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HoloVista – Deceptively dark hidden object adventure

Developer: Aconite
Price: $5/£5
Size: 354 MB
Version: 1.0.6
Platform: iPhone & iPad


HoloVista is a polished little casual time-waster that just so happens to contain a rich and meaningful story. It’s a game for anyone who’s ever felt uneasy about how the world’s un-elected online gatekeepers are handling your personal information.

Carmen (that’s you) and her friends are your archetypal group of New York 20-somethings – smart, diverse, and almost surgically attached to their smartphones. There’s a certain glossily aspirational lifestyle vibe to these characters that some may initially find off-putting. Don’t worry though, because things are about to get a lot more nuanced and interesting.

The whole story is told through social media posts

This isn’t quite the New York that you might know, for one thing. Rather, this is a near-future world of mood-reactive fingernail polish, brainwave samplers, and AI pets.

Into this bright and largely progressive milieu is stirred a dark seam of Black Mirror-esque social (media) commentary. Having secured a dream junior architect gig at the not-at-all-sinister-sounding Mesmer and Braid, Carmen is sent off to a palatial crib for five days and asked to offer feedback, both architectural and otherwise.

There are also passwords to decode

Needless to say, all is not quite as it seems. The vague instructions from your faceless and nameless boss include the urgent command to keep up your online social life for the benefit of your health and well-being. Which rather sets the alarm bells ringing.

To reveal any more would be to spoil HoloVista’s narrative, which really is the main thrust of the game. Its simple but effective gameplay mechanics are all in the service of story and character.

Use your phone to snap the requested items

Let’s talk about those mechanics, then. The bulk of HoloVista plays out like a hidden object game built from the ground up for late-millennials and early Gen-Zers. Each stage starts with you scanning around a highly detailed static scene, taking pictures of specific objects either by physically pointing your phone or swiping to adjust your perspective. We soon resorted to the latter method, as what it lacks in AR immersion it makes up for with convenience.

Then it’s on to Carmen’s social media feed to share your photos, at which point you must align her text prompts with the appropriate snap. At this point, you’ll read through the responses from your friends, head into individual DM exchanges, and access little private e-journal moments by decoding password clues.

Things soon start to get darker and weirder

There’s very little that will leave you stumped here, but poring over this world has a tactile appeal all of its own. Everything looks quite striking, with a sort of bleary retro-futuristic vibe that perfectly suits the hallucinatory and nostalgic notes of the story. The woozy vaporwave soundtrack suits the tone perfectly, too.

Appropriately enough, there’s more to HoloVista than its glossy exterior would suggest. Uncovering its hidden secrets will lead you on a memorably unsettling adventure.