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This is a Mystery Case Files game which is a popular series of games with regular game players. I have played all the other MCF (Mystery Case File) games and have enjoyed every one and I always get a little excited when a new one is released. Your job is to uncover the evil legend that haunts a forgotten town in Shadow Lake. In 1973, something wicked took over the town of Bitterford, Maine after and unsuspecting inmate unearthed a mysterious object from beneath the prison floor. Years later, Bitterford lies in a ruin. You must join forces with psychic Cassandra Williams, played by award-winning actress Lea Thompson, to investigate the events that led to the town's destruction. The special Collectors Edition features a large range of extras that you won't find in the standard version. The Collector edition includes Exclusive bonus game play, Unlockable Morphing Objects, Beautiful Screensavers & Wallpapers, Exclusive behind-the-scenes video, Dynamic casebook and integrated Strategy Guide. I purchased the game from Big Fish Games for £10.80; this was reduced in price but will soon go back to full price which is £15.42. Alternatively if you are a Big Fish games club member you can use 2 credits to purchase the game.
Only you can expose the evil that lurks in the depths of Shadow Lake. But beware . . . What you discover may haunt you forever.
Starting the Game
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When the game has loaded it will come to the main screen which has a picture of a large lake and someone standing next to the lake. The name of the game is also displayed in large letters in the centre of the screen. There are a few options here which include Play, which is obviously to play the game. Options, this is where you can adjust the volume of the background or the other noises in the game. Quit, means you quit the game. Extras, this includes credits, forums, more games, making of, screensaver & backgrounds. When you choose the Play option you can then choose to play the game in casual mode or expert mode. Casual mode means hints will glimmer; hints re-load faster, optional tutorial and instructions. If you play in Expert mode you don't get any instructions when playing the game and hints will take longer to re-load once using them. I decided to go for the Casual mode as I have found some of the other MCF (Mystery case Files) games quite challenging. Once you have chosen the mode you want to play in you will watch a short video of the game and a prisoner we see escaping from a prison and running through the woods. The first screen to the game will load and it's here you can choose whether to have the tutorial on or off. If you chose to have the tutorial which is what I did, this will explain the game a little further. On the left hand of the screen is your Casebook and Strategy Guide. Tasks are written in your casebook and will be crossed off in red once they have been completed. As you play the game further items will also appear in your casebook so you may need to keep referring to this in the game. In the middle of the screen is your Inventory. Everything you collect in the game will appear here. On the right hand side of the screen is a map and the hint button. You will need to use the map to move to different places throughout the game.
Playing the Game
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At the beginning of the game you will meet two characters. The characters speak to you and introduce themselves but then they speed off in a van. It's now your job to search specific areas in order to find things. The first scene is at a Motel, this isn't a hidden object scene, however you do need to find specific items in order to move on further into the game. For example you need to find some numbers so you can open the safe in order to get the key to another room, the numbers could be in different areas so you need to search them carefully. The mouse cursor is a gold colour, but when this changes to a magnifying glass it means you can inspect the area further where you may find items that could be of use later on in the game or things that will be added to your casebook, which you will need to refer back to. Twenty minutes into the game I was surprised that there wasn't more hidden object scenes, as so far I had only come across about 3 of them. When you collect things that you might need later on in the game they will be automatically added to your inventory. When you need to use one of these items later you simply select it by clicking on it and then on the item you need to use it on. For example I might need to use some bolt cutters on a padlock, so I would click on the inventory and then on the bolt cutters and then click again on the padlock, which is when the bolt cutters will cut through it. If you choose an object that isn't suitable for the job then the item will go straight back into your inventory automatically. In the game you will meet a character whom you will interact with throughout the whole game, you will need to collect certain things for her and take them back once they have been collected, this includes matching pictures with items in specific scenes. This does mean that you have to travel to and forth to different places on the map a lot. Using the map is easy as you just click on the place or building you need to visit and you will be taken there straight away. This is a new idea as in the previous MCF games you would have to go back through rooms, etc in order to get to a different place. If you decide to use a hint in the game this circles where the item is you need or are looking for. The hint needs some time to re-charge before you can use it again but this only takes a few seconds to re-charge. The game does involve you going to different places on the map and you will need to collect certain items from area's to take to other areas such as a ladder or other items. I completed the game in about 3 days, playing the game for a few hours each day.
Hidden Object Scenes
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The hidden object scenes are slightly different when comparing them to the other MCF games. Although you still get a list of objects to find, the objects could be in more than one room so you have to search different rooms in order to find the objects. This obviously makes the game slightly more challenging and it takes a bit longer to find the items. Finding some of the items included opening desk drawers for a closer look. Once you have found one of the items on the list you simply need to click on it and it will be circled purple and will then disappear and be crossed off of your list. The graphics are very clear so you can clearly spot items, although some of them are quite small and very well camouflaged into other objects. Some of the hidden items may be found in drawers or cupboards so you may need to search these areas too. There were a few items which I couldn't find such as keys and pennies as they are so well camouflaged into the scene. I had to use the hint for the items I couldn't find.
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Throughout the game you will come across some mini game and puzzles. These vary in what you have to do and some are harder than others. The first mini game I came across was a puzzle which consisted of 4 different squares but the puzzle was a moving picture. I couldn't get the hang of rotating the pieces correctly to form the correct picture, so I decided to skip the game which you can do in casual mode. The puzzles come up throughout the game and more pieces are added to the puzzle each time. No matter how many times I tried I just couldn't get the hang of any of the jigsaw puzzles which I found rather frustrating. The skip button appears where the hint button normally is. If you are unsure how to play the mini games there is a green button on each page with a question mark in it, if you click on this it will tell you what you have to do in order to complete the mini game. I found that some of the mini games can take some time to work out and complete, how-ever I really enjoy the mini games and puzzles and it definitely gets you thinking and using your brain. The instructions for the mini games are really easy to understand and you can read the instructions more than once if you need to. All the mini games need to be completed in order to progress further or to unlock other parts or special items in the game. Some of the other mini games include cracking a safe combination to enable you to open it; using wires you have collected to complete a circuit board and more.
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You can refer to the Strategy guide at any time, simply by clicking on it which is on the left hand side of the screen. The guide follows your progress as you play the game so you don't need to flick through the pages in order to find the scene you are in. Pictures of the current scene are displayed and it will show you where hidden objects are and how to complete mini games/puzzles in order for you to move on in the game. There were 2-3 times where I did have to look at the strategy guide for some help in where to go and what to do in one of the scenes. I tried my best not to use the guide, as I wanted to try and complete the game without it. The strategy guide also tells you how much of the game you have completed such as 34% or 57%, etc.
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The graphics to the game were very good and the scenes were very clear, especially the hidden object scenes. The scenes go into great details with leaves blowing around in some of the scenes and we even see rats scurry about in some of the scenes too. The game has music throughout it which is just in the background at a low volume. There are also other sounds such as you opening and closing doors or doing other specific things such as digging or fixing things. You can adjust all the different sounds in the options on the main menu screen. I don't think the graphics could be improved anymore as they are very sharp already. I did find that some of the talking parts in the game were quiet so I did have to turn my speakers up for this during some parts of the game. Moving from room to room was slightly slower than it had been on other games and occasionally a gold egg timer would be on the screen as I moved into another room. I was surprised at this as it definitely wasn't as quick as it had been in previous games. I ensured I had nothing else on my laptop running when playing the game and my system met all the requirement to play this game.
How does this compare to other MCF Games?
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This is another great game from MCF; how-ever I don't think I enjoyed it as much as I have done the other MCF games. I found there were less hidden object scenes to complete throughout the game and this game was mainly all about trying to match the given pictures up to objects/places in the scenes. There was also a lack of mini game as well as the mini games that I did have to complete weren't that hard (apart from the moving puzzle ones). I remember in the last MCF game I had to spend a lot longer on the mini games in order to be able to complete them. The game had a good story behind it and I enjoyed visiting the difference places on the map and learning more about the characters in the game. The video clips in the game were good to watch to enable you to get a good picture of what was going on in the game. Although this was a good game it isn't my favourite MCF games and I think it's actually probably my least favourite of them so far. I think some of the other MCF games were more challenging and there was more variation of what you could do in the game.
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The story behind the game is good and I like that you see different video clips throughout the game to get a real picture of the story behind the game. I was a little disappointed with the lack of hidden object scenes and mini games as I think there was much less of these than there has been in previous MCF games. I also thought that the majority of the game focused on matching the given pictures to areas in different scenes. I didn't find the game very hard, apart from the puzzles that I couldn't complete. Moving from room to room was a lot slower than it had been in previous MCF games and I was a little surprised at this. I haven't gone into the Extras part of this game as I'm not really interested in the screensavers or the wallpapers that you can get for your computer. I am glad I purchased this game as I have purchased all the other MCF games and I think they are worth paying the money for as they are different to other hidden object games. Although this was a great game and it was fun to play it's not my favourite MCF games. It will be interesting to see what the next MCF game will be like. I have now installed this onto my mum's computer so she can play the game. If you are a fan of the other MCF games of hidden object games in general then I would recommend you try this.
(review may also appear on ciao)