MSW II: Return to Cabot’s Cove

Murder She Wrote II: Return to Cabot’s Cove is a mystery point-and-click game that follows the mystery writer and amateur detective Jessica Fletcher. It is based on a classic TV show of the same name from back in the 80’s. Jessica Fletcher and her adventures were a childhood favorite of mine so I was excited try this out.

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The game includes 3 episodes/cases in the form of books set in the town of Cabot Cove, Maine. Many of the characters you meet are in fact characters from the actual show. The music, graphics and voice acting are very nostalgic to someone that have watched the show. I thought that aspect of the game was well done. In fact I couldn’t help myself as soon as the memorable intro music played I had to make a little happy dance.

Another nice feature is that despite all three cases set on the same map, new locations are unlocked upon starting a new case except for the final case which is set on a completely new location.

There’s plenty of interactions between characters; however, you’re not given the chance to choose your own conversations. Instead, they unfold to keep the story going.

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Much like a standard adventure puzzle game there’s an inventory with minimum item exploitation; a hint system and a journal. The puzzles are considered fairly easy. I thought the mini-games variety was decent but I was a little disappointed that they made you go back to the same puzzles which made it a little boring and repetitive.

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I can see that there are plenty of features that can make the MSW game series unique. Sadly, there aren’t many of them out there. I think there are only 2 games for the computer and a few others in different formats. It’s a shame because the TV show has enough content to turn these games into a hit. It just needs someone to develop these games to make them better and create a culture behind them which would be really nice- kind of like what Herinteractive is doing with Nancy Drew.

Overall the game is average if not a little too easy, but for any Jessica Fletcher fan, this comes as a heartwarming treat!

My final score is 3.5/5 ★★★

  • 3/5 for gameplay
  • 2/5 for plot
  • 3/5 for puzzles & exploration
  • 3/5 for overall experience

Game Platform (played on): MAC, Big Fish Games.

Game link

Game trailer

Review: Bonfire Stories

It’s been a while since I played a Big Fish Game but when I saw the game Bonfire Stories: The Faceless Gravedigger selling for $2 I thought why not. Upon logging in though the price changed to $6. It seems the promotion is only valid for new subscribers.

I’m assuming the game is part of a Bonfire Stories hidden game series. One thing about me is that I’m not a huge fan of hidden object games. I prefer mini-games over hidden objects but every now and then I get in the mood to play one when I don’t want to think too much.

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The story is about a group of friends who decide to camp in the forest of Quiet Grove. At night, they gather around a bonfire and tell each other spooky stories. One of the gang members tells the story of the faceless gravedigger and that’s when your game launches. As usual you’re either a journalist or a cop trying to follow the lead of a mysterious phenomenon and in this one- you probably guessed it- is a faceless cult of gravediggers.

The story is a little cheesy not to mention the transition of cutscenes can be rushed and laughable but the graphics look ok. In some parts like the Cinema & Reception the design is nostalgic and 60s style which I’m a sucker for. They tried to be inventive with the hidden object games which was nice so there’s a bit of variety. One that stood out for me was an audio-based hidden object which frankly I haven’t seen done before. A conversation takes place and you have to find the items spoken.

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Aside from that item manipulation- which I usually enjoy- was average. In the beginning it was okay but eventually I noticed they make you find the same items, not sure why. You can combine the items but everything is very straightforward. There’s also no journal to refer to- only a map and a task list, which is very odd. The funny thing is that I hardly ever use the notebooks/journals in adventure hidden object games but in this one they wanted you to remember certain code combinations. In some mini games, as is customary, they’ll let you see the code clue you find side by side with the mini game, but in others you have to depend on your memory. Which is fine but with these games it’s something unexpected as the majority of the game is easy and doesn’t demand jotting anything down or trying to remember. When I clicked on the information button it laughably said “it’s the same code and letters you heard so many times in the game”. I guess the game designer was bored that day.

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The mini games were fine. In fact, some of them actually made me think for a change. They weren’t exceptionally difficult but they weren’t that easy either. Overall the game lasted for about 2 hours, which is not very long but for the promotional $2 they’re offering (provided you’re a new subscriber) I think it’s fair.

I’m sure it’s even cheaper (if not free) for the iPad and iPhone. Would I play it again? Definitely not. Would I recommend it? Probably not but possibly, if I stumbled on it and someone happened to ask me about a game at that very moment in need of something laid-back to play to waste time- I might.

My final score is 3/5 ★★★

  • 2/5 for gameplay
  • 2/5 for plot
  • 3/5 for puzzles & exploration
  • 3/5 for overall experience

Game Platform (played on): MAC, Big Fish Games

Game link

Game trailer

Note: The link provided here is for the Collector’s Edition which is $13- Couldn’t find the standard  Not sure why they have so many different prices for the same game. Aside from the collector’s edition which is usually pricier there’s also $6 and $9 and the $2 promotion. I definitely don’t think this is worth $13. 

The Painscreek Killings

The Painscreek Killings is a 1st person, point-and-click, free-roaming, mystery game. You begin the adventure as a journalist who wants to find out exactly what has happened in Painscreek to write a compelling story. Upon arrival; however, you find out that the town has been abandoned, gated and many investigators before you were tasked with similar missions but for one reason or another ended up unheard of.

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As soon as the main menu came up, I felt very pleased with what I was seeing. The music is soothing and the graphics look like they’ve been filtered with a vintage lens. In a way the game resembles a walking-simulation but eventually you realize there’s a lot to tackle beyond the surface. I play PLENTY of adventure and mystery games and I consider this game probably the closest I got to a real detective-experience.

The village is very charming and immensely enjoyable to explore. This is a good thing because you’ll find yourself going back and forth through many of its locations. The layout, design and lore were carefully laid out. The various locations are interconnected and will definitely require you to write things down.

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The game doesn’t depend on AI interactions, neither is it a straight-forward puzzler like most detective adventures these days. It heavily depends on visiting each destination, reading journal entries, letters and notes left behind by the village inhabitants and forming a picture. Eventually each location will augment pieces missing in another place until you draw a clear map of who the killer is, what weapon was used and where did the incident take place. In fact, you aren’t bound by a set of events taking place in this game to the point where you could end the game at anytime and immediately solve the mystery if you think you’re ready.

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I truly loved this game. It felt pleasantly immersive and from the moment I started the game to the very end it kept me hooked. The horror factor in the game isn’t associated with goblins and monsters but there is a very prominent creepy theme going on. I consider games with subtle touches of horror far more effective than those that deliver it to your face.

While playing this game the weather wasn’t that great and we encountered a big storm that left us staying at home for days. This game was the perfect companion. I really enjoyed getting to know all the characters and following up with their leads. I also had a lot of fun experimenting with different note-taking apps to help me organize my thoughts & solve the investigation. Google Keep & Simple Mind mapping helped a great deal. The following is a mind map that I created for the game and it really helped to keep track of who’s who and who’s related to what. Although it doesn’t include the answer of the mystery, you might not want to zoom in too much to avoid spoilers.

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My final score is 5/5 ★★★★★

  • 5/5 for gameplay
  • 4/5 for plot
  • 5/5 for puzzles & exploration
  • 5/5 for overall experience

Game Platform (played on): PC, Steam

Official Site

Links: Trailer

The Review: The Silent Age

The Silent Age is an indie point-and-click adventure game by the Danish developer House on Fire. The story takes place in 1972 and centers on a character names Joe who works as a janitor in a company. One day Joe meets a strange man from the future and receives a device that enables him to travel back and forth between two realms– Joe’s current day in the 70’s and a post-apocalyptic version of his world. In order to solve the mystery and find answers Joe must toggle back between his realms to manipulate items and solve puzzles.

The Good 

The Silent Age is visually stunning. The graphic style of the game is trendy and unique. The colors are vibrant and the characters are amusing. The narrative of the story is well written and is deeper than what is initially expected. By the end of the game all loose ends are met and you get an overall sense of understanding of how everything was brought together. I also found myself actually caring about Joe despite how short the game was.

The Bad 

The game is sold for $10 on the Apple store. On the iOS, the game is divided into 3 episodes, each selling for around $5. On steam, the price tag is $9. The game is divided into 10 short chapters. I do feel for the price offered the game is shorter than what it should be.

The game is categorized as a ‘puzzle’ game but there weren’t really any puzzles per se. The game is purely dependent on item manipulation. I also think the overall difficulty of the game is not to my liking. For instance, at any given time you aren’t given more than 3 items (for the most part even only 2). Eventually it becomes very predictable where these items will be used. A more challenging experience would have been to either allow the gamer to carry more items making it difficult to decide what is to be used where or to limit it to few items but expand the area of exploration (similar to Thimbleweed Park). By the time I reached the last 4 or 5 chapters, I found myself getting bored. My motivation to continue was to find out what was going to happen.

Verdict

For an indie game I think The Silent Age is decent. I would imagine the game isn’t best suited for Adventure game veterans though. For a lesser price, I would have thought the game is a must try.

My final score is 3/5 ★★★★

  • 4/5 for originality
  • 3.5/5 for plot
  • 2/5 for puzzles & exploration
  • 3/5 for overall experience

Game platforms: Android, iOS, Microsoft Windows, Macintosh operating systems

Links: Official WebsiteVideo Trailer,  Steam, iTunes/Apple