The real mystery is… why is there no mystery?
HIGH Spotting hidden items is actually enjoyable in limited doses.
LOW The grinding repetition necessary to reach the game's end.
WTF Why is the country-western singer a vampire?
Ostensibly an effort to capitalize on the now-in-vogue "casual" games demand, Nintendo and Big Fish (the biggest names in their respective fields) have joined forces to bring Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir to the Nintendo DS.
MillionHeir places the player in the role of a detective from the Mystery Case Files agency. The task at hand is to discover what happened to deceased millionaire Phil T. Rich, and to whom his vast fortune should be bestowed.
Or at least, that's what the box art would lead you to think.
In truth, there's precious little detective work going on here. More accurately, the game can be described as a series of still pictures, in which dozens of items are cleverly disguised. Is that an eagle in the shrub? Is that shadowy piece of wood on the staircase banister actually a baseball bat? If you've ever read Highlights magazine or seen something similar on the comics page of any given newspaper, you'll get the idea.
Frankly, it can be somewhat entertaining to give the eyes a workout while trying to discern camouflaged shapes. It doesn't require much brain power, and there's nothing too complex about the formula, so it's a nice way to kill some free time. However, this sort of diversion is only potent in small doses. In order to give it some legs, the developers should have actually capitalized on the game's premise: detective work.
For example, when looking for "clues" to determine someone's relationship to the deceased, there's absolutely no element connecting the hidden items to the case. The suspect may be a fireman, but the things required to be found are nonsensically disparate like a dollar bill, a fish, a donut, a car, and so on. It would have made a lot more sense and would have felt far more rewarding to be on the hunt for things that could actually be construed as clues—things like a gasoline can, a book of matches, and a torn rag.
The hunt-and-seek that makes up most of the game is occasionally broken up by small sliding puzzles or other sorts of minigames, but again, these seem completely arbitrary and have no bearing on "the case" or the player's "investigation." In one such instance I was asked to collect fingerprints, but at no point in the game did I need to match the prints, or do anything with them at all. The same goes for the DNA minigame. Complete the helix, but don't bother doing anything with it once it's done.
I get the idea that Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir is supposed to be on the "casual" side of the spectrum, but casual doesn't need to mean "brainless." The story is complete piffle, there are no choices or decisions to be made, and I don't quite understand the insistence on trying to position the entire thing as a murder mystery in need of a detective. It would have been more honest advertising if the game was simply titled "Find the Hidden Items" and left at that. It's not a terrible effort, but there are dozens of missed opportunities over the course of the game that could enhance the entire experience, and the fact that practically none of them were taken left me scratching my head.
Disclosures: This game was obtained via retail store and reviewed on the Nintendo DS. Approximately 4 hours of play was devoted to the game (completed 1 time).
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains only violent references so you have nothing to worry about. There's no violence, no questionable language, and no sexual content. There's practically not even any animation, for that matter. If you've got some sort of issue with your child filtering hidden shapes out of a busy background then stay away, but otherwise the content here will be suitable for anyone.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: There should be no problems whatsoever. All dialogue is presented through text, and there are no auditory cues necessary for gameplay. Everything here is entirely visual, so you can jump into it without any fear.
Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:
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