Seek and Ye Shall Find
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.
Other kinds of puzzles are worked into the game to give your eyes a chance to rest every so often. Some require you to note the differences between two similar images, while others offer cutely animated logical conundrums. There’s also an assortment of jigsaw puzzles, sliding puzzles, matching games, and other brain teasers to break up the monotony of staring intently at dozens of finely detailed images for hours on end. These side diversions are a wise addition, but they’re nowhere near as challenging or fun as the main event.
Strong audio and visual accoutrements set MillionHeir apart from the slate of generic casual games available on the DS. Every colorful, picturesque scene is large and full of vibrant detail. The small DS screens may require you to peer closely at times, but they’re certainly manageable. Though there’s not a lot of emphasis on them, the inclusion of subtle animation adds a nice touch to the different location in the game. The playful soundtrack switches up frequently and fits the nature of the game perfectly. Frequent sound effects for objects and scenery elements also enhance the item hunting experience.
A fine level of polish was heaped on MillionHeir, yet the framework of the adventure falls short of providing a cohesive gameplay experience. The object hunting puzzles are excellent, but they don’t always feel connected to the story or the characters. Playing the game feels very little like detective work and very much like playing a long string of puzzles. Had the attempt at fancy trappings and plot been stripped out completely, the game could have just as easily been successfully marketed as another puzzle collection. As an interactive adventure, MillionHeir Falls short. Still, it’s one hell of a puzzle game.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.9 Graphics
Tons of beautifully detailed locations to meticulously pore over and a strong visual presentation. 4.0 Control
Solid controls utilize the touch screen and mic cleverly. It’s a smooth transition from PC to DS. 3.9 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Pleasant background music mixes cohesively with interesting item-specific sound effects. 3.8
The item hunting puzzles are a blast, though the extra puzzles and the story are not quite up to snuff.
3.9 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.