PC Games Reviews
Casual Friday: Mystery Case Files: Ravenhearst
By Derek Boiko-Weyrauch Feb 9, 2007, 23:17 GMT
Big Fish puts you back behind the magnifying glass of a detective in the third installment of the Mystery Case series.
Mystery Case Files: Ravenhearst is the third and latest installment in the Mystery Case Files series from Big Fish (available for download or purchase here). The game is set in England, and places you in the (gum) shoes of a master detective to unravel the secrets of an abandoned manor. You have been given a single diary entry from a woman who once lived there, and you must use the clues hidden in each of the rooms of the house in order to progress to the next level and ultimately solve the mystery of the deserted (and quite possibly haunted) house.
For the most part, the game plays like an 'I Spy' book: you are given a set of things to find in the current scene, and must track them down in order to progress to the next level. You don't generally have to find all of the items in a given scene in order to progress, but each 'level' requires you to find a certain number of items in a limited amount of time in order to move on. These items can be found in different rooms throughout the level, and once all of the items are found, they are put into your 'crime computer' and you are then able to piece together a new journal entry and get one step closer to solving the mystery. (Don't ask me how the crime computer creates journal entries from random objects lying around an abandoned house. Science, I guess.)
Finding items isn't always a case of clicking on the most obvious-looking object in a scene. Some items are purposefully ambiguous: a clue for 'rat' may either refer to the rodent or a set of blocks spelling out the word, and it takes some brain elasticity to both pore over a scene while simultaneously searching for each permutation of a clue. Items are also not in the most logical of places, and instead are scattered haphazardly throughout the scene and buried underneath one another. If you get frustrated, remember not to click everywhere in the scene. It may help you find an item or two, but it will take away thirty seconds of your valuable time. If you are truly stuck, there are up to five hints available which highlight the area of the scene that houses the next item on your list (though even while highlighted, you still need to look closely in order to discover the item).
Mixing things up a bit are some of the different puzzle types that come into play throughout the game. Though the mainstay of the game is 'I Spy' puzzles, there are also two additional puzzle types to give the game some variety. Several of the rooms within the house are protected by odd puzzle locks that you must solve in order to gain access to the items inside. These puzzles are strange Rube Goldberg devices that unlock the rooms, and you must figure out the underlying method to the madness and make the machine go before you can enter the room. Once you finish each level and all of the items are collected in your 'crime computer', you are presented with a puzzle (an actual puzzle, involving actual pieces that you actually place next to one another) that you must assemble in order to obtain a new journal page.
The 'I Spy' gameplay gets tiresome in longer sittings, and the two additional puzzle types do little to make the game anything more than tedious when played for several hours on end. It is, then, the very definition of a casual game: one that you pick up and play for a short period of time and which provides just the right amount of challenge for the time investment. Since each of the levels is timed, taking between 20 and 40 minutes each, the game is best-suited to small doses, taken over the course of several days or weeks. One episode per day is the right dosage to keep the gameplay fresh and the story intriguing. Anything more than that and the game becomes a chore and a mystery becomes a bore.
- Interesting puzzles
- A good brain-teaser in small doses
- Gets repetitive after a while
- Limited replay value