If it's crap ... We'll tell you
We’re still in January, meaning there’s really not much on the gaming front for this month. Sure there’s the awaited Final fantasy XIII-2 and Soulcalibur V but alas, I be broke. So I decided to return back to my video gaming roots, casual games. Unlike everyone else, I didn’t have that gamer’s epiphany while playing on the Playstation or even the SNES, it started with those $5, try it for an hour games. It was a surprise to still see Big Fish Games still shipping the Mystery Case File series, one of the games I attributed to the rise of the casual game empire.
Thing is, when they first started, their games were like this.
They had funny cartoon characters of your good ol’ stereotypes of gangsters and dames, searching a New York-esque city for pine cones, hotdogs and bowling balls in order to find the Queen’s Hope Diamond. (Of England, not of the Corner) Now here is their latest release: Escape From Ravenhearst.
Yeah. Now that is quite fucked up. Mind you, the target audience is 8 – 12 year old gamers and middle aged women, as well as senior citizens. Me thinks they doth hitting the wrong ball. Either way, it is an evolution of the series. The game puts you back in Ravenhearst AGAIN (This is the third game here) after you receive a message telling you to come quickly after numerous people around the area have gone missing.
You quickly get trapped by your life nemesis Charles. Technique, he is a re-animated immortal being of evil, so you can call him a politician. After saving his dead wife’s soul in the first game, saving his maid’s soul & 2 kids in the second game and burning down his house, he is pretty miffed to say the least. I mean, he was only trying to keep them for all eternity in an underground cavern town with his insane son who is currently 70 years old. How could you, you jerk.
In efforts to make you understand the plights of his pretty fucked up life, he puts you through the ringer of insanity, from his birth to his marriage, to make you get to know him better. Now this really sounds like the premise of the sequel of Amnesia or the spiritual successor of Dead Space but no, it’s a kids game. They even placed a warning at the purchase screen.
Yikes. In a moment of pure stupidity I picked it up and started to play it from start to end. I did have the strategy guide, not because I’m bad, but I already have the eyesight of a doorknob so I wish to not go blind. A striking difference in the game is really the gameplay. In the first few incarnations of the game, it has been a list of items you have to find in the scene and going from place to place to find them. In EFR, you have to look through scenes for morphing items, things that change over time. You also have to scour environments for items to solve puzzles a-la point and click. The fact that they have decided to overtime evolve the series does show they’re not playing to the small crowd anymore.
The sound and music is daunting to say the least. Most of the music should not be in this game, it should be in the brightest of rooms surrounded by nightlights in order not to terrify any more souls. In other words, scary as hell. The sound effects, which in previous games were just background noises are now pretty much hellish in a scary way. In the first area which is a hospital, I had to constantly hear screaming. No, not terrified screaming, in pain screaming. Over and over again. Seriously, this is for the young and old? What is this, electronic euthanasia?
The graphical of the game is tricky to talk about. It borders on real life recordings and realistic backgrounds and environments. The style is like a dystopian Victorian car that crashed into a Steampunk pedestrian along the way. Once again, the world is as creepy as a haunted house with clusterfuck thrown in, certain realistic scenes are rather scaring, I mean there were times I was wondering how the hell they were even able to ship this game.
The star of the game is also its weakness, the story. The whole plotline plays out Saw style as Charles taunts you over TVs and intercoms, putting you in rather hellish worlds he created and the experiences he had to go through. Not to spoil anything, but the bit right before the final climax will have you screaming WTF at your screen, not because it becomes gruesome, just downright Batshit crazy. Up to that point, the game plays brilliant, great puzzles and story. The end has this brilliant puzzle that I needed a small bit of help to complete, but once I did, I wish I didn’t. The last 3 minutes of cutscene ruined the game, hamming acting, plotholes and rather awful ending scene and cliffhanger. All of those things in 3 minutes, even casual games aren’t spared from the curse of horrible game endings.
Mystery Case Files: Escape from Ravenhearst didn’t pop up on anyone’s radar in 2011, but maybe it can in 2012. The world of the game is bizarre, messed up and downright mental maddening. New gameplay makes it a little easier, with exception of certain puzzles. (The Door Puzzles) stay for the world, leave before the end hits your ass on the way out.
This is just a concept art. You convinced yet?
THE GOOD: The atmosphere of the game, most puzzles
THE BAD: The last 3 minutes of the game, the Door Puzzle from Hell
THE WTF: THE WHOLE GAME
THE SCORE: 8/10 Warnings for Children