As of November 2012, I run music webzine A Lonely Ghost Burning.

It's all about short, positive reviews with no genre restrictions. Might be worth a try if you you like your music to feature any or all of the following characteristics;

- Distinctive Vocals

- Palpable Atmosphere

- Believable Emotion

I also write occasionally for the excellent Alternative Magazine Online and keep a far less excellent blog, Cherry Faced Fool.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Casebook Episode 0: The Missing Urn

Year - 2009
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
- Easy
- FMV cut-scenes are very clear

- Laid Back
- Easy
- Mini Games are pointless
- Overall gameplay too casual
- Close-up camera shots are blurry

Download for free;

Casebook Episode 0: The Missing Urn


  1. "For the first time in my short blogging career I'm reviewing a non AGS game. "Traitor" I hear the returning visitors cry."

    And that is why I'll never make an AGS game. (Yes, I know - or at least hope - that the comment was made tongue-in-cheek, but the AGS community still give me as an outsider that impression.)

  2. Hey,

    Yes that comment was tongue-in-cheek.

    It's a shame to hear someone feels that way though. Whilst it's true that many AGS members seem passionate about AGS and its community, I think this is to be expected as some have been members for a number of years. I don't think that they're against anything that's not AGS - just proud to be a part of what is.

    The official AGS blog is a good example of this. SSH with the help of Dualnames and Leon report as much AGS news as they can, but also report some relevent adventure game stuff which isn't neccesarily AGS orientated.

    Thanks for taking an interest in the blog.

  3. No mention of the fact that is has a really huge innovation in it. Totally photo-realistic environments that can be freely explored! I thought that was a pretty cool feature myself.

  4. I agree, that is a positive aspect of the game I should definately have pointed out in the review.

    I can't help but feel however that such a feature is wasted, dare I say not even neccesary, for a game that is so casual in nature.

    Then again, perhaps I'm just a little bitter that the game showed the series not to be the second coming of FMV Black Dahlia style games that I hoped it would be.

    Thanks for visiting - any other thoughts on this game or others are welcome. :)

  5. The full length episodes are much darker in tone, and quite atmospheric. Particularly the 2nd Episode called 'The Watcher'. It's sort of like a 'Rear Window' homage, but much more sick and twisted.