The latest title in Big Fish Games’ Mystery Case Files seek-and-solve series, MillionHeir for the Nintendo DS takes you on an absurd yet comical adventure. Being the first game I played in the series I thought I was going to find an involved mystery-solving game, something like Phoenix Wright. Instead, I found a graphically appealing game with very little substance.
The plot takes you through the mysterious disappearance of Phil T. Rich, an eccentric millionaire. You are responsible for solving the case and to uncover the rightful heir to his fortune. Through a series of clue-hunting and puzzle-solving sequences you must determine who may have a motive to eliminate Phil, from a group of twelve of his acquaintances.
The game initially offers two difficulty levels in its single player story mode. The Rookie level is an untimed mode with hints while the Detective level is timed and offers fewer hints. One more level of difficulty is left to be unlocked after completing the game in Detective mode. MillionHeir also includes a multiplayer option, where you can play Scavenger Hunt and Hot Seat Multiplayer, though I have not been able to test these modes out.
Visually speaking, the game is of astonishing quality even though there are almost no animated graphics. Each scene is a bright and detailed painting. These graphically intricate locations hide hundreds of items in obvious and not so obvious ways.
The controls are simple, with almost everything being done with the DS touch-screen. To scroll around a given location you simply move the image by dragging it with the stylus. You can also use the face buttons or the D-pad to move in one of four directions. To pick up a found item, tap on it with the stylus. Some clues require more than simply being picked up and will have you interact with them by drawing on them while pressing one of the shoulder buttons. The controls are very basic and should make it easy for anyone to pick up the game and play.
Besides the object-seeking aspect of the game there is also a variety of puzzles to solve. These include regular jigsaw puzzles, scrambled images, riddles to be solved by triggering the proper sequence of events and “find the differences” games.
Later on, a DNA analysis mini-game is introduced to determine the rightful heir our millionaire’s fortune. Resembling the mechanics of the popular online game Zuma, you must pop balls of varying colours before they reach the top of the screen. You can do so only when a matching coloured bubble roams over them. This mini-game raises its difficulty and speed after each analysis.
These little puzzles add some much needed variety to the game considering that the main aspect of the game can get quite boring and repetitive after a while. In some cases, the item-seeking itself became literally repetitive. In having to search rooms more than once, some of the items to find were repeated and hidden in the same spots.
The writing in MillionHeir is clever and humorous and is largely based on silly puns. Even the character’s names are plays on words, notably Phil T. Rich, but others like Justine Time, a clock maker and Jim Ferno, a firefighter. The funny nature of the writing helps to create a light-hearted experience.
The game audio is also well designed and relates well to the game play. Mysterious orchestral themes are generally heard during game play; while background sounds specific to each scene help create a rich atmosphere.
Where the game left me most disappointed was its lack of coherence. Mainly, I felt that the game made little sense when it came to the clues to be found and the actual mystery I believed I was trying to solve. For example, you could be asked to find such random items as a fountain pen, a star, a helmet, a stuffed teddy-bear or a golf club. However, once these so-called clues have been located there is no further use for them. In essence, this search is pointless other than to advance the game. At no point are the clues actually used to solve the crime. In the end, I unraveled the mystery though I had very little to do with this outcome.
It is also important to note that while you are able to save during item-seeking chapters, the last few chapters of the game are purely story based and don’t allow you to pause and save. This became a problem for me, as it forced me to keep playing until the end credits rolled by. This was pretty annoying since I had to stop playing and was forced to leave my DS running to finish up later.
While Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir is an amusing and cutesy casual game it did leave much to be desired in terms of depth. It did compensate for this with an attractive visual and audio presentation but the repetitive level design did make the game feel like a chore. If you are already a fan of the game series or are looking for a simple time-killer this 4 to 6 hour game may be right for you. But if you are looking for an immersive crime-solving experience, you will probably want to look elsewhere.
+ Easy to pick up and play
+ Attractive 2D art design
+ Nice audio
– Redundant and shallow gameplay
– Not much of a mystery-solving game