Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir
Nintendo's latest detective game challenges you to rummage through people's junk, Where's Waldo style, with an x-ray machine. Let's see how long it takes you to spot the elephant.
Last February, Nintendo channeled our inner detective with Professor Layton and the Curious Village, a wonderful whodunit mystery game featuring numerous and delightful brain teasers. A sequel is on the way, but in the meantime, we have Big Fish Games' Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir, a fun DS game that tests your visual acuity. Instead of solving SAT like puzzles, you use various instruments to locate important clues. Full of imaginative scenery, ambient music and great controls, this stylish and fun offering is less Sherlock Holmes and more Where's Waldo.
Mystery Case Files casts you as an unnamed detective, charged with solving the mystery behind millionaire Phil T. Rich's disappearance. You'll travel to numerous exotic locations and meet eccentric characters, all of which possess clues to cracking the case. There's no world map and you don't actually control your character. Instead, the game presents you with a static image full of items and tasks you with finding specific objects with the help of a checklist. Once you complete the list (items include a baseball bat, crab, tuning fork, elephant and other bizarre things), you feed them to a crime computer that somehow makes a connection between a toilet and a Red Panda and produces a clue.
To find this stuff, you'll make use of various equipment that makes great use of the DS hardware. The Super Straw, for example, lets you blow things out of the way using the system's microphone, the flashlight illuminates dark areas and the x-ray machine allows you to see hidden objects. MillionHeir also requires you to think outside the box, so to speak, so don't always expect the solution to be in plain sight. Sometimes, you'll actually have to connect two points or physically remove objects. It's not always easy, and you should expect to spend upwards of 20 minutes or more on a single screen. As the saying goes, leave no stone unturned.
In addition to the cool single player game, there's also a neat multiplayer mode. Not only can you send a demo to friends who don't own the game, but you can also challenge up to three other people in a scavenger hunt to see who can find the most objects within a time limit. If there's only one DS to go around, you can play a mode where you pass the system back and forth while looking for clues. When the timer runs out, the player holding the DS is eliminated. Neither of these games are must plays, but both offer a diversion from the main adventure.
Although Mystery Case Files uses 2-D graphics, each scene is alive with vivid imagery. Big Fish Games did masterful work creating each locale and populating them with hundreds of objects. From a roaring fireplace to a celestial view, you'll marvel at the visuals as well as all the little touches, in particular the x-ray effects. Seeing an animal's bones is such a great feature, a small thing that adds depth to the experience. Kudos for Big Fish for including that.
It also deserves praise for the soundtrack, which is both inspiring and whimsical. Not only does each track fit its respected environment, but the music encourages us to push onward. Be sure to use headphones while playing.
So here's the problem. Although we dig this game, its characters aren't memorable. Nintendo and Big Fish missed a huge opportunity to write some hilarious or at least witty dialogue, but for the most part, nobody has anything interesting to say.
There's also the matter of detective work, or lack thereof. You play as an investigator, but you do very little sleuthing. Since the crime computer pieces everything together, all you need to worry about is finding stuff and solving jigsaw puzzles and other challenges. It's not a big deal, seeing as how Mystery Case Files is all about searching for things. Just don't expect Phoenix Wright style cross examination or a Professor Layton degree of challenge. There's a difficulty level that forces you to locate items within a time limit (and another to unlock), but that doesn't make the game significantly harder.
Difficulty notwithstanding, Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir is a delightful game. Its spiffy presentation, peppy music and sweet touch screen instruments make it a welcome addition to any DS owner's library. Plus, it's fun pouring over the details and spotting hard to find clues. Let's hope this isn't the last we see of this charming series.
What's Hot: Imaginative scenery brimming with detail, ambient music that perfectly fits the mood, lots of gadgets that make great use of the DS' abilities.
What's Not: Some puzzles are too easy, you don't perform much detective work, forgettable characters.