Help Mortimer Beckett recover artifacts stolen by the Crimson Thief.

Poor Mortimer Beckett; after spending the first three games in GameHouse’s popular series traveling through reality and fantasy alike, he has little time to rest. A mysterious criminal, dubbed the Crimson Thief, has taken historical artifacts from around the globe, and Mortimer takes it upon himself to recover these items and solve the mysteries of the Crimson Thief.

As in previous games in the series, the Crimson Thief is split into chapters, with each chapter being located in a different country. You’ll have a list of “hidden” or otherwise necessary items that must be collected throughout a variety of environments in each country, with all of these items remaining constant at the bottom of the screen. Some items are hidden within the scenes, while others need to be gathered by completing some sort of task – using a crowbar to open a manhole and recovering a coin in the sewers, for example. Back and forth you’ll go, completing tasks in each scene in a fairly linear fashion, until you’ve also found enough “travel ticket” pieces to travel to the next country.

As you go along, you’ll eventually recover the artifact found in that country, normally after completing a puzzle or two. These puzzles are fairly challenging, if only for the fact that they don’t come with detailed instructions. Instead, it’s up to your observational skills to understand what to do and then figure out how to do it either through strategy or trial and error. Some of these puzzles deal with matching items to their country flag, while others rely on tile-sliding or code-breaking.

The rest of the game can be described in the same way. Mortimer Beckett and the Crimson Thief is not a simple game, even though its gameplay setup isn’t that complex. With somewhat blurry graphics, the cluttered or otherwise large scenes can be hard to navigate, as it’s not entirely clear as to what items you can interact with or not.

Upon landing in a new country, you’ll likely spend lots of time simply hovering your mouse around the screen, waiting for it to change into the “interactive” symbol, and must then decipher which item in your inventory corresponds to that particular area. You can’t rush through the game, which might be frustrating to some, but if you take your time and thoroughly clear each scene, there’s a real sense of satisfaction that arrives once you’ve used every single item in a country.

Depending on how familiar you are with such games, or how quickly you pick up on the rules of puzzles, you can expect to spend around four hours completing the game. There’s an epilogue to unlock after you’ve completed the main story, and the Premium Edition gives you a Strategy Guide if you get stuck (unfortunately, you must exit back to the main menu to access it).

While the games in the Mortimer Beckett franchise have never exactly been “easy” games, they tend to have a charming storyline or cutscenes to flesh them out. While the cutscenes do exist between countries here, mostly in the form of travel animations, the story itself feels shallow and under-developed. Still, the gameplay is just challenging enough to be satisfying, and is definitely recommendable to previous fans of the franchise.