Games for Lunch: Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir
Developer: Big Fish Games
Release Date: Sept. 8, 2008
System: Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site
0:01 "To seek and solve: You be the detective," reads the intro screen. Some mysterious music plays amidst a title screen crowded with junk.
0:02 I like the old-style typewriter used for name entry. Rookie or Detective difficulties: The latter is timed and has fewer hints. I'm feeling cocky ... let's go for Detective!
0:03 "Prelude: It's good to be Phil T. Rich." OH, THE PUNS! One year ago ... "Welcome, Detective. I'm Phil T. Rich. Thank you for helping me with this trifling matter." He looks like Richie Rich all grown up. Complete with monocle!
0:04 Phil lost some priceless items that he needs to get back to the Louvre. Good lord! You'd think the Louvre would be a little more discriminating!
0:05 So I can scroll around a very detailed, very cluttered scene with the d-pad. I'm looking amidst the clutter for a detective badge. Why the Louvre needs that, I'm not sure. I hope the whole game isn't just this hunt and find stuff...
0:06 The badge is filthy. I need to clean it with the stylus and some microphone blowing. Y'know, I have stuff to clean in my apartment in real life...
0:07 I zoom in on a desk to find a letter opener, then use a hint to immediately find a crown. Ho hum. Phil gives me the badge as payment. I guess the Louvre won't miss it...
0:08 "Chapter 1: Misplaced Millionaire." A shadowy figure ambushes Phil. "The game is over, Phil." Already? Thank god. Oh, he didn't mean the game I'm playing. Periodicals appear on the desk: "Extreme Yachting, Extreme Finance, Extreme Collecting." Then a newspaper with the headline "Extremely Missing!" Man ... that newspaper needs a new editor.
0:09 My contract: "The Master Detective shall find objects hidden in scenes around Tiger Point and feed them to the Crime Computer. The Crime Computer shall then analyze the clues and assist in locating the millionaire." Wait, so I don't even get to try to deduce anything from the clues. Wow ... this is going to be lame...
0:10 "We should start by establishing who knew Phil. They might know what happened to him." No sh** Sherlock. I mean, er, thanks, Crime Computer.
0:11 So I'm looking for Phil's dossier, but I don't really know what it looks like. Luckily I can just tap around randomly until I find it. Sigh...
0:12 On the desk is a picture of a miner named "Cole Minor." ARGH! THE PUNS!
0:13 Off to the mine to investigate Mr. Minor. I have 16 minutes and five hints to find 10 specific objects. Don't ask me how I know what I'm looking for, or why I'm searching for stuff like soccer balls ... just go with it.
0:15 In the timed mine, too many false clicks causes a loud "gong" sound and a loss of time. That's a nice touch.
0:16 The first five items get found in three minutes. Most of them are hiding in plain sight, though a model ship is a little tough to find. "Where's Waldo" it ain't.
0:18 Off to the schoolhouse, where I have to find stuff like a feather boa and a tire swing. What this has to do with the case I'm supposedly investigating, I couldn't tell you.
0:19 "You've found enough clues for this character! The Crime Computer will now analyze the data." Yes, please tell me what the feather boa and the soccer ball have to do with each other or this case.
0:20 The computer thinks Cole isn't "mining" his own business. OW, MY BRAIN! For some reason, I'm solving a simple sliding puzzle, made even easier by pieces that lock in place when I complete a row or column. This is ridiculously simple, is what it is.
0:21 So after all that, I end up just TALKING with Cole and he tells me that he and Phil once argued over a ruby. THEN WHY DID I JUST SPEND THAT TIME FINDING ALL THOSE CLUES? Cole gives me a flashlight for my trouble. This is a VERY cooperative suspect...
0:22 Back in the mansion, the lights go out, so I use my flashlight to find a photo of "Emmy Daynow, Aspiring Actress." and "Lee O'Ryan, Astronomy Professor." The puns are getting less painful and more pitiable.
0:24 At O'Ryan's, I have to find handcuffs, green cheese and a blimp. Kinky!
0:27 I understand these areas are purposefully cluttered to make the finding harder, but they come off as just patently ridiculous. Grapes on the drapes? A basketball in a chandelier? How does that even happen?
0:28 The "telephone" I'm supposed to find is flat and blue and made of paint and hidden among the wallpaper. Similarly, the "puzzle piece" is part of the upholstery. I know this "searching for clues" is just a flimsy excuse for the story but ... well, it's getting even flimsier.
0:31 In a nod to some extra interaction, I have to hold a shoulder button and move the stylus in a circle to solve complex clues like "Turn the Key." Still the same pointless hunt-and-find, when you get down to it.
0:33 I found enough clues, and an extremely easy 12-piece puzzle is my reward. O'Ryan tells me Phil is a Leo. THAT'S ASTROLOGY, NOT ASTRONOMY YOU STUPID GAME! Also, why the hell would that fact matter at all?
0:34 Do I really have to suffer through 26 more minutes of this. Well, no one said this job would be all fun and games. All games, yes. All fun ... no...
0:40 I spent the last seven minutes searching for stuff, just like the first 33. It's kind of relaxing, I guess, and it's kind of rewarding when I finally find something I passed over many times. Mostly, though, it's alternately boring and frustrating.
0:41 A "Madame Fate" fortune-telling machine requires me to solve clues like "Day and Night" by drawing a line between a sun and a moon. "These clues are tricky, but like a master detective you can handle it." This is what they consider tricky? Oh man...
0:44 I just collected a cat, ostensibly as a "clue." That is all.
0:45 Oh boy, a "find the differences between the two pictures" mini-game. I haven't had this much fun since reading that tattered "Highlights for Children" magazine in the doctor's waiting room WHEN I WAS EIGHT YEARS OLD!
0:47 Phil was a fan of Emmy. He has her commemorative tickets, and she wants them. But would she murder for them? Seems unlikely to me...
0:48 Lee brought by an X-Ray. These suspects ... so helpful!
0:49 "Chapter 2: Showdown at the Dusty Corral" begins with an X-ray demo.
0:50 The X-ray finds two keys hidden in a lamp, but those aren't important. Much more worthy of my time, apparently, is an eraser hidden in a suitcase...
0:51 A Rube Goldberg-style cat catching mini-game is kind of cute, but makes little logical sense.
1:00 Just assume I actually spent the last nine minutes searching for clues and not turning off the system and finding something else to do. Anything else...
Would I play this game for more than an hour? No.
Why? Painfully simple and boring gameplay seems better suited to either very young children or very old adults.
This column is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.