We’ve all heard kids playing the “I spy” game at some time or other. You know, “I spy with my little eye…something red!” An apple? Flower? Book? And, on goes the guessing until someone gets it right.
That’s the concept behind Mysteryville, the latest entry in the object discovery genre of puzzlers made popular recently by Big Fish Games’ Mystery Case Files series. And, like those titles, Mysteryville gets it right, mostly.
In the role of Laura Winner, ace reporter for Countryside Life Magazine, your visit to Mysteryville coincides with the disappearance of the town’s cats. A trained journalist, you decide to investigate the suspicious circumstances surrounding the absent felines and explore the village, question its residents and examine every miniscule detail on the way to solving this catastrophe. In the process, you uncover your own hidden abilities, as well as an ancient prophecy, but time is running out in the search for Mysteryville’s missing mousers.
As with Mystery Case Files (MCF), Mysteryville is all about finding objects buried in the midst of rooms spilling over with accumulated junk. The excess is so bad you’d think all the burb’s inhabitants were either eccentrics or sufferers of an obsessive-compulsive need to hoard. Every location is an absolute mess of accrued stuff from which you must extract necessary items.
Across the game’s 21 locations, you encounter a variety of puzzle types. Further, each location provides multiple item-based puzzles to solve. Mysteries consist of finding objects of a particular type (such as wine bottles, candles or playing cards), locating miscellaneous items from a list (frog, saw, phone, etc.), unearthing things based on their silhouettes, and locating the bits and pieces that differ in two almost identical side-by-side scenes. Plus, in a few cases, the “lights go out” requiring you to perform your search by flashlight. Click an item to select it, but don’t click randomly. Too many haphazard clicks elicit a time penalty.
Does Mysteryville add anything new or unique to the genre? Clearly, NevoSoft’s puzzler is inspired by the popularity of Mystery Case Files. As with Huntsville, Prime Suspects and Ravenhearst, Mysteryville charges you with the task of spying out “hidden” objects buried amid an overabundance of clutter. In Mystery Case Files, though, the “I spy” action is broken up with jigsaw-like puzzles, mini-games and/or elaborate mechanism-based posers that add variety and further the plot. You won’t find these in Mysteryville.
The MCF series isn’t the only inspiration. Consider, for instance, I Spy Fantasy from Scholastic and Paparazzi by Gogii Games. The former, for children, is pretty much a “laundry list” search spread across 30 locations. It lacks a time limit, but utilizes some drag and drop puzzles and a flashlight to lighten darkened scenes. In Paparazzi, your primary goal is to photograph items at each location that match a provided list. However, it also employs a side-by-side mode where you identify objects that differ from before and after images.
Mysteryville, it would seem, incorporates elements from both of these games. As indicated above, at several locations it employs a flashlight to provide light in darkened rooms and it makes use of side-by-side images in which you must identify items that differ from one to the other. Thus, design elements appear to be “borrowed” from multiple games.
Yet, all is not mimicry. Mysteryville does add a unique spin — interaction with the town’s inhabitants. During play, you actually get to know the dwellers of this odd hamlet from your dealings with them. And, interestingly enough, the visages presented are those of the real folks who designed the game, identified in the credits.
Unlike some of Mysteryville’s more well concealed objects, it’s simple to pinpoint the game’s best features. While objects vary in visual quality, locations and inhabitants are beautifully rendered. Audio, though limited, is pleasing without being repetitious. Puzzles themselves are engaging and enjoyable, if a bit contrived. And, there’s a good flow to the story. So, in general, it’s a competent offering.
With regard to “misplaced” objects, top scores aren’t displayed Ã la Mystery Case Files, so you don’t know how well (or poorly) you’ve done. A relaxed mode is notable by its absence. Moreover, once you’ve completed Mysteryville, there’s little reason to replay it. The storyline remains unchanged, as do most item locations (though, some randomness occurs). Coupled with a rather short game overall, four to six hours, the experience is a bit lacking.
Still, fans of find-and-seek style games will enjoy the foray into Mysteryville. It’s not inventive, but it’s still a fun diversion for those who enjoy object discovery — whether you care about the cats or not.