Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst is at its core a hidden object game, though there are strong point and click adventure elements at work here as well. Is this latest installment of the Mystery Case Files series reason for fans of the hidden object genre to rejoice? Read on to find out!
Dang -- These Puzzles Are Challenging!
In many hidden object games, it all comes down to having a keen eye for the details. Many of the best players are simply good at spotting things that are amiss in a given scene; they will be the first to notice that a lizard is hidden along a baseboard or a rolling pin is hidden in plain sight on a bookshelf perfectly aligned with the spines of the books.
In Return to Ravenhearst, having an eye for the odd isn't really going to get you very far since the entire place is far from normal. A teapot sitting in the overgrown shrubs? A candlestick in the pond? All completely normal at Ravenhearst.
There is strange rubbish all over the place, so simply spying an object that shouldn't be there doesn't mean that it's one of the objects you actually need. Moonlit celery floating in the night sky, a glowing crown hidden in the curtain and an intricately spun number 8 in a spider's web were all very eye catching, but none of them were the hidden objects the puzzle required. It's like trying to find the proverbial needle in a haystack.
This more complex type of hidden object puzzle is sure to challenge anyone, even if they play these types of puzzles quite a lot.
Step Into the Shoes of a Fearless Detective
Players take on the role of an intrepid investigator who is willing to deal with a few ghosts in order to get to the bottom of the mysteries of Ravenhearst Manor. The cursor will become a magnifying glass when placed over anything interactive, and this makes exploring the old, haunted manor more engaging. There are items of interest all over the place, and clicking on them will either provide a closer, zoomed in look or an astute observation about the item in question.
As players make their way through the building, certain places will sparkle, and those usually lead to hidden object puzzles. A great feature of the game is the fact that it saves the puzzle progress if the game is shut down before the puzzle is complete, meaning that players can pick up right where they left off next time.
Ravenhearst: The House That Love Built?
The plot in this game is dark and leans towards the supernatural. The fact that the imposing manor was built as a testament of love between Charles Dalimar and his sweetheart Emma Ravenhearst is a very disturbing thing in light of the fact that their great love was one sided, and Charles was delusional when he constructed "the house that love built".
After Emma's murder, her spirit had been tethered to the evil manor for years before she was freed, and there are still others suffering the same dreadful fate inside. There is no real love to be found within the walls of Ravenhearst at all, to say the least.
The ghosts within must be released from the grip of Charles Dalimar, who holds their chains even after death. In terms of motivation, this plot beats the standard rescue of a damsel in distress that many adventure games employ. It's interesting, unique and arresting.
Wonderful Graphics and Sound
The wind whistling through the trees, the creaking groan of a door with hinges long deprived of oil and the shifting and settling of a house unused to the weight of human occupants are all captured very nicely in this title. The sound effects were given plenty of thought and care, and the game really benefits from it.
The art style in this game is perfectly dark and evil, in keeping with the game's theme. The manor looks like something straight out of the old Scooby Doo cartoon series, only with painstaking detail and high quality artwork.
A Game With an Attitude
This game will razz and rib players when they try to use the wrong object or tool in the wrong place. For most of us, trying everything is pretty much essential when solving puzzles. "Having a bad day, are we?", "Did you actually think that would work?" and "Nice try, Sherlock." are just a small sampling of the game's playful barbs. One of the funniest comments was a remark about the state of the kitchen at Ravenhearst. Hilarious!
The snarky attitude the game takes with players proves that the game never takes itself too seriously. In this reviewer's opinion, it really adds something special to the game.
More Than Hidden Objects -- Everything is a Puzzle
In addition to the standard hidden object puzzles, Return to Ravenhearst takes every opportunity to make things into a puzzle. The types of logic puzzles vary, but they are all creative, unique and unexpected. They may be skipped, and this is good news for players who would rather only experience the hidden object aspect, but skipping does come at a cost. Each skip adds time to the overall cumulative game time. Skip with care!
Help System During Hidden Object Games Needs Improvement
The hints work well outside of the hidden object puzzles, but not so well within. During hidden object quests, there is no way to throw in the towel if an object can't be found. This is rarely a problem due to the hint system which will point players in the right direction by highlighting a smaller section of the puzzle to search, but what happens if a player can't find the object even after the hint? Hitting the hint button again only results in the same spot being highlighted again. An option to skip, even if severely penalized, would be an improvement.
Teeny, Tiny Objects
Some of the objects are simply too small, though the detailing is still quite high. The disproportionately miniscule objects will inevitably get under the skin of most players, resulting in some frustration. The first tiny object is the worst; players know to be looking for mouse sized objects after that.
This game has wonderful hidden object puzzles as it is, so there is no need to stoop to tricks like making some items horribly small.
Conclusion - Excellent and Challenging Hidden Object Game
Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst is a great puzzle game that is a must play for any fan of the hidden object genre. The quality of the graphics, sound, gameplay and story all come together to create a title that is hard to find fault with.
Review by Alice Flynn
Alice Flynn is a gaming enthusiast and journalist from Los Angeles, CA. She is currently obsessed with obscure foreign dramas, making tofu taste edible and the latest, greatest computer games.
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