With no previous experience of the series, it was with slight apprehension that I approached the demo stand for Mystery Case Files: The Malgrave Incident at Nintendo’s UK Showcase.
Blending hidden-object puzzles, a mystery narrative and seemingly ‘Myst’ inspired explorative experience, I must have, for some reason, assumed that it would lack the engaging level of depth that I usually value during my unashamedly extensive gaming sessions. I’m pleased to say, then, that my hands-on proved my presumptuous mindset wrong.
The game’s storyline revolves around the wealthy Winston Malgrave, who claims to have made an extraordinary discovery on his secluded private island. His miraculous finding is a peculiar purple dust that appears to hold the power to cure the world’s illnesses. Following a request to hire the master detective of the Mystery Case Files detective agency to help save his wife, Sarah, Malgrave unwittingly opens a door to a world of shadowy intrigue and closely guarded family secrets. It therefore falls to the player to unravel such mysteries, as they seek the truth behind ‘The Malgrave Incident.’
Such a narrative feels as if it has been plucked straight out of a Sherlock Holmes novel, and that certainly isn’t a criticism. Malgrave’s secluded isle is a moody, atmospheric location that serves its distinct style particularly well.
As you wander its expanse, you’ll encounter instances where you must overcome particular obstacles – one such occurrence being a locked gate, in which the player must search for a rope that allows them to bypass it by traversing down a nearby rockface to a platform below.
In such situations you’ll have to complete a hidden-object puzzle in order to gain the item necessary to proceed, and these prove to be surprisingly addictive experiences. Slowly hunting across multi-layered images, which is a first for the series, you must spot a range of items listed upon a scrap of paper at the base of the screen. These can either be placed directly within the picture itself, or an outline blended into a cloud or beam of wood for instance. Difficulty varies greatly, with the player probably being able to spot a number of items within a matter of minutes before their search grinds to a halt as they painstakingly begin to scour the screen in more detail.
Pressing A numerously in the hopes of randomly discovering an item also won’t work. As well as potentially giving you RSI and undermining your satisfaction of finally locating that last elusive hidden object, it causes the screen to cloud and your character losing focus of the entire image briefly – there’s no threat of ‘dying’ per se within the game.
As the first Mystery Case Files title to be available on Wii, the inclusion of multiplayer also greatly adds to the overall value of the game. Whilst a number of competitive modes have been included in varying guises, it is the ability to play through the entire story co-operatively with up to three other players wielding Wii Remotes that will perhaps become a highlight for many that pick up the game. A seemingly perfect addition for families, this means that parents are able to assist younger players (or vice versa!), with the inclusion of a hint system aiding all when you’re stuck in narrowing down the search area for which the remaining hidden items may be found.
So, Mystery Case Files: The Malgrave Incident was a definite surprise for me at Nintendo’s UK Showcase. Surprisingly addictive, engaging and ideal for a group of players to help each other and work their way through together, it demonstrates that the Wii is still capable of providing its install base with unique software.
Mystery Case Files: The Malgrave Incident is due to release for Wii on September 9th across Europe. It’s currently available to purchase in North America.