Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir [Available on Nintendo DS]
ESRB Rating: E
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: Puzzle Adventure
Developer: Big Fish Games
Release Date: September 8th, 2008
Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir made me feel like a kid all over again. Like thousands of other youngsters, I enjoyed a monthly subscription to Highlights for Children, and occasionally playing around with Where’s Waldo? books. The object of the latter was to find a red and white stripe shirted fellow lost in an overwhelming crowd of people, while HfC featured a section of finding objects hidden in a manually drawn scene that was less daunting. Well on pure concept alone, that’s exactly what Mystery Case Files is for the DS.
You play as a nameless detective investigating a cast of characters, whose names bear rather painful puns, to determine the whereabouts of the missing Phil T. Rich. See? This is accomplished by confronting all the different personas and poking around in their respective environments. The objects you’re asked to unearth have absolutely nothing to do with the suspects or underlying story, but that’s part of MCF’s distinction. The disconnect feels strange at first, but you quickly forget the lack of any real association upon becoming lost in wanting to find the junk.
That’s literally the game, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Anyone can legitimately enjoy MCF:M, and that’s not something we often run into these days. Mom and dad can take pleasure in this as much as a fellow COE staff member, especially due to the pick-up-and-play aspect. Quick Play throws you right into one of the many environments and provides a list of objects to look for. There’s even multiplayer that boasts competition and cooperation, as a friend with a copy can either help you in the search, compete to find everything first. If that’s not enough, Treasure Hunt tasks you with quickly collecting Phil’s valuable relics, just to see how much of a running money total you can manage.
Side offerings can appease only so much though, which is where the campaign comes in, running a respectable eight to ten hours. You meet Phil T. at the beginning, as the protagonist (you) was summoned to his mansion to provide investigative assistance. It’s not long after that he’s kidnapped. Apparently someone not only wanted him gone, but his will as well, which bears the identity of his “MillionHeir“. Who’s responsible is your job to discover, and you do so by finding those objects.
Throughout a series of beautifully-drawn stills, a presentation that surprised me, you’re given a list of items to poke for with your stylus. Sometimes the detection is a little unreliable, hence my control score, but for the most part it’s a pleasant time killer to just hop into the plot and complete an inventory. Levels range from an underground mine adorned with precious jewels, to a kitchen overrun with crap. Well to be fair, the extra ‘crap’ is placed purposefully to throw you off. Every environment contains easily distinguishable objects that unequivocally don’t belong, in addition to hidden stuff that also doesn’t fall within the bounds of your task list. It’s easy to assume that MCF would be a cakewalk adventure, and while truthful at first, the difficulty certainly ramps up. Furthermore, you aren’t limited to merely looking around and tapping what you might think you’ve found. There’s more to this game of hide-and-seek than meets the eye.
For one, your clues never amount to more than words. That means you’re likely to feel as dumb as I in instances such as looking for the animal “bat”, when in reality the game wanted me to poke a baseball bat. Sometimes you’re charged to perform a small action, so if you see something like watermelon slice on your list, the game hopes that you’ll find a chunk of the fruit and cut it a piece. Upon landing the desired number of items, you’re then presented with a mini-game to gain access to the information you’re after. These consist of slide puzzles, twisting gears back into place, and more. Nothing you do makes any sense, but that’s not the point. The bottom line is that the visual team did a bang-up job in hiding their items in extremely clever ways. There is a reason why the game allots thirty or more minutes for some character investigations.
I especially like how the designers brought the static environments to life with ambient background sound. Some areas can be annoying, like the one with an incessantly active cuckoo clock, but the majority of the material delivers just enough pep to make it feel like you’re actually there. The chapter introduction themes also compliment the game’s mystery motif. It’s all simple and functional, which is fine by me.
It’s one thing for a game intended for everyone to actually come through in that respect, but another entirely to be so engaging despite such a simple concept. Even better is that MCF is portable, so this puppy can be taken anywhere and beg to be played. You might think my overall score is way too high, but I stand by it. After all, if kids could enjoy the limited Where’s Waldo? and Highlights so much for a couple bucks a pop, why couldn’t MCF: MillionHeir, a technically endless game, be viewed in a similar regard?