Everyone knows that the narratives attached to most hidden object games are usually superfluous, that they typically provide only the most basic framework necessary to create a shell of purpose for a player’s exhaustive searching. Occasionally, though, the story actually works well within the context of the game, and Defenders of Law: The Rosendale File, a criminal investigation-themed HOG in which players select potential crime scenes to visit and spend their time searching for clues, is a prime example.
The game begins with a quick overview of the death of a wealthy elderly woman named Mrs. Rosendale. The prosecution selects some poor, innocent sot to blame and it’s the player’s job, as a member of a firm called Defenders of Law, Inc., to do their best to get the guiltless suspect off the hook while tracking down clues HOG-style to identify the real criminal.
The game’s shtick is that each new case is randomly generated. Mrs. Rosendale is always the victim, but the circumstances and perpetrator of her death change each time you start a new game. The murder weapon, location of the crime scene, and killer are shuffled each case, allowing players to play through the adventure multiple times with slightly different stories and resolutions each time.
In each chapter players are presented several charmingly rendered locations-a castle, a coffee shop, a marina, etcetera-each of which has a floor map from which rooms to search can be chosen. As in most hidden object games, these rooms are highly cluttered and in dire need of maid service. That said, the objects we have to sort through are generally fitting for their environment. The castle armory, for example, is filled with various swords, axes, hammers, guns, helmets, and other implements of war.
What’s more, the objects we search for usually have appropriate proportions and are found in the places you’d expect-masks are found hanging on walls, envelopes on cluttered desks and tables-allowing players to use common sense in their searches.
Scattered among the random objects are a few unique pieces of evidence that show up only once in all of the rooms you visit, such as gun pieces or broken glass. These items are examined in a crime laboratory by dragging them under magnifying glasses and chemical analysis kits to create reports, which are then used in court.
The court sessions, of course, are supposed to be the culmination of all your hard searching, the place where you get to show off the results gathered from your long minutes spent combing through mounds of miscellany.
Unfortunately, they’re a bit of a letdown.
Assuming you’ve found all of the items you need to make your case-which is highly likely, given that even in the stopwatch mode you probably won’t need more than half the time provided to search all of the available areas-all you have to do is select from a couple of dialogue options (one obviously right, the other clearly wrong) to explain to the judge why you object to the prosecution’s case in a few key places.
Indeed, if there’s one complaint that can be leveled at the game across the board it’s that it is much too easy. I enjoy a good hidden object game, but I am by no means particularly gifted at picking out items from noisy backgrounds. However, very few items took longer than a few seconds for me to find. Indeed, I often found myself clicking five or six objects one after another with no delay between each.
What’s more, the special searching techniques we’re provided are far too powerful. Using the ultraviolent light stick to find footprints, fingerprints, and stains is simply a matter of switching off the lights and doing a couple of quick sweeps to locate bright blue glows.
Meanwhile, items findable only with a magnifying glass sparkle brilliantly, giving away their location immediately. And once you drag the magnifying glass to the sparkle, all other objects are blurred out, clearly revealing the required item.
All of this easiness makes for a pleasant, frustration-free experience, but it also means each case is very short-no more than a couple of hours. As mentioned at the outset, each case is randomly generated, which ought to enhance replayability, but the objects for which we search and their locations in each room remain essentially unchanged, making subsequent cases interesting only for their slightly altered narrative.
An unlockable bonus game-20 arrangements of card pairs that need to be matched up-has potential to add a couple of hours of play, but the boards are massive and monotonous; only hardcore matching fanatics will make it through all of them.
Defenders of Law: The Rosendale Case is a pleasant play and does a nice job of giving reason to what sometimes feels like purposeless searching in other HOGs. It’s just too bad it isn’t a bit longer and doesn’t offer more of a challenge.
For similar games, try: Magic Encyclopedia: Moon Light, G.H.O.S.T. Chronicles: Phantom of the Renaissance Faire, and Kuros.