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The first hidden gem of 2021 is Where’s Waldo meets ‘Lo-Fi Beats’

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Tiny Lands is simple and relaxing

a low-poly diorama of underwater life, including whales, in Tiny Lands Image: Hyper Three Studio/Maple Whispering Limited

Like so, so many others, an important part of my morning — following coffee — is opening YouTube and turning on its most relaxing channel: “lofi hip hop radio,” also known as “lo-fi beats to study to.” (Though I have to admit, I’ve added the lo-fi Bernie Sanders channel to my playlist lately, too.)

I can’t concentrate on anything — writing or other work — when I’m listening to music with words. That’s why I’m drawn to these sorts of lo-fi beats. It’s stimulating, but not too stimulating, so I can enjoy the feeling while doing whatever task needs to be done. I think that’s why I was immediately drawn to the relaxed, chill vibes of Tiny Lands, created by Hyper Three Studio. It’s the perfect mix of lo-fi music paired with a task I need to concentrate on: spotting the differences. It helps, too, that Tiny Lands is a low-pressure game, so the concentration necessary to spot the differences in these small worlds — à la Where’s Waldo? — isn’t too intense.

a darkly lit scene of a church and graveyard Image: Hyper Three Studio/Maple Whispering Limited

It’s a puzzle I could do right before I go to bed.

Tiny Lands was released Jan. 22 on Windows PC via Steam, and is available there for $6.99. Each level is its own isometric, low-poly 3D puzzle; using keyboard controls, I can rotate the worlds, zooming in and out to inspect details. There are about 50 levels, each with its own themed world; they’re set side by side next to each other, with five differences in each diorama.

To mark that you’ve spotted a difference, you click on the item, and it glows gold. Sometimes, items differ in color. Other times, it’s placement — a rake knocked over or not — or size differentials. It’s not absurdly challenging (like hidden object game Hidden Folks could sometimes be), but there were a few times I was stumped and spent a lot of time looking for an object that was, of course, obvious once I found it. But that’s the sort of thing I enjoy — that I can be delighted and surprised by a small, simple game.

If you’re into games like Hidden Folks, Cloud Gardens, or Islands: Non-Places, you’ll want to check this one out.