Amidst all the spooky mansions, archaeological dig sites and yard sales it’s sometimes hard to distinguish one hidden object game from the next. There’s no danger of that with Moxxie’s Tabloid Adventures, the offbeat tale of a tabloid reporter’s quest to land the "big scoop."
Did you ever wonder who comes up with the stories about alien visitors and Bigfoot sightings that you see on the covers of the trashiest of the supermarket tabloids? That would be Moxxie, the newest reporter for Next To You magazine. Her boss sends her out to investigate various paranormal sightings, like ghosts in an attic, or the vampire that’s rumored to be living in the local cemetery. However, unlike other games that take the subject matter seriously, this is a light-hearted romp backed by bouncy music, bright cartoonish graphics and Moxxie’s sarcastic back-talk.
Moxxie herself is quite possibly the strangest-looking casual game character to date, complete with pale egg-shaped head, whisker-like hair and bizarre stick-figure arms that poke out of a red tank top / blue mini-skirt combo. The game’s irreverence and point-and-click gameplay are vaguely reminiscent of something like Zombie Cow Studios’ Ben There, Done That! (albeit much easier, less polished, and designed squarely for the "casual" crowd) as opposed to the standard hidden object adventure game that relies on realistic backgrounds and clip art objects. It’s strange, to be sure, but there’s something endearing and fresh about it all the same.
The game, in which Moxxie investigates four stories for the magazine, moves at a decent pace that’s not bogged down by having to squint through scenes that are too dark or cluttered, or find mis-labeled or vague objects.
Each scene has a task list, and a progress bar that shows how close you are to completing every task in a scene. For example, before you can even leave Moxxie’s house for her first day of work you have to assemble Moxxie’s bag, which involves figuring out how to get coins out of a piggy bank and unlock a box, among other things. Even a straightforward-seeming task like finding 25 coins isn’t as easy as it seems, since one is trapped under a manhole cover, the other is behind a grate, and the third is bobbing on a paper boat in the middle of a puddle out of reach.
There’s also the occasional mini-game, like matching photo cards, sorting Moxxie’s dirty socks, and completing tile puzzles.
Once you get past the prologue, the game splits into Expert or Novice difficulty. In Novice mode, you’re shown a list of objects to find. In Expert, there’s no list, and the hint meter takes longer to recharge – but you earn more points that go towards an overall high score at the end.
Although puzzles are clever and the scenarios and dialogue are entertaining, Moxxie’s Tabloid Adventures isn’t a particularly challenging game. Even in Expert mode I rarely found myself stuck and unsure of what to do next, and when I did become stuck all I had to do was use one of my quickly-recharging and infinitely available hints to reveal what to click on next.
The sassy tone that Moxxie uses to deliver her dialogue is a bit of an acquired taste as well. Much of the game’s dialogue is delivered by voice actors, but the language is occasionally salty, with the occasional "crap" or "bastard" slipping out.
The game clocks in at three or four hours, and I’d definitely recommend downloading the free demo at the very least to get a feel for whether Moxxie’s Tabloid Adventures‘ particular brand of humor and style is your cup of tea or not.