Two years ago, we were enthralled with Hidden My Game By Mom, a surreal puzzle game in which you play a boy looking for his missing Nintendo DS. The escape room-style game was filled with twists and turns, and each of its 30 short levels was filled with new surprises and endearing mistranslations. A simple, relatable concept driven by unpredictable gameplay, the game was one of the biggest hits for Hap Inc., a one-man studio created by Tokyo-based developer Yuusaku Ishimoto.
After another sequel, eventually the game made its way to the Nintendo Switch under the new name Mom Hid My Game! “The original title was what I got when I relied on Google Translate,” Ishimoto explained via email. “When going through another company for the Nintendo Switch release, it was pointed out that the translation was off. I thought that if it’s going to be released on a Nintendo platform, I would like to correct the mistake. Looking at the responses of users, I think that it would have been better to have kept the original title.”
Now, the game is back in its third installment with 35 more levels of mom finding creative new hiding spaces. Here’s what a typical level looks like: you open up to a room containing a locked wardrobe trunk. The room has a window. Outside, you can see clouds floating by peacefully. One of them resembles your mother. If you tap on it, she appears to chastise you, ending the game. If you’re a little more patient and you wait for your mom-cloud to pass, another cloud in the shape of a key will appear, which you can use to open the trunk containing your precious Nintendo DS.
Ishimoto is self-taught and actually doesn’t play many games. “When I was a student, there was a time when my goal was to write comedy manga,” he said. It’s clear that a lot of his inspiration comes from anime and manga. (He cites mangatarou as one of his favorites.) Each level is like a comic strip in a way; there are recurring characters like grandpa and sister who have been recruited by mom to make sure the DS stays out of the boy’s hands. There are also plenty of punchlines. “Ideas for the game came from there, so I want to continue with my manga on Twitter.” The comics can be seen on his main Japanese Twitter account, but he occasionally posts translated versions on his English account.
Hap Inc., which is short for “happy,” makes use of the recurring family members throughout a lot of its games, including one from sister’s point of view called My Brother Ate My Pudding! “The characters create unity in the world of the series. They are modeled after my own childhood,” Ishimoto says. “I’m thinking of a project that makes good use of characters.”
When asked about his ultimate goal, Ishimoto replied, “It is to maintain my present state for a long time. I would be happy if you could cheer me on.”