Aug 212011
 

I’ll be totally honest with you, dear reader, if Mystery Case Files: The Malgrave Incident hadn’t been published by Nintendo I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. Collecting magic sparkly dust by digging through random piles of junk in order to save a rich scientist’s dying wife is an awfully silly idea for a game, and with a title like this it would easy to assume this game is yet another crappy port of a budget PC title. However, nothing could be further from the truth. What is wrapped up inside this game’s generic box art is an original point-and-click adventure for the Wii that is intriguing, challenging, and proves that just because a game is “casual” doesn’t mean it’s bad.

Story
In this game, players will take up the mantle of a detective who has been summoned to a small island known as Malgrave Island. It was once a popular vacation destination due to the fact that its waters were known to have miraculously restorative powers. The island’s proprietor, Professor Malgrave has tasked the detective with collecting strange pink particles that he supposedly can use to cure his ailing wife Sara. Naturally, all is not as it seems, and you will uncover greater mysteries and conundrums as you gather oodles of pink pixie powder for the professor. What sort of cataclysmic event happened to cause so much damage to the island and its inhabitants to flee? Just who is this zany guy who is talking to you through a steampunk on-screen Wii remote? Is Malgrave actually collecting all of this pretty pink particulates to craft a fabulous ball gown to wear for his premiere performance in the mysterious resort island drag queen circuit? These are all questions you will answer as you progress through the game’s story.

One of the many item finding puzzles players can encounter. Image courtesy of GamesPress.

Gameplay
To collect the aforementioned glitter, you will have to solve a variety of item-finding puzzles, sort of like those found old “I-Spy” books or “Highlights” magazines. In each puzzle there is a fairly even balance between items that are easy to find and items that aren’t. The scenes you will be scouring are incredibly detailed, so you will have to zoom in and out and move the camera around to see everything. In the story mode, another player can pick up a second Wii remote and help click on items, though only player one can control the camera. Clever use of lighting, shadow, layered backgrounds, and plays on words add an unexpected level of difficulty to this seemingly simple gameplay mechanic. If you do get stuck (and you will) there is a hint system which will reveal the general area of an item on your list but not actually highlight it for you. People wanting to play this game with younger children may run into some issues, because there are lots of items kids wouldn’t recognize, such as a monocle or an old timey phone.
Aside from these puzzles there are also some logic based puzzles similar to those found in games like the Professor Layton series. They’re usually in very sensible places, like wired to the lock of a door you need to open in order to progress, so they never feel tacked on. If you aren’t careful to explore the environment of the island fully, you will miss vital clues regarding the solution. Even with all the clues these puzzles can be pretty challenging, so the game will give you the option to skip it if you sit staring at it for too long.

Logic based puzzles will need to be solved to advance. Image courtesy of GamesPress.

 

Presentation
The art style implemented in Mystery Case Files: The Malgrave Incident was the perfect choice for this type of game. The world has been rendered with a sort of art deco look, with very modern machines that seem to be fashioned out of very un-modern parts. It gives the impression that all of these strange events are happening in a world that is not too dissimilar from our own, but is nowhere near the same place. Environments are very nicely rendered. Players will be traipsing through a wide array of environments like a town square, a scary mausoleum, and a corn maze that could be straight out of Children of the Corn. The ambient music in the game was excellent, despite sounding a bit like it had been directly lifted from the Fable soundtrack at times, and the voice acting was surprisingly well done. All of these elements conglomerated into an audio/visual experience that played nicely to the Wii’s strengths.

Considering the Wii’s pool of games is overflowing with kid-focused, waggle fest mini-game collections, Mystery Case Files: The Malgrave Incident really shines as an example of what a casual game could and should be — a challenging, yet evenly paced game that a player of just about any age could enjoy. The item hunt puzzles will keep even the most “hardcore” of gamers entertained for hours at a time, and there is actually a pretty deep and believable story considering what type of game it is. With just a little rethinking of the name and packaging, this game could have caught and held the attention of more Wii owners, despite its shortcomings.

Mystery Case Files: The Malgrave Incident

ProsCons
Simple yet effective and entertaining gameplay mechanic of item hunt puzzles will have you staring at your TV for hours. Interesting art and sound play to the Wii's strengths well.Some of the items are so dated younger players will struggle.
VerdictDon't let the packaging or title fool you: this is a very good game.
Rating
80%

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