The treasured Marco Polo artifact has been stolen, and the culprit is none other than the famous thief La Volpe! You’re just about to start your vacation when you get a call informing you of the crime. You’ve got it in for this guy, so time off will have to wait. You grab your things and head to sunny Italy, where the people are friendly, the scenery is stunning, and the treachery runs deep.
Off the Record: The Italian Affair is a casual hidden object adventure game that’s packed with puzzles to solve and people to talk to. Wander around Italy as you scrounge for items in every shop, street corner and rural neighborhood. Packing that inventory of yours to the brim won’t take long, especially since you’re given a wide range of screens to explore. Fortunately every object has a logical use, so figuring out what goes where won’t break your brain.
Hidden object scenes in Off the Record: The Italian Affair are very hands-on. There are a couple of different varieties to encounter, including silhouette scenes and your usual text based lists. Many items are interactive and must be found before they can be collected, leading to a fair amount of back and forth as you uncover and assemble things. Hidden object scenes aren’t very frequent and definitely take a backseat to the mini-games in The Italian Affair, but they’re still juicy enough to make you interested in completing them.
And oh, the glorious mini-games! Off the Record: The Italian Affair throws some devious and unique diversions at you when you least expect it. Need to open a satchel? Stop right there, you have to solve a mini-game! Opening a door for the first time? Not until you figure out this quick puzzle, you’re not! The mini-games are usually fast and easy to learn, even when they don’t look like anything you’ve seen in your entire casual gaming career. Like the time you’ll drive a scooter through the streets of Italy. Yes, there’s a first person scooter driving mini-game.
An interesting feature in Off the Record is its card system. Throughout the game you’ll pick up one of several cards that sit just above your inventory. Using these gives you access to certain places or parts of the game. The business card, for example, allows you to move around on a gondola. The card system isn’t as intricate as it could have been, but it’s an interesting way to reuse items and keep you thinking outside of the box.
One of Off the Record’s many strengths is its ability to keep you curious without sending you to a walkthrough. The puzzles, the mini-games, the hidden object scenes, all are perfectly tuned to be challenging but not frustrating, even on the harder difficulty levels. The story keeps enough twists and turns coming your way so you don’t glaze over every time there’s a conversation or a cutscene. It tells a surprisingly captivating tale without resorting to dark portals or evil sorcerers, just a good old fashioned story of detective versus master thief.