A story this creepy shouldn’t be this boring.
University student Becky Brogan is investigating a decades-old unsolved case about a doctor and nurse who went missing from a mental facility. The doctor was less than ethical, the nurse downright cruel, and the patients had more issues than a news stand – exactly the kind of characters you need for a really juicy tale. Too bad you’ll probably give up on The Institute – A Becky Brogan Adventure before you find out what really happened to them all.
You’ll search the long-abandoned Institute for clues that might help you piece together what really happened so long ago, combing each and every nook and cranny for notes, case files, and all manner of assorted junk. The environments are suitably dilapidated and gloomy, setting an appropriate stage for the horrific facts you’ll learn. The levels alternate between the kinds of searches you need to perform. There are the standard, laundry list sort, spot the difference sequences that are cleverly laid out as the patients’ ink blots, and levels where you have to find all of the items that are “wrong.”
The ink blots are divided down the middle, so finding what’s different from one side to the next is not only a question of spotting something obviously out of place, but even items that simply aren’t the mirrored versions of each other. It’s a nice spin on a very familiar mechanic, and the ink blots themselves are disturbingly representative of their creators’ minds. Finding the “wrong” items is great in concept, but not actually all that fun, because it’s so frequently difficult to figure out what’s meant to be wrong. Sometimes it’s just that the wrongness is kind of vague – oh, the handle on that bucket is too low, ok – and other times it’s just very difficult to see. I had to finally use up a hint to locate one level’s final item: a pencil with an eraser at both ends.
You’ll also have to assemble a jigsaw puzzle every few levels or so, and while it’s a very tired type of gameplay, the jigsaws of The Institute are very well done. You’re given a reference image to help you put things back together, but for an extra challenge, try reassembling the puzzle without looking at the image. These are definitely a step up from the usual shredded note jigsaws that are so popular with hidden object games these days.
Perhaps the game’s most enjoyable search is for its hint-granting bears. One bear is hidden in each level (the rare occasions one is missing are pointed out to you), and finding them will be tough even for HOG experts. They’re extremely well hidden, and come in all shapes and sizes. You have a recharging hint at your disposal, but if you use it and don’t want to wait for it to recharge, you can just use one of the bears you’ve collected. The hidden object searches of The Institute are ordinary and dull, but finding all of the bears is a satisfying challenge.
The story of The Institute is doled out so infrequently and in such tiny bits that it’s easy to forget who did what to whom and why you’re supposed to care. It’s pieced together in the notes and case files you find scattered around the facility, but so little information is pulled from them that it’s tough to really get all that interested. You’ll be halfway through the game before you have a solid idea of all the people involved, but you still won’t know all that much about them. The whole point of the adventure is supposedly solving this long-cold case, but the actual investigation feels like an afterthought.
The Institute – A Becky Brogan Adventure isn’t bad or broken, it’s just dull. Slogging from one depressing room to another, hunting down similar-feeling (and looking) lists of objects gets boring pretty quickly, and without much of a story to help it along, you’re left wondering why you’re bothering. There are flashes of fun here and there, like the jigsaw puzzles and the hidden bears, but those are drowned out by the tedium of the rest of the game.