M. Giant's
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Monday, December 08, 2008  

Seek and Ye Shall Find

Trash wrote a couple of weeks ago about her obsession with Big Fish games. I make fun of her for most of these, but I have to admit that I like the "finding" games as much as she does. In case you're not familiar with them, the concept is pretty simple. You're presented with a ridiculously cluttered scene that could be a room or a cave or a beach or the deck of a ship, and then you have to find a bunch of items that are hidden there using various degrees of camouflage. It's not like we play these for the intellectual challenge; indeed, they're like word searches for illiterates. But there's something satisfying about focusing your attention on a sweeping image of, say, the Golden Gate Bridge until you've found a list of items that include a biplane the size of a dime, a rust stain shaped like Europe, and a blue tomato. The faster the better, of course. And you can play them cooperatively. Usually she sits at the computer and does the pointing-and-clicking, whereas I just point.

We've been into these games for years now. There are a lot of different developers making them these days, and they all have their own theme. Some are based on exploring big cities, some borrow plots from Agatha Christie novels, some plop you down into a 360-degree panorama where you have to search from the skies to your virtual feet. But the first one we played -- and, as far as we know, the one that launched the genre -- was a game called "Mystery Case Files: Huntsville." Through the dozens of seek-and-find games we've played, MCF remain the masters of the format, in our opinion.

It's not just because their scenes are surrealistically detailed to the point of being gratuitous, or that they hide their shit better than anyone, although that's certainly the case. It's because they keep taking the format places that it's never been before. What started out as cartoony little jewel-theft mysteries have advanced to a whole new level. "Ravenhearst," from a couple of years ago, was like being immersed in a gothic novel (complete with annoyingly clueless heroine). "Madame Fate" plunges you into a dark world of disturbing grotesques. But recently, "Return to Ravenhearst" came out, and Trash and I spent hours working through its search scenes and lock puzzles that came straight out of Myst, if Myst had been developed by Clive Barker on suicide watch. These games are getting darker and deeper at an alarming pace, and in more ways than one. In one sense, the most recent game makes even the previous one seem cute and quaint by comparison, so if you're thinking about giving them a shot, I'd suggest doing so in chronological order so you don't start wondering if I need to be committed. In the second sense, they only seem to be putting out one or two of these per year. The latter fact unfortunately leaves us a lot of time for the pale imitations that are out there (and save your recommendations, because we've played them all -- at least for the one-hour trial period).

So I guess I'm just hoping that the next MCF game will come out more quickly than the last one did. Partly because I don't want to have to play this one more than four or five more times, and partly because the next one promises to be even more disturbing and I had enough nightmares from this one.

posted by M. Giant 8:46 PM 5 comments


I mentioned in the previous comments of Trash's post about my love for MCF. Return to Ravenhearst is awesome! I also liked Redrum. Talk about psychotic.

But one of the coolest is the Hidden Game Show. This thing will take you weeks to finish, and have various types of search-and-find puzzles. The only problem is the "host" is annoying as hell. Which may be the point, since he's kind of a devilish figure.

I highly recommend Gamezebo, BTW, for its reviews of various games. They have saved me a lot of money and time from the crap games that are out there. I usually only download 4 stars or higher, though occasionally some 3 and a half. I don't bother with any below that.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at December 9, 2008 at 6:50 AM  

There's a dive bar nearby with a few of these finding games. It's even more hilarious to play them after a few (and by "few", I mean "an inappropriate amount of")beers, around one in the morning.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at December 9, 2008 at 7:49 AM  

I didn't comment on Trash's post about the time management games but I love them too. I'm completely hooked on Airport Mania right now. It's so cute and not very hard. I play these games to relax, not to be angry because I can't complete it.

As for the Hide & Seek games, I've played a lot too. Since I didn't start MCF from the beginning, I haven't been hooked. I had first tried Little Shop and to me, because I didn't know MCF came first, MCF was the imitation. I loved the Little Shop games that came after that. Like the first commenter said, Hidden Game Show is nice, but I stopped playing after the trial because of the host.

The thing I hate the most is that I miss a lot of these games because I have a Mac. Many games don't come for Mac, like this game I played at my parents, Cradle of Rome (it's a Match 3 game). The only advantage that I don't think PC users have is a way to circumvent the trial period for certain games. And I'm not going to tell what it is on a public site. I buy most of my games anyway, but sometimes I just want to finish it and I know I'm never going to play again.

By Blogger Chanie, at December 9, 2008 at 8:09 AM  

Have you tried Jay Is Games? (jayisgames.com) It reviews casual online games. Updates everyday, and most of the games it selects are independent and free to play. Good place for tips and walkthroughs if you get stuck. Should be able to find plenty there to tide you over though droughts. Personally I like the stuck in a room games and conceptis logic puzzles. Those things are the devil.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at December 9, 2008 at 9:19 AM  

I love the MCF games! Thanksgiving weekend was hilarious, with me, my mom, and my brother all playing Return to Ravenhearst on our respective computers.

By Blogger Mary Ellen, at December 9, 2008 at 10:22 AM  

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