Review – Mystery Case Files: The Black Veil

Recommendation: Recommend with Reservations
Developer: Eipix Entertainment
Publisher: Big Fish Games
Release Date: March 2017
Other MCF by Eipix: Key to Ravenhearst, Ravenhearst Unlocked, and Broken Hour

Genre: Hidden Object Puzzle Adventure, Mystery, Puzzle, Adventure

Intro/Summary

This review is based on completed gameplay and extra features. My rating and recommendation are based primarily on graphics, fun factor, and creativity.  

Mystery Case Files is an iconic series that was first established by Big Fish Studios. This series has seen its ups and downs, numerous changes, and has still managed to survive.  It has been the tradition, that these games would be released in or close to November—around thanksgiving. (In some cases, a few of the games were released in April, October, or December) However, this year, this tradition was broken, and MCF was released eight months earlier than usual, and exceptionally soon after the release of MCF: Broken Hour.

In this installment of MCF, the Master Detective is sent to Dreadmond, Scotland and meets up with an old acquaintance, Allison Sterling (re: MCF-Dire Grove, 2009). Allison informs the detective that the people of Dreadmond are mysteriously aging and inquires for the detective’s help in ascertaining the truth behind the accelerated aging of the townsfolk.

For the majority of the game, the story is revealed at a moderate pace, and information is given so that you can deduce the storyline in more detail, but not so much information that you figure out the whole storyline within a couple of chapters. Even with the ambiguous revelations, you’re not completely lost. Yet, in the last two to three chapters is when the storyline completely abandoned its original direction and went somewhere unexpected and left you thinking, “What the heck did I just play?” The bonus chapter was a labyrinthine also and added further complexity to the already bewildering storyline from the main chapter. The level of sophistication and quality of the graphics and animations normally associated with MCF fluctuated throughout the game. Overall, the graphics were excellent and beautifully rendered. Yet, there were many instances where you could see the graphics suffer—lack of detail and aesthetic. There was a noticeable deficiency of immersion and atmospheric quality to the game that I attribute mostly to the perplexing storyline. While the storyline was convoluted and the graphics and animations were inconsistent, there are aspects about this game that atone for the other derisory game attributes.

Pros/Cons/Neutrals

Pros

+ Some beautiful cutscene animation (eg: Opening cutscene of the Battle of Somme, WWI)
+ Creative and fun puzzles and HOS
+ Thematic soundtrack
+ Option to disable pop-ups
+ Medium length game – not too short but not too long
+ Superb voice acting

Cons

– Lack of trophies
– Inconsistent graphics/animation quality (eg: Allison Sterling, beginning scene where the detective and Allison are talking to Maggie; overabundance of purple hues)
– Labyrinthine storyline
– Short bonus chapter
– Lack of an atmospheric setting and immersion into the game

Neutrals

  • Challenge: depends on your level of skill in problem solving and ascertaining the developers’ logic in gameplay structure/formula how hard the game will be.

Recommendations

I recommend  this game if you…

  • place emphasis on the creativity rather than the challenge
  • don’t place heavy emphasis on storyline
  • can tolerate the overabundance of purple and magenta hues
  • want a relatively straightforward game to play in order to relax
  • want similar gameplay and graphic style as the previous MCF installments done by Eipix

I do not recommend this game if you…

  • place heavy emphasis on logical storyline flow and development
  • place heavy emphasis on graphic quality and style
  • looking to be highly immersed into the game
  • want the ‘WOW’ factor
  • want exceedingly challenging gameplay, puzzles, and HOS

Further Analysis

Compared to MCF: Broken Hour, which was released November 2016, MCF: The Black Veil doesn’t quite meet the mark. While it’s a decent game, there are certain attributes that this game lacks at its core that are fundamental in a superior game. One of those aspects is the storyline. Normally, I don’t pay too much attention to storyline, but in this game it was kind of hard not to see the plot holes. In the beginning of the main game, the storyline was fairly straightforward, however, the last few chapters, the storyline went into a new direction, changing the dynamics of the game. To me, the new direction made everything we had done, and the information we had learned, before that moment almost useless—filler. One reason why the storyline failed to deliver was the lack of continuity and explanation of background story.  When the main game comes to a close I was left feeling empty and churning with questions. The ending made sense (kind of), if you disregard the earlier chapters of the game; however, in regards to what we had done and learned during the majority of the game, it didn’t fit.  This resulted in the ending feeling rushed and contrived at the last moment. This is a problem that could have been easily fixed if the storyline had been fleshed out more. If more time had been spent on storyline development instead of the cat-and-mouse game we played with the antagonist, these issues could have been addressed.

Note: When I replayed this game, the ending for the main game wasn’t as ambiguous as it was when I first played it. I was able to find subtle clues that helped with understanding the storyline, however, the lack of continuity—flow—was still evident. There weren’t enough details provided to have a clear and thorough understanding of what was occurring.

Now, let’s move forward to the bonus chapter. In the bonus chapter, we are playing as Richard, the antagonist from the main game. The goal of the storyline was to elucidate the tale of how Richard became the person we saw in the main chapter, however, the storyline failed to deliver.  The bonus chapter felt like the writers simply put together random ideas together, and decided to call that a story.  Execution and delivery of the plot was inadequate, and the lack of detail made the story hard to follow, as seen in the main chapter’s storyline. To be quite honest, I don’t know what in the world happened in the bonus chapter. So, I’ll leave it at that. Just know that it was more labyrinthine than the main chapter.

The complexity of the storyline also created another problem, especially if this is what you look for in a game: lack of immersion and atmospheric environment.  The storyline in itself is a puzzle that you spend the better half of the game trying to deduce what’s going on and that, consequently, took away from the game experience. While the music was brilliant, it couldn’t completely compensate for what the storyline took away from the game nor could it set the tone for a creepy environment. I wasn’t expecting the environment to be as creepy as the original, but I was hoping for some of the creepiness and flair seen in Eipix’s previous MCF installments at least.

The graphics in this game were a blend of gorgeous, highly detailed designs to rough, jagged cutout magazine-esque, “I barely spent 10 minutes on this”. The best example of the latter is the depiction of the NPC (non-player character) Allison Sterling. In general, the graphics and animations were exquisite, but there was a lack of consistency in their quality and style that is very evident throughout the game, which is uncharacteristic for this developer. It appeared as if the developer didn’t care and left as is instead of trying to make corrections. When I beta-tested this game, I made a comment about the graphics, especially with Allison. Well, for starters they did listen–the designers changed her appearance–however, the graphics became worst. Go figure, eh?

The gameplay portion of the game is relatively straightforward but there were moments where I was challenged and had to use my neurons. This game isn’t too difficult. The amount of challenge presented is in the range of low to medium, with moments of highly challenging portions. One thing I should note is that the use of ornate keys was kept to a minimum, which was a bonus for me. Most of the adventure portion of gameplay consisted of using and combining everyday items to achieve our desired goal. Puzzles and HOS were imaginative and entertaining. Many of the puzzles I’ve encounter were logic based. The “Knight’s Dire Fate Puzzle” was an interesting puzzle and very fun, and I enjoyed this one immensely.  The superpuzzles were also another one of my favourites. There weren’t many but the ones presented in the game were awesome. I think my favourites were the music superpuzzles in the bonus chapter and the crime scene puzzle towards the end of the game (it may have been a HOS…not too sure now).

Somehow, this game manages to stay together. It’s a decent game that is very enjoyable, regardless of its downfalls. Nevertheless, some of these mistakes are obvious and hard to ignore. I understand that everyone makes mistakes–I make them everyday–but it begs the question: “Was this game released too early?” If this game had been released in November, the quality of the game would have been higher. This game had potential—a lot of it—and there are signs that indicate that the final result was a rushed, unfinished product. The main reason why the game isn’t as bad as it could have been is because there were characteristics (such as the creativity of the puzzles/HOS and excellent thematic compositions) that added to game’s ambiance, making the game more pleasurable than tedious and perplexing which it could have been. If you would like to purchase this game, I would recommend the SE version of the game instead if the CE.

This isn’t the best MCF but I did like the game, and I would probably see myself playing this game again.

Notable Features

+ Old school MCF journal and typewriter
+ Storyline involves Ankou, the personification of death in Breton Mythology (Breton: Brittany, France)
+ Trophy Room – 7 trophies
+ A Knight’s Dire Fate Puzzle (re-playable)
+ 12 HOS w/ morphing object
+ 36 puzzles
+ 39 Collectibles

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