Length - Short/Medium
Suitability Factors - N/A
For the first time in my short blogging career I'm reviewing a non AGS game. "Traitor" I hear the returning visitors cry. Well not to worry (as if you did) the next review will be of another AGS title. As for this review...
The Missing Urn is a free mini episode in the Casebook series (by Areo Cinematic Games) aiming to showcase what the series has to offer in an attempt to entice people to splash their cash on the full-length commercial episodes. I think the developers deserve plaudits for making this in the form of a whole self-contained episode with its own story rather than just releasing a short demo of one of the proper episodes.
So, the game contains a complete story, but is it any good? Well in truth it's pretty lightweight stuff really, although to be fair it doesn't really claim to be anything other than this. The player must help a colleague investigate the disappearance of an urn containing his uncle's ashes after his aunt shows understandable concern when it goes missing. Various other objects belonging to the other residents of the house (another aunt and an uncle), have gone missing too and with no-one owning up to moving the items it's up to you to find out what's going on.
Although the game is cinematic, the overall atmosphere is very melodramatic - it feels like a made for T.V afternoon movie. The acting whilst certainly not horrendous is very much in this mould and the music seems quite depressing given the nature of the story.
Graphically, the FMV sequences are very clear and the locations are just about right for the type of game. A nice touch is that the camera can sometimes be manipulated in cut-scenes which gives the player more of a sense of actually being present in the scene rather than just a mere spectator.
I think the general melodrama feel however prevents the game from providing any real genuine sense of atmosphere or immersion.
And matters aren't helped by the casual gameplay either. The player collects evidence by taking photos of items that may be of importance. There is a limited albeit fairly high number of items that can be photographed however many of them serve no relevance to the case.
Pictures are taking by clicking the right mouse button which brings up a camera-eye view. When in this view a left click is required to actually take the photo. Despite the mouse-wheel enabling zooming in and out the backgrounds do become blurry and it's sometimes hard to tell exactly what the item is you're photographing.
This method of evidence collection is quite fun although far from realistic and it is from here that things go wrong in an adventure sense as it becomes clear that the game is more aimed at a casual audience. This is something I had no idea of before playing - it being an FMV title I was expecting something more along the lines of Black Dahlia/X-Files. In order to get trace evidence from any items of note, the player must return to the crime van and process the photos into the computer. From here items that contain trace evidence can be manipulated; dusted for fingerprints, swabbed, etc. All trace evidence is collected either by simply clicking on the object or via rather pointless and incredibly easy mini-games that require the player for example to move the mouse in a circular motion. In addition, the evidence found rarely requires any input from the player and the links to suspects are almost always made automatically.
A further clue as to the casual nature of the title is in the objectives. These can be accessed by pressing the space-bar and one optional task asks ' How many food items can you find?' Quite what relevance this has to anything I don't know but it does suggest an attempt to provide some out and out hidden object gameplay.
I hope this review doesn't sound too negative as the The Missing Urn is well presented and fairly good fun depending on what you're after from it. I can certainly see how this game would appeal to those who are fans of more casual games. As for adventure gamers however, well there is more adventure type gameplay on offer than in the hidden-object games I've sampled and the overall impression I got from the game was that it was trying to bridge the gap between the two genres. Despite this it was still far too casual for my liking.
Nevertheless whilst it's not up to the standards of other very good detective games such as those in the CSI and Law and Order series, anyone who fancies an hour or so of easier gameplay or prefers their entertainment to be very laid back could do worse than give The Missing Urn a whirl...not literally of course, that would just be disrespectful.
- Good presentation
- Laid back
- FMV cut-scenes are very clear
- Laid Back
- Mini Games are pointless
- Overall gameplay too casual
- Close-up camera shots are blurry
Download for free;
Casebook Episode 0: The Missing Urn