Not Again! Things HOPA Games Have in Common

HOPA Tropes: a common puzzle.

I must have played more than 100 hidden object adventure games (HOPAs) by now, and I’ve noticed a few things that many of them have in common. If you’re a HOPA fan, I’m sure you’ll nod your head at a lot of these.

Losing Husband/Wife/Girlfriend/Boyfriend/Child

Many storylines involve looking for a missing spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, or child. There are a couple of ways they go missing. They’re either away from home investigating something, perhaps for their job, and they go missing, or they’re ripped away right in front of you, usually by some evil entity. The point of the game is to find your missing loved one.

I’ll be honest. I often lose the plot in HOPA games because the plots tend to be convoluted and have too many unrealistic twists, so sometimes I’ll forget that I’m looking for a loved one until the end of the game when I find them and think, “Oh yeah, that’s what I’ve been doing. Looking for this person.”

Crashing Your Vehicle, Including Falling Off a Horse

The opening cinematic for a HOPA often involves crashing your car, falling off a horse, a plane crash, or a motorcycle accident. You’re often on your way to some remote location or creepy house because you received a letter (often from a relative or someone who needs your help) begging you to come see them.

On the way, something weird will happen. Suddenly a shadowy figure will be standing in the road, or a strange fog will roll in, or the plane you’re on will lose altitude. Whatever it is, you crash or fall off your horse, and that’s the opening scene in the game.

Or perhaps it happens in the middle of the game. I seem to have crashed in quite a few hot air balloons when I’m escaping from captivity or travelling to a new location. Same goes for cars, trains, planes, motorcycles. Heck, even walking can be dangerous. See “falling into a pit” in the next section.

Your Path is Blocked by the Villain

For some reason, HOPA writers often slow your progress by blocking your path. For example, all the doors in a house will be locked with the keys nowhere in sight (who would do this?). I don’t know why the writers can’t come up with more ways to prolong the game.

Or you’ll catch up to the villain, and they go through a door and block it, usually by erecting a magical barrier, or conjuring a baddie to guard it, or bringing down the ceiling so the doorway is blocked with rubble.

Can’t they just leave? I’m sure there are other obstacles that could be used to slow down the hero of the story. Maybe when the hero rushes after them, the villain hops in a car and races off, and the hero discovers her car’s tires have been slashed. I’d suggest that maybe the villain can disappear through a portal, but hey, that’s another thing that happens a lot in HOPAs.

Falling into a pit is another common way the hero is prevented from rushing after the villain. Usually the villain does something that makes the floor under the hero’s feet disappear, or they’ve set a trap for the hero.

Anyway, I’m to the point now where I roll my eyes when anything I’ve mentioned happens. It would be nice to see some variety here.

Being Thrown into Prison

For someone who’s doing good, the hero is thrown into a prison cell quite often. Sometimes it makes sense. For example, the storyline might have your character framed for a crime. But other times, it’s just there to slow you down, except it never does, not for long.

HOPA Tropes: A prison cell.
A screenshot from Noir Chronicles: City of Crime. In prison, once again. I won’t spoil how you get out. At least there isn’t a dopey guard right outside your cell.

You see, every time you’re thrown into a prison cell, one of three things is true.

1. The key is nearby, usually on a useless guard who’s right outside your cell, but doesn’t seem to notice you doing things like turning over the mattress on the cot, or digging bricks out of the wall, or finding tools in a cell that you’d never find in a cell.

2. A person or an animal comes along to help you. They usually communicate with you through a barred window, and conveniently bring you sleeping powder to drop into the guard’s coffee (which is conveniently within arm’s length of your cell door). That’s how you get the key mentioned in item 1. As usual, the guard doesn’t seem to notice you speaking to whoever comes to help, or drugging his coffee.

3. Another prisoner helps you get out. Somehow you can communicate with him without the guard right outside the door hearing every word of your dastardly escape plan.

Cleansing a Land

Those lands out in HOPA worlds need to be cleansed quite a lot. Like looking for the lost loved one, you’ll often be called on to cleanse a corrupted land, usually by defeating a baddie or finding a set of relics. For some reason, none of the inhabitants are capable of doing it, but they are able to tell you exactly how to do it. Makes sense, right?

“You must find the orb that belongs on my staff and then gather the three gems from the three guardians, slot them into the staff, and open the way to the goddess who will help us,” says the wise man. “To get the guardians to trust you, you’ll have to revive three fairies with magic water.”

The hero’s eyes narrow. “You’re the wise man, the spiritual leader of this land. Wouldn’t it make more sense for you to gather the gems? The guardians already trust you.”

“I would, except I stubbed my toe yesterday and can’t walk much today.”

Finding the Usual Objects

I’m convinced there must be a handbook titled “Hidden Objects to Put into Hidden Object Scenes,” because I always seem to be hunting for the same things:

  • Hearts
  • Magnifying Glasses
  • Insects (especially butterflies, lady bugs, beetles, grasshoppers, flies, and spiders)
  • Tools
  • Balls (baseball, beach ball, soccer ball)
  • Cameras
  • Hourglasses
  • Bows (both the decorative and archery kind)
  • Arrows
  • Angels
  • Flowers (especially roses)
  • Animals (especially cats, dogs, turtles, lions, elephants, lizards)
  • Money (dollars or coins)
  • Flashlights
  • Guns
  • Brooms
  • Clothing (especially gloves and scarves)
  • Whips
  • Eating and drinking items, like mugs, cutlery, and dishes

There are more. I’m sure you can think of objects you see all the time.

Doing the Usual Puzzles

Just as with objects, there must be a “Puzzles for HOPAs” manual somewhere. These are ones I see a lot:

  • Untangle ropes so none of them cross
  • Flip or slide things around to show a picture
  • Set weights / fuses / something else to the correct totals
  • The Tower of Hanoi puzzle (the one where you have to move rings or something else from the left side to the right side or middle, and larger rings can’t be moved on top of smaller rings)
  • Slide a key or block from the left to the right side by sliding barriers out of the way
  • Move a ball from the center of a labyrinth to a hole at the bottom by rotating the labyrinth
  • Move a ball or block into a hole, by rotating a board that has stationary blocks on it (the ball will stop when it hits a block)
  • Move a pin from one end of a board to the other by passing through each hole on the board once and only once (see the screenshot from Noir Chronicles: City of Crime at the top of this article)
  • Rotate multicoloured circles or squares so that adjacent colours match
  • Exchange the positions of red/white pieces
  • Remove all but one token from a checker-like board
HOPA Tropes: A hidden object scene.
A hidden object scene from Vacation Adventures: Cruise Director 6. Notice camera, baseball, and flashlight, which we’re often asked to find in HOGs and HOPAs.

There are more. Next time I play a HOPA, I’ll get to a puzzle and think, “I should have included this one on the list!”

Do a Puzzle to Learn Backstory

In many games, you’ll come across a book or other item that will tell you a bit of the game’s backstory, meaning what happened that led to the events in the game. Usually it will be the villain’s backstory, a tale about how he or she was betrayed, or scorned, or whatever happened that made them turn evil or want revenge on someone.

Usually a bit of backstory will be revealed three times. To see each bit, you have to complete a minigame, like find three hidden objects on a book page or something like that.

Most of the time it’s a book, but I played a game recently where you’d gaze into a mirror to kick off one of these sequences.


That’s my list of scenes, plots, and other things that pop up a lot in HOPAs. Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments.

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