Mystery Case Files

[Review] Mystery Case Files: 13th Skull (PC)

I got a lot of boxed games…and they are begging to be played! Most are point-and-click, and most I’m sure you’ve never heard of! Here is one of them!

Mystery Case Files: 13th Skull is the seventh installment of the Mystery Case Files collection by Big Fish Games. I have some familiarity with MCF games, having played Mystery Case Files: Malgrave Incident on the Wii a couple of years ago, as well as Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir on the Nintendo DS. I like the series as every game is unique in its own right, either by its storytelling, or graphic execution. The production value is predominantly top-notch, and 13th Skull is no exception.

Sara and Marcus Lawson move from Ohio into a run-down mansion amid the swampy bayous of Louisiana, along with their daughter Magnolia. Soon after settling in, Marcus goes missing, and Sara calls upon you, a detective, to find him. In the meantime, you must rummage through this dirty creepy mansion, interview rednecks and avoid alligators all in the name of detective work, just so you can locate Sara’s husband. While gathering evidence, you discover that the mansion and town are steeped in pirate history, the townfolk are superstitious and a brigand by the name of Phineas Crown once lived and buried his treasure at the mansion. There is also gossip around town of the curse of the 13th Skull, a spell that is cast on anyone who locates the treasure. Sooner or later, Marcus is found, along with some interesting plot twists. Arr Matey!

13th Skull is a point and click hidden object adventure game that does very well to encapsulate a feeling of the old South with its characters, settings and music. The puzzles in this game are typical, but fun and challenging. What sets this one apart from other HOGs, is the use of live-action interview scenes that the gamer is made to participate in to advance the story. The major characters of the story – Sara Lawson, her daughter Magnolia, their superstitious housekeepers, and some town locals are represented. The game places the full-motion actor within the game’s UI, so it appears as though the actor is living in this virtual world. The interview part is an interesting aspect and enriches the experience. The acting? Well…it’s a bit cheesy and exaggerated, but I liked how Big Fish Games tried to do something different within a hidden object game.

Although the puzzles were challenging in 13th Skull, there happened to be several instances where you would have to scour the game’s numerous scenes, including the bar, swamp, cemetery and the Lawson house’s 10 rooms to find one single object needed to continue in the story. At the end of the puzzle, it was easy to lose track of where you are going and what you were supposed to be doing next. This is a minor critique, and the game comes with a walkthough to help you out, if you are so inclined to use it.

Critiques aside, 13th Skull is a fun game that shouldn’t be missed, and fits nicely within the pantheon of Mystery Case Files games.

3.5/5

Mystery Case Files: 13th Skull (PC)
Big Fish Games
2010

[Review] Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir (Nintendo DS)

I have had a love/hate relationship with some of the hidden object mystery games that have come out for the Nintendo DS. There have been some awful ones (Women’s Murder Club, anyone?)! The problem with some of these games has not only been terrible story-lines, but that the game itself is not the least bit conducive to playing on the DS’s dual screen. So when I find a game that has a decent plot, and utilizes the DS effectively- AND it’s fun!- well, I am all over that! Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir is such as game, and if you haven’t played this on the DS, you are missing out, my friends.

In case you are not familiar with the Mystery Case Files series of hidden object mystery games,they are a series of 11 games so far which include such awesome games as the Wii-exclusive game, the Malgrave Incident (which I raved about this fall), and others that I have played in the past but have not reviewed yet, such as 13th Skull, and one of the best out there, Dire Grove.

In MillionHeir, you play a detective who is charged with investigating the disappearance of Millionaire tycoon, Phil T. Rich. You are presented with a list of suspects, and several scenes to search for hidden objects, and clues that incriminate or acquit a suspect. The scenes are easy on the eyes (for once!), and the gameplay uses both DS screens to their full potential by using the top screen as the wide-angle perspective of a scene you are searching, and the bottom screen as the extreme close-up of the scene. This means, you can actually see details of objects you are trying to search!


For a DS game, the quality of the graphics in MillionHeir was very impressive, too. Each scene was intricate, attractive and not cheesy. The only thing cheesy was how the characters were rendered in the game, but you only see them briefly throughout the gameplay.

The hidden object aspect is fun, as you are given some different tools to use to search the scene. For example, you are given a flashlight for when the lights go out, and a cool x-ray machine you can use to scan around and find other hidden items. The game is not simply hidden object, either. There are puzzles to put together, pieces of paper to gather, pictures to draw.

There are two modes of play – easy and difficult. The difficult setting has timed searches and only a few hints to pull from. The easy mode is a lot more forgiving – no timed searches and the hints increase with every scene completion.

Mystery Case Files has another winner in MillionHeir; an excellent hidden object mystery game for the Nintendo DS.  I highly recommend picking this one up!

Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir
Publisher: Big Fish Games
Released: 2010

[Review] Mystery Case Files: Malgrave Incident (Wii)

I have always associated the Wii with fun casual games like Wii Sports and Boom Blox, so a hidden object game for the system wouldn’t be that far fetched. In comes Mystery Case Files: Malgrave Incident, a full-on hidden object adventure game for the Wii! I am no stranger to the Mystery Case Files series, having played Dire Grove, Ravenhurst, 13th Skull, among others on the PC. Let me tell you, I was not the least bit disappointed in Malgrave Incident; it was fun, well-made and addictive. I just couldn’t stop playing it.

51rVrnknZlLIn the game you are hired as a detective by Winston Malgrave – a rich fosselized inventor who has called you to his island to help save the life of his wife Sarah. His island apparently has a magic dust that restores youth and cures all illnesses, but it is currently in short supply, so Malgrave wants you to investigate his island and find as much of the stuff as you can. But, upon arriving on the island, you discover things are amiss, run-down and deserted, which adds to the mystery behind Malgrave’s request: What is this dust? Who is this Malgrave?

Malgrave Incident was a great story with a very fun gameplay. The five-chaptered story takes you to different locales through the island that are easy to navigate, thanks to an interactive map, which allows you to move between scenes easily instead of manually moving from one scene to the next. The game is full of complex, multi-layered hidden object games. The Wii-mote allowed you to zoom into HOG scenes nice and close which was great for those with bad eyesight (you lookin’ at me??). There are also other puzzles you need to solve in order to unlock a door or to release the magic dust into the several dust collecting machines Malgrave has you use at the end of every chapter. The game’s graphics, animations and music were very well-done. No cheese here!

A couple of disappointing aspects though: some of the hidden object scenes are re-used, which isn’t a problem in and of itself; but, the second last hidden object scene had me search for the very same items I had searched for previously. That is just laziness on the part of the game developers! And one more thing: If you give me a puzzle, I expect a brief instruction on what I am supposed to do. Every puzzle presented to me had no instructions, and some were vague, which resulted in my consulting a walkthrough just to get a clue!

Overall, I would highly recommend Mystery Case Files: Malgrave Incident. It’s a great game with excellent replay value. And, you can play multi-player, which adds to the Wii’s appeal. Pick up a copy and add it to your collection!

Mystery Case Files: Malgrave Incident
Developer: Big Fish Games / Publisher: Nintendo
Released: 2011