An FBI Agent’s vacation is cut short when she and her husband crash outside a mysterious village.
FBI Agent Claire Ellery never gets a break. The intrepid star of the Strange Cases series is always on the hunt and in Strange Cases: The Secrets of Grey Mist Lake, even her vacation turns into an investigation. On the road with her hubby Sam, Claire’s involved in a car accident (Ahem…do we really need another story that starts with a car crash? Just sayin’.) that gives her a bump on the head and makes her husband disappear.
Seeing Sam vanishing down a foggy path, Claire goes in pursuit of him and finds herself in the middle of Grey Mist Lake, a town rumored to have been swallowed a century before, by an unearthly fog. There, she finds the populace held captive by an ancient curse and an evil presence. Realizing the only way to find Sam is to help the town, she combs the tumbledown buildings searching for clues to its bewitchment. What she discovers is that the seemingly simple country folk of Grey Mist Lake have some serious secrets and that only by uncovering those secrets can she save both them and Sam.
The Secrets of Grey Mist Lake starts with a bang and does a good job of keeping that intensity going through the use of voice-over, something many hidden object games lack. While not every single line of dialog has a vocal counterpart, a good majority of them do and this adds interest and emotion to the proceedings. While the game’s overall concept isn’t the most original, it’s executed well and offers a good ratio of puzzles to hidden object scenes. In an interesting twist on objective-tracking, every time your main objective changes, a mysterious green playing card flies to the left side of your screen to remind you of your goal. These cards replace the usual diary or journal and find further use in hidden object scenes.
Hidden object scenes don’t just happen in The Secrets of Grey Mist Lake; they have to be activated. Every scene contains a green card and before you can search for anything else, you have to find it. Once you do, a list of items appears on screen and then you can search for things as usual. It’s a minor change that adds much-needed interest to an all-too-familiar mechanic. Puzzles also offer some clever twists on familiar gameplay. While you still spend a lot of your time here opening doors and unlocking chests, the game’s take on doing these things is often quite original. The biggest standout in terms of creative gameplay is what amounts to a boss battle (not something seen very often in this genre) won by playing the most interesting application of a match-two mechanic I’ve ever seen.
Above and beyond solid and frequently creative gameplay, The Secrets of Grey Mist Lake offers audio-visuals treats for the eyes and ears. The game’s graphics are simultaneously moody and colorful and its musical themes conjure memories of your favorite X-Files episodes. And while the voice-acting is slightly amateurish (and I suspect, dependent on only two actors), it still adds a lot to what would otherwise be a weirdly silent story. The atmospherics continue into the bonus chapter called “Claire’s Mind”. This fun little extra acts as an epilogue to the main story and represents a journey into the bizarre realm of the unconscious. It not only extends gameplay for roughly another hour, but takes you to a surreal place beyond the main game’s context to a series of surprisingly weird locations.
For all the impressive things it contains, The Secrets of Grey Mist Lake also has a few things that are less strong. As mentioned, the story idea isn’t the most original—there have been many hidden object adventures about abandoned towns and ghostly villagers. On top of that, puzzles swing from too-simple-requires-very-little-thought to downright confusing. Aside from these things, the only other niggling little issue is that the hint system only gives hints within the scene you’re in which means if your objective’s elsewhere, hints are not a lot of help. Ultimately, this isn’t all that important though because if hints don’t work, you can always reference the detailed walkthrough found inside the game.
Regardless of its little flaws, Strange Cases: The Secrets of Grey Mist Lake is well worth your money and time. Expertly-made, it’s bewitching, picturesque and enigmatic, and represents both a great episode in the Strange Cases series and solid proof of Sulus Games’ strength as a maker of hidden object adventures.