Mystery Mania

What happens when you take a point’n’click adventure, shake it until everything but the gameplay falls off, and stick it into an iPhone? This is the question that Mystery Mania tries to answer. Exploring the rooms of a big old mansion, you’ll find yourself pointing and clicking your way from puzzle to puzzle in a game that proves sometimes less really is more.

In Mystery Mania you’ll fill the metal shoes of the childlike robot F8. F8 has woken up in the dishevelled, cobwebbed-up mansion that once belonged to his inventor. Nowhere to be seen, F8 sets off on a quest to locate his missing creator and find out what’s happened.

Mystery Mania chooses to keep things relatively light in terms of story without ever going so light that you lose interest in what’s happening. Rather than focussing on the narrative, Mystery Mania is all about gameplay. As F8 you’ll explore the mansion room by room. In every room you’ll need to solve a puzzle before you can go any further. These puzzles have a lot in common with the item discovery puzzles you’ll find in point’n’click adventure genre, only you won’t need to worry about collecting and inventory or digging through old clues. Move this box, pull these books in the right order, distract that dog with meat – it’s the type of trial and error, item-combining puzzling that adventure gamers hold near and dear to their heart.

The puzzles themselves are ingenious, but never really difficult. With the exception of a few rooms the answers to each puzzle felt like they were staring us right in the face. Rarely did it ever take more than a couple of minutes to solve a puzzle, but at the same time we never really felt cheated by overly simple puzzling. “Oh, that’s neat!” became a pretty common mantra while playing Mystery Mania. Nearly everyone room offered up an “a-ha!” moment fairly easily, but the ease didn’t make the solutions any less gratifying.

Mania has a lot in common with point’n’click adventures, yet somehow retains a totally different vibe altogether. There’s very little focus on story, zero backtracking, and no inventory. You won’t engage in lengthy conversations or choose the right phrases from dialogue trees. You won’t be spending hours on end trying to unravel some great mystery (in fact, you may find Mystery Mania a little short wrapping up in well under 2 hours). What you’re going to find in Mystery Mania is definitely point’n’click, but I’d be hesitant to ever call it an adventure. It would be more apt to call it a point’n’click puzzle game. They’ve streamlined everything else you might find in an adventure game to the bare minimum, offering up a title that focuses on pick-up-and-play puzzles that can be solved quickly – a perfect fit for the iPhone.

Presentation in Mystery Mania is fairly slick in an intentionally low-fi sort of way. Colored items sit on black-and-white backgrounds to make identifying useful objects quicker. Spooky (yet cartoonish) music helps to set the mood. Cut scenes are told in a silent film style, using title cards and a grainy film stock. In a lot of ways both the story and the art style reminded me of Edward Scissorhands. There’s a very playful Burton-esque feel here with some really sad undertones. What a testament to good storytelling it is, when you can focus so little on the narrative yet still tug on players’ heartstrings.

Any complaints we might have with Mystery Mania are merely nitpicking. You can’t redirect F8 once you’ve clicked on a certain item. If you want to move on to the next item you’ll need to wait for his animation to finish. Sometimes he’s forced to walk back to the middle of the room before you’re given control again. Little nagging things may have been more common than we’d have liked, but when taken as part of a whole they were a small price to pay for the sublime experience this game offered up.

had a hard time finding any flaws with Mystery Mania. It’s a tight story with some brilliantly fun puzzles that can’t help but make you smile. Adventure games have had a strange time of it on the iPhone. Mystery Mania really seems to have hit on something: if you take the “adventure” out of point’n’click adventure, you’re still left with a great mechanic that can adapt itself well to the pick-up-and-play nature of portable gaming. Mystery Mania is easily amongst the best that iPhone gaming has to offer. If you’re a fan of adventure-style puzzling, this is a game that shouldn’t be missed.