Mystery adventure HOG hits all the right notes.

Three different celebrities – writer Kevin Sting, actress Rebecca Thatcher, and magician Jerald Springs – have gone missing in an old mansion owned by the reclusive Mr. Void, and the Mystery Trackers organization has sent its crack detective (that’s you!) to figure out what’s going on in Mystery Trackers: The Void.

Given the theme of Mystery Trackers (secretive organization sends detective to investigate creepy old house), you could be forgiving for thinking you had stumbled into the unofficial spin-off of Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst – and I mean that as the highest compliment. The game looks and plays very similar… heck, the Mystery Trackers organization even has a shiny badge that looks a lot like the one adorning every Mystery Case Files game. Mystery Trackers is no third-rate knock-off, though; it looks and sounds wonderful, with hidden object scenes that are a joy to play (free from objects-too-small-and-blurry syndrome), and wonderfully creative mini-games.

 The Void

Mystery Trackers is a blend of point-and-click adventure gameplay and hidden object scenes. As you explore the run-down old house, its grounds, and beyond, you’ll find objects that get added to your inventory and are used to solve puzzles. Glittering areas denote hotspots that you can zoom in on for a hidden object search that requires you to find all of the items on the list before you can collect the “key” inventory item.

Mystery Trackers‘ combination of polish and fun elevate it above your average HOG. I enjoyed small, thoughtful touches like the fact that when there’s a new hint ready it’s announce by an adorable little toad climbing up onto a pedestal. There are some great animated effects that breathe life into the setting, and the soundtrack is suitably atmospheric.

Mini-games, which are so often treated like filler in HOGs, are another highlight of Mystery Trackers. Expect to see ingenious variations on common puzzles like arranging weights to balance scales, repairing fuse boxes or connecting electrical wires. All minigame can be skipped if desired, but you’ll earn Achievements if you can avoid taking the easy way out.

 The Void

If there’s a downside to Mystery Trackers it’s the story. Not the plot itself, mind you, which is actually very interesting, but rather the fact that very little of it is actually spelled out by the game itself in cutscenes or narrative. To fully understand what’s going on involves sifting through diary entries and various bits of paper that you find along the way that get recorded in your journal. It’s a shame that the juicier, more intriguing bits of the story have been buried like this.

Veteran adventure games might also find Mystery Trackers to be a little light on challenge. Some of the crutches the game tosses at the player can be ignored (like the option to skip mini-games or use hints), but others can’t – like the fact that objects to interact with are marked with glowing dots.

 The Void

Gripes aside, Mystery Trackers is a polished and enjoyable hidden object adventure that should hit all the right notes with fans of the genre.

The Collector’s Edition contains four music clips, a screensaver, some desktop wallpapers and concept art, a “papercraft” section with instructions on how to make some of the dolls that you see in the game (if anyone actually makes one, we’d love to see a photo of it!), and a bonus chapter offering about 45-60 minutes of additional gameplay.