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About the game
Mystery Detective is a mystery solving styled game for the Nintendo DS.
Published in 2006 by 505 games the game is based around a female private investigator called MacKenzie who runs her own private investigation bureau aided by a mushroom (a fun guy to be with!) and her butler Cromwell. Mackenzie's Bureau is presented with a series of four increasingly difficult mysteries to solve and armed solely with the Nintendo Stylus she must solve the mysteries through a combination of thorough investigation and manipulation of objects that she encounters on her quest.
The game starts in a simple training mode in the bedroom of Mackenzie's office where a tired Mackenzie is awoken by her alarm clock. After feeding her pet mushroom named Funghi she attempts to open her bedroom door to find it is locked.
And so the training tutorial challenge is set; find the key and open the bedroom door.
It's probably worth explaining the layout of the dual screens at this stage as they are fundamental to game play.
The top screen shows a picture of Mackenzie and details of the current location and mystery whereas the lower screen displays a picture of the current investigation scene, a notebook used to record details of the current investigation, a hand icon representing a list of items you have touched(!) and a box that displays a list of the items that you are currently carrying.
So let's go back to the training challenge. Using the stylus you must click on objects around the room and search for clues. The first item you will find is a jewellery box. Once you have clicked on the box it will be added to your items collection. Selecting the item from you collection list will allow you to further examine the jewellery box and you will see that it has a skull decoration with one jewel eye, plus a couple of decorative studs on either side. Further hunting around your room by random stylus taps will uncover a loose jewel, which is also added to your items collection. It's at this point that you learn one of the games key skills; combining items to create new items. By clicking ion the loose jewel and then dragging on top of the Jewellery Box icon the jewel is then placed into the empty socket of the skull decoration. This doesn't solve the mystery though and after re-examining the jewellery Box and clicking around it's surface you will discover that one of the decorative studs is in fact a button that opens the box and reveals the key required to exit your bedroom.
Once out of your bedroom you are in your main office and the first of four mysteries to solve is presented to you.
The mysteries are played in order and you cannot progress to the next mystery until its predecessor has been solved. The first Mystery is called robbery and your first client a dizzy blonde called Penelope hires you as she claims that somebody has stolen the nice end part of her dreams! It's at this point you are also introduced to your rival Chloe is competing to solve the mysteries before you and could seriously do with a series of anger management courses. The characters are one of the games stronger points as each character is quite likeable and definitely enrich the storylines.
Also the sarcastic wit of Mackenzie shines throughout the game and whilst she may make polite and courteous comments on the lower screen scene the upper screen displays thought bubbles of what she is actually thinking!
Without giving the plot away, or spoiling the storyline, the first mystery progresses in a similar fashion to the tutorial mission with object interaction being the key strategy. The only differences in this level is that the mystery is set over a series of new locations and you will meet new characters that you will need to interrogate by selecting your speech dialog from a multiple choice list of sentences.
Whereas the logic in the tutorial was quite straightforward (i.e. fitting a jewel into a missing socket activated a lock mechanism) the logic in the actual mysteries is less so. For example a hole in a fishing net is repaired by swiping down cobwebs from a hot dog stall and a cake is used in conjunction with a pressed flower to make a robotic pillow! It is this lack of logic that really starts to make the game a chore. Alongside the need to click every area of a scene to find clues and objects their relevance and use in the game became unclear. At stages you find yourself randomly applying objects to each other in the desperate hope that something will happen. After feeding cake to my pet mushroom, using the fishnet on the cake, putting the daisy on the cake and so forth I came to the end of my tether and searched the internet for a clue to help me get to the next mystery. The solution was equally bizarre, I could have never thought of the solution without assistance.
I turned the cartridge off in dismay.
Sound, control and graphics
The music in the game is quite funky and similar in style to seventies soap drama music. The sounds made when you touch or utilise items is quite underwhelming although sound is not really that important in this genre of game.
As for controls you can use the stylus for all of the interaction with the game. The menus, navigation and object utilisation are all performed via a series of stylus drags or taps. The D-Pad and buttons can be used for most of the commands too if preferred. The game is really responsive and there isn't any lag or delay in control.
The graphics are really great and have bold and well defined scenes and characters that have a good colour tone and shading and give the game a sturdy and professional look. The animations work well and there is no issue with slowdown or delay.
I had real difficulty with this game's logic.
The game looks and sounds good and performs well but despite this there is a certain craziness and lack of sense that turns what could have been a good adventure game into a "click and hope" romp. Its not that I dislike this genre of game (I was a big fan of the Lucas Arts range of PC adventure games); my main disappointment was the lack of hints and the dubious solutions required to solve each mystery. The ambiguity of solutions resulted in higher stress levels as I played the game and elevated the urge to go on the internet and find a cheat solution.
Not a game for the impatient.
© M Jones (Otalgia) 2008
Mystery Detective is exactly what a Nintendo DS owner wants. There are beautiful graphics and a mysterious environment populated with humans, ghosts and funny monsters! And above all the stylus is the only controller you need as you investigate and reveal clues by touching objects. With great character design and environments, the adventures are dictated by your choices and deductions, and you become a detective through your DS.