What is With This Place?
Rumors have always run rampant wherever the Void Mansion is concerned. How it’s supposedly haunted, how its proprietor, Dr. Malleus Void, conducted a number of strange and illegal experiments inside its walls, and so on. And ever since his death, its mysteries have remained closed.
But that can no longer last, for many curious minds have found themselves drawn to the place, celebrity minds even. Such as acclaimed horror writer Kevin Stings, world famous magician Jerald Springs, and rising Broadway starlet Rebecca Thatcher. None of them have been seen again.
As a member of the Mystery Trackers, a once ancient knightly order that has since turned to solving mysteries, it’s up to you to uncover what happened to the missing persons, and find out what has really lies within the Void.
Feels Like a Mystery
The story of The Void is pretty typical for the genre. In fact, if it wasn’t lacking the general snarky demeanor of the Master Detective protagonist from Mystery Case Files, you’d be forgiven for mistaking this game as another entry in that series. However, what it may lack in originality, it more than makes up for in the way its mystery unfolds. At the beginning, you don’t know anything at all; what kind of person Malleus was, what happened in his manor, or why the three celebrities went into it in the first place.
As you explore the Void, all of these things are gradually revealed to you through articles, journal entries, pictures and other things you discover. It’s interesting and nigh impossible to predict what you’ll find next, so you’re sure to get hooked, even if the beginning is a little abrupt.
Unfortunately, the story doesn’t quite unfold as well as it could have. Having the environment tell the story is all well and good, but The Void doesn’t really even do that. A lot of the articles you find aren’t exactly the most readable things out there and by themselves don’t reveal a whole lot. If you want to understand every little thing’s signicance, you’ll have to read your journal, which just feels a little too expository.
On the plus side, this method of following the story certainly gives you a good excuse to periodically also check for other clues you’ve found to help get past the other challenges the game stacks against you.
Once You’ve Seen One Spooky Manor, You’ve Seen Them All
The titular Void looks like how you’d expect. It’s dark, dirty and in disrepair. If you’ve played plenty of horror-themed hidden object adventure games, not a lot about this one is going to stand out. That’s not to say that the graphics aren’t good, far from it; they’re well drawn, intricately detailed, smoothly animated, and suitably atmospheric. There are also some nice touches, such as including a well-dressed frog that climbs onto your hint button to signify when it’s ready to be used, that show some thought and love was put into this product. So perhaps some parts of its derivative nature can be forgiven.
The music is pretty mediocre all around. It’s a fairly inoffensive medley of looping somber tunes that don’t particularly stand out. Sound effects do their part competently, though the occasional croak your frog helper emits can get a little annoying after a while.
Cracking the Case in Unusual Ways
Now as comparative to Mystery Case Files as Mystery Trackers is, it does differ in a few small ways. Whereas the former consists largely of hidden object games with a smattering of minigame puzzles thrown in for good measure, the latter places equal emphasis on both aspects of gameplay. And it works quite beautifully. The minigames are varied, well-designed and thought-provoking. Most are pretty challenging and intuitive, but each one also includes some instructions on how to find the puzzle’s solution.
The hidden object games, meanwhile, are decent. They’re not overused, and no single place is ever searched more than once. And some clever visual tricks are employed to keep them from being too easy. But they could use a little work at times. Some of the attempts to obscure the items are a little too effective, being so out of sight that it’s nigh impossible to identify them without a lucky click or a helpful indication from the hint button.
Maybe a Little Too Generous
Speaking of the hint button, it’s a tad on the easy side to abuse in this game. It takes some time to recharge, but it’s not long by any stretch of the imagination. Likewise, it can also be used to point you to where you need to go. This isn’t necessarily needed, since you can always refer to your journal, which automatically records any suspicious things you come across just in case they come in handy later. Unfortunately, you’ll probably be more inclined to just use the button, since the journal isn’t exactly the cleanest thing out there.
There seems to be as much random clutter in it as there are in the HOGs, a lot of which blocks the text you need to read. Similarly, all minigames can be neatly skipped without consequence.
Now, crutches like these can be ignored easily enough, but a little stricter enforcement would have been nice to ensure the player thinks on his or her own most of the time. That, or an inclusion of multiple difficulty levels so that players can fine tune the game the way they’d like. But as it is, The Void is always ready to offer a helping hand, for better or worse.
Attempts to Reward Effort
That isn’t to say that The Void doesn’t necessarily try to encourage you to think on your own. Similar to today’s console games, it includes a number of Achievements that are granted based on successful actions you perform as you progress. These of course include solving puzzles or getting through HOGs without resorting to the hint or skip buttons. On their own, they don’t really add much, but if you’re the type of player that enjoys getting everything you can out of a game, earning them all can add some much needed longevity.
Conclusion - Embrace The Void!
Despite the derivative nature of Mystery Trackers: The Void, and its generous nature, the flaws really aren’t all that glaring. Because beneath them, there’s a healthy variety of fun and challenging puzzles that require a fair amount of thinking and observation to solve. And getting to the bottom of the Void Mansion’s dark history is interesting enough, provided you’re willing to take a moment to read about them. Give it a go and enter The Void; it’s a well-made title with a nice coat of polish.
Review by David Galvin
Dave Galvin is a freelance writer and avid gamer. Somehow, he managed to find a way to combine the two passions.
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