Hidden-object games are a hot commodity in the world of casual gaming. In fact, it seems like a new iteration appears on a weekly basis. This we can attribute, primarily, to the popularity of the Mystery Case Files games.

Some are mere clones, stuffing the tried and true mechanic into a new suit of clothes (in this case, different rooms). Others offer a unique twist causing them stand out from the crowd and, hopefully, improve the genre. Mortimer Beckett and the Secrets of Spooky Manor is destined to be one of the latter.

Mortimer Beckett’s great uncle, Jerome, needs help. A letter from the eccentric old coot made that evident, relating a story about a mysterious machine he built, a missing starter unit and several unidentified parties who pilfered it. Now the device, reduced to parts, is scattered throughout his uncle’s manor and Mortimer is urgently needed to locate and reassemble them, and get the machine working. What is this contraption? Who scattered its components? And, what happened to his uncle? Questions Mortimer must answer once he arrives at the estate.

A mix of hidden objects, puzzling solving and adventure, Mortimer Beckett and the Secrets of Spooky Manor brings together several elements that give the genre a needed boost. While the goal is similar to other seek-and-find games, Spooky Manor breaks up the action a bit differently than its brethren. Actually, it breaks up the objects themselves. And, that’s what makes it dissimilar from earlier hidden-object games.

Unlike genre favorites, the objects you’re looking for here are fractured into disparate parts. So, rather than looking for, say, a phonograph record, you’re looking for several parts that, when assembled, create the object in question. Imagine dropping that record onto the floor and having it shatter into four pieces. Then, stashing those pieces around a room so they blend with the environment. The end result is an increased challenge since a complete record is visually easier to identify than the pieces of a broken one.

Moreover, two objects types need to be located, Misplaced and Puzzle items. All Misplaced items need to be returned to their correct location in a room. For instance, a faceplate on a clock or a stuffed animal among several others. Hot spots identify the locations where these objects need to be placed (indicated by a rotating gear when the mouse cursor hovers over them). Puzzle items, conversely, are used to initiate an action such as unlocking a chest, obtaining an item or opening an entry point to another floor in the manor. In all, 129 objects, split into over 400 pieces, need to be found and assembled.

A mix of four objects, pictured in boxes at the bottom of the screen, must be collected from each room. As you locate the individual pieces, that portion of the image is removed showing you how much of the object remains to be discovered. Some parts, however, are not visible at first. You must return another misplaced object to its location first to reveal them. For example, use a clock key on a cuckoo clock and the cuckoo pops out with a missing piece of an item in its mouth.

But, there’s another twist. As you explore the manor, you do so floor-by-floor, several rooms at a time. Which means that an object needed to complete a puzzle in one room may actually be located in another. For instance, a hacksaw assembled in one room is required to cut through chains in another. So, you need to move back and forth between rooms. Each floor also houses a piece of the starter needed to get your uncle’s machine working, and a clue to his whereabouts.

Fortunately, you have no time constraints. You can play Spooky Manor at your own pace. The only penalty you’ll experience is from repeated random clicks. This disturbs the ghosts in residence and causes them to appear for a brief haunting. Yes, ghosts. They’re the shadowy “parties” responsible for stealing the parts you’re trying to recover. While they won’t hurt you, they do get in the way. But, eventually, they disappear and you can continue your search undisturbed.

Mortimer Beckett and the Secrets of Spooky Manor features a total of 31 rooms spread across eight floors. Each location is beautifully rendered with animated objects to add interest and a total of nine original music scores that accentuate the game’s eerie atmosphere. It’s an expertly designed and executed game that should appeal to all fans of the hidden-object genre when released, and is already rock solid in the preview build supplied to Gamezebo.

Plus, you can expect more adventures for Mortimer in what appears to be the first game in a new and entertaining series. Keep your eye on Gamezebo for the game’s release and our review of the final product. The sum of its parts should definitely be greater than the whole.