Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir (DS) Review

I haven't done a DS review in a while, so let's correct that. What we have here was a game I saw was $20, was somewhat familiar with it, so I decided to pick it up-- completely on a whim. It's none other than Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir for the Nintendo DS.

Who Wants to Be A MillionHeir?

One of my favorite types of books in my childhood were the "Where's Waldo" series. 1) I loved surveying the pages, discovering new things I didn't see the last time, and 2) There were little words to read. There have been several PC games featuring the same kind of "find person or thing in complicated picture" hook, but the Nintendo DS, which seems perfect for such a concept, hasn't seen much of any games of the sort. Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir, from Nintendo and Blue Fish Games, aims to bring the joy of searching for meaningless items to portable and electronic form. Is this case worth solving, or should you "find" a better alternative?

A grossly wealthy man by the name of Phil T. Rich has gone missing. All the while there's a cavalry of kooky characters to contend with-- one who is the sinister villain behind the quirky millionaire's disappearance, and the other who his the rightful heir. With MCF badge and stylus in hand, it's up to you to solve the mystery through ten chapters. Everything in Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir is extremely light-hearted from the plague of
puns that the characters like Cole Minor, Manny Cotti, and Emmy Daynow are infested with to the goofy eccentricities of their personalities. That said, this mystery won't have you on the edge of your seat, eager to solve the case by any means.

Going from literary merits (or lack thereof) to the aesthetic side of things, the areas that need to be pillaged through are full of an exquisite amount of detail. Each area looks like a well-painted work of art and are very nice on the eyes. Most of these have one or two segments of animation such as a train roaring down the rails in the background or the intermittent squawking of a cuckoo clock. Character design is very goofy, dark, and the cast looks like they just escaped from the box art of the Clue board game. Musically, the soundtrack is fairly limited, but a few themes do stick out. An annoyance comes from background chatter and other forms of sound effects during the game as you're searching through the game's many areas. It just comes off as grating after a short while.

Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir takes the finding fun of the "Where's Waldo" and "I Spy" series of books to interactive form with an exhaustive amount of puzzles to solve. Each nominee for heir that you interview requires uncovering various hidden doodads throughout multiple screens before they'll open up to you. Each screen is one large area that can be scrolled and surveyed either with the face buttons or by tugging with the stylus. A list of items to find rests on the right side of the bottom screen. This can be toggled in and out of view at any time. The list of items ranges from a handful of items up to ten. Sometimes you'll be asked to find three of a given item before that item on the list is checked off. Starting off, items are quite easy to spot. A poke of the stylus marks it off as found. As the game progresses, the amount of items needed to find and the difficulty of finding them increases. Some of which later on are just frustrating to find as they can be camouflaged, and most items are just in nonsensical locations so they can be anywhere. However, when patience is something that can't be located, there's a finite amount of hints that can be used to automatically reveal the location of a given item.

There's more to finding items than just poking and prodding for items. Some items on the checklist are actually clues. A clue such as "Apple of My Eye" would require you to draw a line connecting an apple to an eye of some form while other clues need you to interact with an item by rotating, rolling, and so forth. Additionally, there's numerous tools that a detective needs in order to solve the case at hand. The flashlight illuminates darkened rooms, the X-ray will spot items that otherwise would be impossible to spot with the naked eye, fires can be blown to smoke with the DS' microphone, and the goggles can locate items hiding just underneath sunken depths. Apart from the scavenger hunts, there's special puzzles and activities between hunts such as a Rubus cube-like tile puzzle, jigsaw puzzles, fingerprint-dusting and more. They're nothing extraordinary, but they do help break up the monotony of the core game.

And boy, is there a lot of monotony here. The main problem with Mystery Case Files is after a bit into the story, the entire game just feels like one long grind. Find these items. Great job! Now find these items. Great job! Now find these-- you get the idea. It gets very tedious doing four different screens of searching and making little headway in the grand scheme of the game. It got to the point where I was so disinterested, I just started tapping every inch of the screen for items. Since there's no penalty for this, it was a heck of a plan. Didn't make the game any more fun, but it did make it go by much more briskly. The design of MillionHeir just doesn't work for this kind of game. It's far too linear, and it drags on way too long.

Puzzles like this break up the scavenging.

Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir does a lot to try to make itself stand out. However, with the ultimately very shallow and repetitive gameplay which makes up the heart of MillionHeir, this DS detective game is just a bit difficult to recommend. As it is, the game is $20 new, and it serves as a good time-killer in short spurts at the very least. Otherwise, you may just want to stick to spotting Waldo, Wilma, and Odlaw in print.

[SuperPhillip Says: 4.5/10]

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