Going Casual: Mystery Case Files: Key to Ravenhearst

Classic Ravenhearst is about as present in this photo as it is in the game.

Here we are, at Halloween, and I'm so bored. I thought about playing SOMA, then remembered the Amnesia-like controls and immediately thought about not playing SOMA. What can I do? Wait, salvation! There's a new Mystery Case Files game out! I love that horror hidden-object series from Big Fish Games! So I'll just relax with Key to Ravenhearst, the latest game made by Eipix Entertainm—

Another one? Seriously, how do the employees of Eipix have enough hours in the day to eat, sleep, and bathe? Do they just spend all of their waking moments cranking out inferior knock-offs of the better games in the series they have taken over?

Well, let's be optimistic. Let's look at the plot, such as it is: The Master Detective discovers that someone is trying to rebuild the infamous Ravenhearst manor, and goes out to investigate. She discovers that this is all a plot by a member of the Dalimar family to absorb human souls and regain a human form, and that he is helped by a willing family member who entraps the Master Detective.

Wait, wasn't that the exact plot of Escape from Ravenhearst, only with the villain getting the body instead of the Master Detective's ghostly allies? And speaking of which, what happened to Rose and Emma? Why are Gwendolyn and Charlotte, formerly the most innocent and blameless of Ravenhearst's victims, suddenly willing to partake in the villainy with glee?

I don't mean to be unkind. Really I don't. After all, it's not as though Eipix stole these series from under the noses of the makers. But they just don't know how to make games like this. The story in this game is both too much like the previous entries in the series, and Eipix's own in-house series. Nothing about this has the signature touch of Mystery Case Files, and it really does feel like a lesser copy of a game from that series.

Here's an example: In the previous games in the series, as far back as Return to Ravenhearst, the MCF games have used live-action footage of actors to for their characters. It set them apart from other HOGs out there, and added an extra layer of horror. In Key, all of the characters are 2D animated models that shift from static pose to static pose . . . in other words, characters you'd see in any other Eipix title out there.

As for the puzzles, they too have become the same disjointed, inconsistent Eipix nonsense. The hidden object scenes have gone from being the lynchpin that holds the game together to an occasional delight amidst all the obtuse mini-games. Often the two are combined, and it makes for especially frustrating experience, especially when the in-puzzle "Info" tab tells you little-to-nothing about how to solve a puzzle or even the method through which you're supposed to determine a solution.

So that's that, I suppose. Rest in Peace, Mystery Case Files. You will be missed.

I'm the daughter of a veteran who spent my childhood in Killeen. As of 2013, I have a degree in English from the University of Texas at Austin. I'm a critic of books, films, television, and video games. Find me on Twitter: @rachel_knows

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