Casual gamers who believe the popular "hidden object" game genre has already reached its peak should reserve their opinion until they click around with Cate West – The Vanishing Files, a highly-polished and story-driven seek-and-find game with many game-play variations to keep things fresh.

Gamezebo played through five chapters of the game and we liked what we saw very much. Here’s the scoop.

You play as an attractive young novelist, Cate West, who is blessed with the ability to see visions. It is this sixth sense that gains the attention of the city’s police force, who approaches Cate to help them nab suspects from seemingly-unsolvable crimes. Cate obliges, but soon discovers a link between various crimes, and also stumbles upon an even bigger mystery dating back thousands of years.

With more than 75 levels spread out across 15 chapters and 29 locations, Cate West – The Vanishing Files is also one of the longest games of its kind.

The story is told through great-looking animated sequences (yay, no comic books for a change!), that introduces us to a handful of characters in Cate’s life and gives us many hundred lines of dialogue to indulge in, which contributes nicely to the story’s depth.

At its core the game is a hidden-object puzzle, but plays on different variations of this theme. In the main game type, you’ll hunt for clues (read: objects) littered throughout the city. You’ll be presented with a busy scene, such as a back alleyway, abandoned hotel lobby, messy office or a subway, and you’ll be asked to find a number of items listed along the side of the screen. You also have a limited time in which to do it. When you see what you’re looking for — such as a domino, spider, baseball, hot dog, clock or wrench – you click on this well-hidden item and it’s scratched off your list. Sometimes you need to think a little, such as being asked to find "a quarter of 24" (answer: the number 6) or the 14th letter ("N").

Once you find all the clues, Cate assembles the evidence and reveals where the criminal’s hideout is on the map. This now turns into two kinds of "match" game types – one of which we’ve seen before – as Cate matches the scene to her "vision." The first and familiar game type involves looking at two near-identical pictures of a location side-by-side, and you must click on all the differences between the two photos, such as one fence taller than another, or a statue facing opposite ways, and so on. The second kind of match game also involves two near-identical photos but you must drag and drop items from the bottom of the screen to make both pictures look identical, such as placing a butterfly on the wall or teacup on a table.

Somehow (we don’t question these things), Cate can then deduce which are key pieces of evidence – such as a teapot and a toy rocket — from everything collected and you must then play another hidden object game to find scattered pieces of this item to build it whole. This is similar to the Agatha Christie: Peril at End House hidden-object game, where you also play as a savvy sleuth.

Finally, you will have a number of suspects to read about and, by process of elimination, deduce who the criminal is and testify against them in court. For example, you will see drawings of eight men and women, and when you analyze the clues you might find the suspect is a woman, likes animals, is healthy, and has the number 19 in her life. With this info you must read the bios of these suspects and select the one responsible for the crime, such as vandalizing a bookstore. This feature was also found in the casual game, Puzzle Detective.

As you can tell, Cate West -The Vanishing Files has a lot of game-play to sink your mouse into. Toss in a great story and high production values (attractive graphics and moody music) and hidden-object fans will find this promising game one to watch for.