The Mystery Case Files, Big Fish’s series of hidden object/ puzzle adventure games, has managed to make its way onto the casual gamers console of choice with The Malgrave Incident for Wii. Get ready to stare intently at your TV screen.
Taking on the role of a memebr of the Mystery Case Files Detective Agency, the player is summoned to the mysterious Malgrave Island to hunt for some magical dust and solve the the mystery of why the island’s residents have all deserted this once popular place. The dust is required by the island’s owner, and seemingly only resident, to save his wife and it is his voice that will guide you for the most part around the island as you search for the dust and solve the numerous puzzles that hamper your progress. It is a fair assumption that more is going on around the island than first meets the eye, but it wouldn’t be much of an adventure otherwise, would it?
The largest portion of the game is taken up with the hidden object scenes. There are not a huge number of these scenes, but they are revisited frequently throughout the game with different objects needing to be found. I must admit to being a bit partial to some hidden object action, albeit usually on a much smaller screen. In this game everything is as you would expect. The player is given a list of items, some glaringly obvious, others a little more cryptic, to find amongst a static scene filled with all manner of different items. Some items are particularly difficult to find, being hidden or not quite what you expect them to be, but the game offers a timed hint button that will prevent the player from being stuck for too long. The game also allows the player to zoom in on the scene, effectively moving forward and sometimes allowing the player to view behind objects that are in the forefront of the screen. This was quite a nice little touch, making the finding of items easier on the big screen whilst also offering a new perspective from which to search.
But for the most part the hidden object scenes are exactly as you would expect, if you have ever played a hidden object game before. The same really has to be said about the puzzles, although a few hidden gems can be found in the game. The real problem with some of the puzzles is that they require a certain amount of exploration before they can even be attempted, but at no point does the game tell you this. The result can be an uncomfortable amount of time staring at a puzzle trying to work out where the hell to start, when all the explanation you need, or even the item you need to get started, will be found further down the road. But this is more a problem with the way that the game is set up, rather than the puzzles themselves which are mostly quite engaging.
Between the different sorts of puzzles, the player will spend their time wandering alone around the seemingly deserted island. The atmosphere of the island, helped greatly by the excellent soundtrack, is creepy and will spur the player on through the game, trying to find out what actually happened. The air of tension is such that communication with the eccentric owner of the island, which is heralded by a particularly jarring ringing of the Wiimote, will often result in a slight shock and the possible spillage of any beverage that the player may be holding. Had I not known the type of game this was, I would not have been surprised to see zombies come shuffling through darkened, empty doorways. But it’s not that kind of game, so they don’t.
But it is the type of game that weaves an interesting story. The pace may be slow and you will likely know who the villain of the piece is within the first couple of minutes of the game. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a certain amount of investment into the story, a desire to find out all of the secrets of the island and the truth behind whatever happened.
From a control point of view, the Wii lacks the precision that can be found with a classic keyboard and mouse. Using a point and click style interface for moving around the island, with players required to point at the bottom of the screen and click the arrow that appears to go back to the previous location, was never going to be as satisfying with the Wiimote as it is with the standard PC controls. But that being said, the controls only slightly hinder the player and instances where mouse-like precision may have been required seem to be more vague, activating as long as the player is pointing in more or less the right place.
The slow pace and requirement to keep revisiting locations will put off the less casual gamers, whilst fans of the series or hidden object games in general may find the controls a cause for concern. But looking beyond that, Mystery Case Files: The Malgrave Incident is a very solid casual title. It is certainly not for everyone, but if hidden objects are your thing, check this game out.