Hidden object game fans are no strangers to murder mystery plotlines, but Redrum takes things down an even darker path. Not one to play in front of the kids, the game is a chilling psychological thriller that combines crime and the supernatural. While still pretty tame by horror movie standards, it’s still the closest thing to "horror" that you’re likely to see in a casual game.
The story, told through a variety of letters, diary entries and email correspondences, weaves together the fates of several characters. Dr. Sigmund Fraud is a crooked psychiatrist who thinks he’s hit on a gold mine patient: Rose, a disturbed young girl who claims to hear voices. With divorced parents who argue constantly and a wealthy father, Rose presents Dr. Fraud the perfect opportunity to get rich by saddling the father with medical bills. There’s only one problem: aside from hearing voices, Rose really doesn’t seem that sick, so Fraud has to keep convincing the father that Rose is sick enough to continue his expensive treatments.
Rose’s uncle, however, who happens to be a detective, smells a rat at the asylum. What’s more, the "imaginary friends" that Rose talks to give her information that she’s able to pass on to her uncle that help him crack the murder cases he’s investigating.
Each chapter in the game starts with a new murder, which Rose’s uncle begins to investigate. You’ll help him by searching the crime scene for clues by finding all the items on his list. Meanwhile, back at the asylum you’ll also have to foil Dr. Fraud’s unethical attempts to make Rose sicker. In one example, he tries to inject her blood with a virus and you must find all of the viruses and click on them to get rid of them.
When Rose’s "friends" communicate with her, she is able to revisit the crime scenes in her dreams. This is portrayed as a unique hidden object twist where instead of searching for items, the scene itself is divided into mosaic-like tiles and you’re given a list of tiles to match. Rose delivers the clue to her Uncle in an anagram, which you must decipher in a mini-game. Then, it’s back to the crime scene to search for more evidence.
You can earn extra hints by finding roses hidden in each scene. There are also two modes of play: Timed mode where there are time limits for each scene and penalities for too many random clicks, and a Relaxed mode with no time limit or penalties.
Redrum has a wonderfully creepy atmosphere, thanks to brooding visuals and music. Be warned though, the visuals can be quite graphic. If you’re easily disturbed by images like blood, syringes, bones and bodies without skin then you might want to approach Redrum with caution. The themes that the game explores – like divorce, mental illness and cruelty – are equally mature.
In terms of challenge, Redrum is about average for a hidden object game. The most difficult scenes to pick through are those of Rose’s Dreams, which involve more abstract imagery. There are ample hints, however, and I actually found myself with a little stockpile left over after I finished the game.
While Redrum is no slouch in the gameplay department, the real reason to play this game is to experience the story. I’ve encountered a lot of video game villains over the years, but the diabolical Dr. Fraud is one villain that you really want to see go down, and the vulnerable Rose and her courageous uncle are two heroes you’ll really find yourself rooting for.