Little Noir Stories: The Case of the Missing Girl

Within every hard-boiled detective beats a warm and sentimental heart, which is why Anton Muller is following up on strange note he found in Little Noir Stories: The Case of the Missing Girl. A single photograph with a shadowy figure in a window isn’t much to go on, but what Anton lacks in leads he makes up for in determination, instinct, and sheer bullheadedness.

The hunt for clues makes mysteries a natural setting for hidden object games. In The Case of the Missing Girl, areas you need to search are highlighted with a sparkly swirl and clicking on them zooms in on that part of the room. The searches vary between the usual styles: sometimes you’re given a shopping list of items to find, other times you need to find a set number of a particular item, occasionally you’re simply given a goal, such as finding photo developing equipment, and left to figure out what that is.

It’s not unusual for searches to stretch across several different rooms, which means you’ll be doing a lot of backtracking and revisiting the same rooms over and over and over again. This could have killed any enjoyment to be had, but The Case of the Missing Girl does something very, very smart: When you’ve cleared a room of everything that will currently help you, an arrow tells you “You’re done here!” Simple, but effectively short-circuiting any frustration before it can even begin.

The expected Whitman’s sampler of puzzles is mixed in with the hidden object finding, but they’re well done and vary nicely in difficulty. Some you’ll undoubtedly solve in mere moments, while others will have your brow firmly furrowed. They’re all skippable, though, if you’d rather just get on with the story.

The Case of the Missing Girl is a mystery, after all, so both Anton and his loyal assistant Amelia will take turns searching for clues and questioning witnesses and suspects. If you choose to play the game in Novel Mode, you’ll get a chance to decide what approach your gumshoe will take in conversation by selecting an icon at the bottom of the screen when it’s your turn to talk. Will you play hardball, or turn on the charm? Be friendly or give them the silent treatment? You can switch between Novel Mode and Classic Mode after each chapter, so if you find the extended conversations are slowing you down, you can always go back to the regular investigation.

As Anton and Amelia make progress in the case, you’re given new objectives to complete that will advance the plot, but you’ll also discover secret objectives. Sometimes uncovering a secret is as easy as clicking on the correct item in a room, but other times it will require a bit more sleuthing. Each chapter has a number of secrets to encounter, and while finding them isn’t necessary to finish the game, the way they flesh out the story makes them well worth locating. Some of the secret objectives feel a bit random and out of place – if Anton is so driven to find this missing girl, taking time out to have his taxes done seems a bit odd, and does the janitor really need his shovel right this second? – but they’re fun to ferret out anyway.

By far the biggest problem with Little Noir Stories: The Case of the Missing Girl is its length. Just when the mystery starts getting really intriguing, it’s over, with far too many questions left unanswered. You’ll be done with the game in just two or three hours, and that’s taking time for every puzzle and searching for every secret. In a way, it’s a compliment to the compelling nature of the game’s story that it’s such an upsetting jolt when the credits begin to roll. It clearly lays the groundwork for a sequel, so I suppose we’ll just have to wait for Anton and Amelia’s next case.