Mr. Biscuits: The Case of the Ocean Pearl is a hidden object game from Jenkat Media. As you solve each of the hidden object scenes, you collect clues to a murder mystery. At the end of the game, you can use the clues to identify the criminal. The concept is clever, but the execution suffers from poor graphic design that will leave many players feeling frustrated.
Mr. Biscuits, a pug, is the much beloved pet of a very wealthy woman who is taking a cruise. The first night aboard she is murdered, and police arrive to begin the investigation. This requires visiting many parts of the ship and questioning crew and guests. Mr. Biscuits accompanies the detective to each scene, although it’s never really clear why. Each time you complete a list of objects, you are given a clue to the mystery, like “Dr. Jensen was born in America” or “Mrs. Peters has blood type A+.” If you find Mr. Biscuits hiding in the scene you get an additional bonus clue.
The story is interesting and the voice acting is excellent. The graphics choices for the hidden object scenes, though, take a lot of the fun out of the game. Many objects are small and difficult to see. In addition, proportions are completely random. Even Mr. Biscuits changes size from scene to scene.
This isn’t a case of a chair actually being a dollhouse chair or a chair in a painting—regular objects can be of any size at all. A vacuum cleaner might be 1/3 normal size while a flashlight is about 50% larger. A set of 3 towels appears in several scenes, a different size each time. Coloring is also random. In one scene, all the table linens are white, except for the one “napkin” on the find list—that’s black. Multiple items fit some descriptions.
These issues not only make objects harder to spot, they make it feel as though the whole thing was put together as a draft of what the eventual game might be, rather than a polished design.
A good hint system does help make up for these issues. You get 3 hints per scene and they don’t carry over, so you might as well use them. The revealed item will stretch, or spin, or jump up to call attention to itself. This is a nice effect. Hints don’t reveal where Mr. Biscuits is hiding, though, and if you don’t find him, you don’t get the bonus clue.
Every few scenes you get to use a tool, like an ultraviolet light or even a crystal ball to spot items. One of these tools is a fingerprint brush that requires you to “dust” the entire room to find 4 fingerprints. This task is physically tiring and mentally boring. The other tools are more interesting. However, these scenes, which are even harder than the usual hidden object scenes, have no hints at all, which can leave many players stuck.
We thought the characters and the dialogue for the mystery were fun and clever. If you hate dialogue in a HOG, though, there is a SKIP dialogue option. This was a nice feature. The game also promises a “relaxed mode.” However, you have the same ten minute timer in this mode as you do in the regular “story mode.” The only difference is that you’re not playing for mystery clues, and you get different items each time. So it does increase replayability, but it doesn’t offer a relaxed experience for those who need extra time.
In story mode, there are 40 scenes altogether, but the Find Lists are fairly short. We consider it a medium length game. You’re allowed 10 minutes per scene, which gives you a maximum game length of about 8 hours including dialogue for the mystery. If you can’t find all the objects before the timer runs out, you have to play the scene over. We expect most experienced HOG players will take about 5 hours to finish the game in Story Mode. Then you can play again with new objects in Relaxed Mode.
All in all, we thought the structure of the game was innovative and interesting. We also liked the idea of the bonus clues for finding Mr. Biscuits. The same game with better graphics could have been spectacular. As it is, it’s a worthwhile effort, but not up to the standards of the best hidden object games.