It’s very odd that it’s taken this long for a substantial point and click adventure game to hit the Nintendo Wii, considering just how viable the system seems to be for the genre. We had the very popular Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir many years ago for the Nintendo DS, but only now have series creators Big Fish Games and developer Sanzaru Games decided to bring the franchise to the Nintendo Wii. Despite my initial apprehension towards these kinds of “casual” games, after spending a lot of time with Mystery Case Files: The Malgrave Incident, I actually really enjoyed everything this title had to offer, and realised why Nintendo would be so brave as to put their name to this title.
The Malgrave Incident sees players step into the shoes of a silent and unnamed Mystery Case Files detective who has been hired by an enigmatic Winston Malgrave to his own private island. The reason? To collect a special kind of “dust” which is apparently imbued with magical power that Mr. Malgrave needs to help find his missing wife, Sarah. Of course, the Malgrave Island is a huge property, and, naturally, Winston would much rather employ a detective to help him out rather than work by himself. And so the journey begins of our unnamed detective to find out just where Malgrave’s wife is as well as the reasons why the island has been seemingly deserted for so many years.
Having played quite a few hidden object games, a lot of them have a rather annoying habit of playing out a story in a rather linear fashion, throwing in a “hidden object” scenario that must be completed in order for progression to occur. Thankfully, with The Malgrave Incident, the story itself is well weaved throughout the gameplay mechanics. Items that are found are covered in the dust that Malgrave wants to help find his wife – and completion of each puzzle yields a new item that allows progression through some motion based puzzles. It’s all done quite well, and the story itself is rather teasing and does a perfect job at making the player want to progress further and uncover the mystery of the Malgrave Island. That being said, some may find the conclusion quite disappointing but it really does depend on your standards of story telling in these kinds of games.
A significant departure from previous point and click games, The Malgrave Incident features fully rendered environments that not only look good but are quite varied in their appearances. Butterflies and insects fly across fields, while wind blows grass or plants realistically. The game’s appearance, while not photo realistic, really do a great job at establishing the atmosphere of the game, and really does a good job at pulling the player into the game. Throughout the game there are also some very well made cutscenes that help advance the story too, and many of these have a very dark and gritty feel. The actual hidden object segments consist of pre-rendered artwork, which is immaculately detailed, even when players zoom in to maximum focus. There are some parts of the game (mainly the rendered environments) that can look rough at times, but generally speaking The Malgrave Incident presents a very visually appealing package.
Mystery Case Files: The Malgrave Incident plays just like your classic adventure game, albeit a little bit more simplified and thus more accessible. Players use the Wii Remote to navigate environments, examine objects as well as complete rather simplistic motion based puzzles. Generally speaking, the game is a little bit of a slow paced game but this is by no means a bad thing – this kind of genre suits this kind of pacing. Essentially, The Malgrave Incident boils down to two distinct phases of gameplay – the first is object finding and the second is navigation.
Object Finding is activated by finding an area with “dust” surrounding it, and transports the player into a separate screen that is usually incredibly cluttered, as well as a list of objects that the player has to find. These components of the game are sometimes quite challenging, as sometimes the object that may be on the list (IE. A Dragon) may not be what you expect to be looking for (IE. A dragon appearing on a soft drink can logo). While this does seem somewhat deceiving, it does make you look beyond “surface skimming” for the objects. Additionally, to prevent players from just clicking randomly while waving the Wii Remote across as much area as they can, the game does slow down dramatically, which gets more and more annoying and requires players to actually search the scene. During these scenarios, players can be joined by up to three other players to help complete the modes quicker. This kind of approach is a pretty well thought out one – though solo players can also ask for hints which will highlight the vague location of one of the items on the list without penalty.
When you’re not looking for random objects, players will instead be looking through the different environments of the Malgrave Island, and attempting to use the items collected from the object location challenges to make progress. Generally speaking, these segments are a little bit more slow paced than the object location challenges but they do give a little bit more of a sense of “adventure” to the whole package. The puzzles themselves are nothing too taxing – most of them involve examining an object, receiving a hint from the on-screen dialogue and then figuring out the hint. Most of the puzzles draw upon basic logic but many players will find little difficulty in making progress in The Malgrave Incident.
While it does the point and click gameplay justice, The Malgrave Incident is not without its faults. There were several times during the object find scenarios where I would select an item and have no response – only to find that the game wanted me to select a specific part of the item. This was a little bit frustrating but something that didn’t pop up too often. Nevertheless, it was a present problem. The other huge flaw, or at least, biggest disappointment with The Malgrave Incident is that there will be many times where the player will return to a hidden object scenario they’ve already been to, with about five or more items changed. Essentially, this means players will know the locations of half the objects already, which personally feels like a lazy way to make the game seem longer.
The main story is over within six to seven hours – though for some more established players there will be many times where repetition and monotony may sink in and the motivation to complete the game may just not be there. To its credit though, Mystery Case Files: The Malgrave Incident does feature some cleverly put together multiplayer modes. Swift Pick mode requires all the players to find one object as fast as possible – choosing scenes from the main game while Classic Pick sees all the players try to find as many items as possible, with the winner being the one who found the most. My personal favourite, however, is Tick Tick Pick, where a player is given the “bomb” next to their cursor. The player with the bomb must find a certain item before their time limit expires – but the other players can find the object before the bomber to protect themselves instead. It’s an incredibly tense and frenetic mode that just gets more fun with more and more players, but it does sometimes feel like a momentary distraction and nothing very substantial.
The game also features full voice work, which was quite encouraging to hear upon booting up the game. Thankfully, the performances are not too cheesy either and adds a level of mystique to the game. The music does a good job at, once again, drawing the player into the world that Winston Malgrave has built for the player, and some of the tunes remind me of the Fable series. Very whimsical tracks really add to the games charm.
Mystery Case Files: The Malgrave Incident is a game that I was initially quite sceptical of but eventually had quite a bit of fun with. While it is, without a doubt, an incredibly casual and simple experience to be had, it is still quite an enjoyable one too. Those who grew up on the more “serious” adventure titles from Lucasarts back in the day won’t be sated here, but almost everyone else who enjoys this genre will definitely enjoy The Malgrave Incident.
Great environments, beautiful artwork and an intriguing oil painting artistic direction gives the world a very genuine feeling.
The hidden object components are challenging, but some technical difficulties brought the game down at times. The puzzles themselves are really not that challenging either with most people having half a brain being able to solve them. Controls work very well.
The tunes on offer here really stood out and did a great job at sucking me into the games world. Voice work is plentiful and the performances themselves are very good.
There is a bit of a substantial story here to plough through, but once complete there really isnt anything else to do. Multiplayer modes are pretty fun to play around with, but wont hold the players attention for too long.
As you may have guess, surprisingly, I really enjoyed The Malgrave Incident. While it is easy to dismiss it as casual shovelware trash, this moderately priced adventure game is definitely an experience I would not turn my nose up at again. Its seriously a wonder why these kinds of games arent more readily available on the Wii, though I suppose if they were wed all be sick of them by now.
Mystery Case Files: The Malgrave Incident takes a much more serious approach than its predecessor, MillionHeir and it definitely has paid off. The games story is intriguing (albeit a little bit of a let down) and the gameplay is remarkably good at replicating the experience players would get with a mouse. If youre an adventure nut, this is one that will please you but also if youre looking for a nice break from the fast and frenetic blockbuster-esque games coming out this season, this is the perfect game for you.