Mystery and motive: two elements that surround all the characters in Freeze Tag‘s latest title Mystery Masterpiece: The Moonstone. Based off the original novel first published in 1868 by Wilkie Collins (and considered to be a precursor to English mystery novels like the Sherlock Holmes series), the game tells the tale of the missing Moonstone, a diamond of immeasurable worth. With a missing diamond and rumors of a curse lurking about it, this classic story turned hidden object game is sure to capture your imagination.
The story begins with the discovery of the Moonstone. India, 1799: Colonel Herncastle discovers the diamond within the headpiece of a Hindu god and steals it for his own. He then bequeaths the stone to his niece, Miss Rachel Verinder. Years later, once her uncle is gone, Rachel receives the stone as a gift, brought to her by her childhood friend and love Franklin Blake. With other guests in the house and fearing for the safety of the gem, she hides it in her cabinet, only to find it vanished the next morning. With suspicions running high, the renowned detective, Sergeant Cuff, is called in to question the guests and solve the mystery. Was it one of the guests, the doctor and his assistant, one of the housekeepers, or perhaps even Rachel herself? Secrets run deep as you investigate to discover just who stole the precious Moonstone.
Mystery Masterpiece: The Moonstone is a relatively linear hidden object game in which you play the part of Sergeant Cuff. There are nine suspects whom you must investigate and question to gather more evidence about the missing Moonstone. Each suspect has four hidden object levels devoted to them – true to the story, in the places where they most often are. In addition to finding hidden objects, you will also uncover additional tools and evidence cards to learn the facts of each to aid in your investigation.
Objects are cleverly hidden in logical places, causing the player to approach the game differently than the average "HOG," which often seems to hide objects wherever they fit best. However, don’t let this fool you – the game is very challenging. A hint system is implemented with unlimited hints, yet after using a hint, you must wait a short period of time before you can use another. There are 36 levels total, each area repeating at least once.
The Moonstone has done a wonderful job of remaining true to the original story from which it was taken, allowing those who haven’t read it to enjoy it and those who are familiar with it to experience it in a whole new way. Further expanding upon the experience, developer Freeze Tag has implemented music written by the famous composer Tchaikovsky, whom was very popular in the latter 19th Century when the story was written. The music really allows the player to have an "authentic" experience and it really aids the story in coming alive. With such classical tunes comes a sort of natural appreciation and patience for the game environments and those difficult-to-find objects.
However, there were a couple areas in which the game could be improved. When a character is interviewed by Sergeant Cuff, only the audio of that conversation is available: the text version of it can be seen after the scene. Having subtitles appear along with the dialogue would have been nice, though to the game’s credit, this was present in the final cutscenes. Furthermore, the art style is a bit quirky. In the title screen is a beautiful render of Rachel Verinder and colorful artwork of a few other characters. And yet, in the game itself the characters appear rather simple and bland, sometimes even awkward in appearance and comparison.
The Moonstone is a game that offers mystery and twists at every corner, really causing you to think about all the various suspects and motives and become involved in the story. Gameplay-wise there’s nothing particularly innovative about this title, but that certainly doesn’t make it a bad one. Any mystery enthusiast or hidden object gamer is more than likely to enjoy this clever game.