"Mystery Storiesí biggest problem is how it seems to want you to believe itís something more than a game that presents you with a cluttered room then asks you to point out semi-hidden items with your stylus because, as far as games of this ilk go, this title is a competent and sometimes enjoyable take. "
Mystery Stories may try and trick you with its promises of story-based noir trickery and detective shenanigans, but donít you let it! Weíll get to the point with haste today; there's an overlaying plot that details the hunt for missing Mayan treasure and, strictly, does have you trotting through a series of exotic locations like the trusty back-of-the-box blurb faithfully promises. Itís true that the adventures of journalist Michelle Deanfield are what ultimately links things together, but what it actually links up isnít exactly clear at first glance.
To clear that up, Mystery Stories is a game where youíre presented with a static screen that youíre most often allowed to roam the camera around. The room's cluttered with all manner of junk and itís your job, as a roving reporter in the midst of solving a serious crime, to locate and liberate heaving piles of random junk. Just because.
The first screen presents a landing jetty located before an expansive hotel. Here, youíll need to search the cluttered wooden platform, small stretch of beach and the hotelís front. Too big to fit on the one screen, you can scroll your point of view around to take the location in sections. This will help as you search feverously for such vital items as sun cream, a bra, and a small collection of empty bottles.
It starts simplistic, and though a change of tone would make for a more interesting read, youíre not getting one. Thereís an ever-present time limit enforced and if you decide that random screen stabbings would be more productive than actually searching for the treasured items you seek, then you're penalised by having a sliver of this time evaporate. This would be quite the penalty if the time limit was small enough to cause panic; itís not. You have fifteen minutes to complete each stage, which each take approximately three or four to normally polish off. Thereís often special stipulations to meet, which does go some way into mixing things up. In this first stage, you need to load a camera with film, which amounts to finding a roll of film tucked beneath the aquaplaneís window and dragging it onto the camera sitting precariously at the lip of the rickety wooden jetty.
Other stages present the same general idea with differing ways to accomplish it. Some levels show you a monotone picture of the objects you seek, and ask you to search for their likeness, while others might present a drip feed of clues and ask you to figure out what the game wants you to find. Some drape the screen in darkness and your viewpoint is substituted with a flashlight beam, and some call out what you need to find in selective batches. The weakest version is where instead of any kind of visual prompt, youíre given a sound effect and asked to link the item with the noise. Sometimes, this works fine, but not when something like a trumpet is given a noise like a saw cutting wood when thereís also a saw sitting smugly on screen.
The kooky plot keeps the locations changing, but thereís a lot of taking in the same sights over and over again. Appreciated touches like each level concealing a hidden sun template that, when discovered, offers a stock of hints, such as highlighting a hidden object or freezing your over-generous clock, suffer from this. The sunís location never changes so once youíve found it in one hot-spot, youíre free to stock up on helping hands every time you revisit the cracked location. Which will be a lot.
Youíre taken from messy museums to crumbling Aztec ruins to guerrilla outposts complete with unguarded machine gun nests. The cast do their best to provide tenuous links along the way, but some way into the game, the writers obviously concluded that trying to keep a serious narrative running would be pointless. It would be, especially on top of being told in-game that you can continue no further with your adventure until you retrieve a seriously soggy muffin form the aquatic depths while partaking in a romantic deep sea dive, allowing the google-loving professor of history to be kidnapped from your boat. By villains who can, apparently, teleport at will.
Stages see you try and free inept police officers after they lock themselves in jail by collecting a series of items he tries to combine into a means of escape (including his homemade bomb constructed mainly out of pickles) or helping Deanfield collect her scattered underwear from a hotel room. These sections are played out with photographs of actors that probably didnít know just how stupid they were about to be made to look, but the goofy spin is often appreciated.
Mystery Storiesí biggest problem is how it seems to want you to believe itís something more than a game that presents you with a cluttered room then asks you to point out semi-hidden items with your stylus because, as far as games of this ilk go, this title is a competent and sometimes enjoyable take. The story mode never seems to end and its lifespan is constantly and artificially extended with ceaseless reliance on recycling old haunts, begrudgingly taking you to new locations only when it really, really has to. Itís not going to be a game you sit down for marathon sittings, but for something you can whittle away a few minutes on without needing to ever really turn your brain on for, itís perfect. But the bottom line is that itís a game about finding hair brushes and boots in a jumbled screen full of junk and even though it does a competent job at being a game about finding hair brushes and boots in a jumbled screen full of junk, thereís only so many times you can stare at the screen in the desperate search of a tea cup before you need to stop and re-evaluate your life.
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