or so to finish a level, so it was easy to pick up and put away whenever I had a spare few moments. There was at least some replayability as not all the paintings have the exact same objects every time. You can replay old paintings whenever you please, and there is some variation, but it won’t be long before you’ve squeezed out every last configuration for any given puzzle. Most importantly, the game brings back some great memories if you were a lover of the hidden object games like I was as a kid.
The Hunt for Red Panda is charming, simple and a better way to waste time on your phone than most free to play games.