|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Griptonite / Big Fish Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Nintendo||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sept. 8, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
It's happened to everyone at some point in their lives; losing an important item only to have to scan an entire room meticulously to determine if it's hiding in plain sight is a major pain. When the pressure is on, like losing your car keys five minutes before you're supposed to be at work, such tedious tasks can make you want to rip your eyes out completely. Imagine having to find a handful or even a dozen various items in a room full of odd junk - no thanks.
On the other hand, there are times when eye-teasers and optical challenges can make for an entertaining distraction from the rigors of daily life. In the past, casual developer Big Fish Games has found success with its Mystery Case Files hidden object games on PC, and it's no surprise Nintendo elected to bring the detective flavored puzzler to the DS as part of its Touch Generations brand. The handheld is well suited for the series. For those up to the challenge, Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir will give your eyes and your brain a steady workout.
The DS has seen a handful of detective games in recent years but none quite like MillionHeir. As a nameless and faceless detective, you're initially called in to help a millionaire by the name of Phil T. Rich locate a few misplaced artifacts strewn haphazardly around his mansion. However, after returning from six months tooling around on his massive yacht, P.T. Rich mysteriously vanishes and foul play is suspected. You're hired by the Rich estate to track down his whereabouts with the help of a crime-fighting super computer. The game's story element is rather thin and underdeveloped; it comes off simply as an excuse to pile tons of item-hunting puzzles onto a DS cartridge.
MillionHeir's setup may be par for the course, but the detective work ahead is far from you're typical investigation. The case will lead you to many knickknack-strewn locations where you'll interrogate some pretty eccentric suspects with humorously cliché names like Ron N. Hydes, Justine Time, and Manni Cotti, among others. Each has their own peculiarities, and they won't give up their information easily. While trying to piece together clues to determine who kidnapped P.T. Rich, you'll have to scour suspects' abodes for items to feed into the crime computer. There's often a disconnection between the plot and the items you're hunting for in each location - it's highly doubtful items like a frog, a pineapple, a bowling ball, an egg timer, and a Pluto have anything to do with a missing rich guy - but that doesn't make the puzzle gameplay any less fun.
Each puzzle area features a large, highly detailed scene filled with objects, and you're given a list of assorted items to locate somewhere in the frame. The top screen shows a smaller version of the entire image, while the touch screen is zoomed in and can be scrolled around to examine the scenery more closely. Crucial objects are often cleverly integrated into the background and disguised to make your task a challenge. It's possible to scroll across an area multiple times without ever finding the item you're looking for, even though it's in plain sight.
The puzzles get sneakier as you go. A time limit keeps you on task, though it's rare you'll ever run out before finding everything you need to progress. Tapping a correct item will erase it from the list, but tapping too frequently on incorrect objects will knock time off the clock. The list of items gets longer and more complex further along into the game. Some interactive items require you to decipher clues on how to satisfy the requirement for picking them up. For example, you'll find yourself having to trace a line from one object to another associated object or draw circles and lines on certain items. Special tools picked up along the way also add another layer of complexity to the challenges. Scanning the scenery with the x-ray machine lets you find items hidden within larger objects, while using the super straw by blowing into the mic puts out fires to reveal secret stashes. In some dark areas, the flashlight is essential to locating items. However, you'll sometimes run out of batteries and annoyingly have to backtrack to another level to quickly nab one. Fortunately, the gameplay never reaches a frustrating or overly difficult level. A limited number of hints can be used in each area to reveal the portion of the main image a particular item is hidden. This is great for when you get stuck or get impatient with the current scene.