Mcf Return to Ravenhearst Game Review

Hidden object games are a minefield for the casual gamer. You sit down at the PC thinking that you can handle it, that this time you’ll only be playing for a few minutes; that you’re in no danger of becoming addicted. Several hours later you’re a red-eyed, twitching wreck and your friends are huddled on the sofa planning an intervention. “Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhurst” is no exception. Billed as the largest game in the MCF series so far, it builds on the excellent earlier entry in the series to create an atmospheric and rewarding game that’s no less addictive than its predecessor.

By the end of earlier MCF game Ravenhearst, the spirit of Emma Dalimar had been freed and the eerie mansion where she spent her final days had fallen back into ruin. In the sequel published by Big Fish Games, a detective that’s you is called back to the mansion to investigate new stories of hauntings at Ravenhearst and is soon embroiled in a mystery of lost children and restless ghosts.

While the plot of many hidden object games feels tacked-on and arbitrary, Return to Ravenhearst is seamlessly plotted with an engaging storyline. Past MCF games had hidden object rounds at their core with only the occasional logic puzzle for variety. Return to Ravenhearst, by contrast, is a fully fledged adventure game; players explore the grounds and catacombs of Ravenhearst manor through point and click rounds that owe much to the “escape the room” sub-genre of puzzle games.

Doorways are blocked by logic puzzles ingeniously described as “soul proof” locks designed by the obligatory mad scientist villain in order to keep the ghosts of the manor locked inside forever. There’s enough variety in these puzzles to keep the player’s attention for long periods, and ideas rarely feel recycled. Along with the conventional sliding block puzzles and memory matches there are some devilishly clever puzzles that will keep players guessing forever. If you’re really stuck, the majority of puzzle rounds can be skipped, although some players may find it frustrating that their options when faced by a seemingly impossible limited to either solving it alone and giving up altogether. Hints on what to do and how to do it would improve the satisfaction factor to no end. In fact, the provision of hints and other help for the player are a mixed blessing. There’s no limit to the number of hints that a player can receive to solve any one hidden object round, and the proper use of inventory items can be hinted at with a clue from the “crime computer”. Asking for a hint or skipping a puzzle simply adds half an hour to the cumulative game time rather than having any real in-game penalties, so there’s little incentive to figure out the more challenging puzzles for yourself.

The game’s graphics are nothing short of breathtaking; full of Gothic artwork using an eerie blue-grey and antique sepia palette. Backgrounds are fantastically detailed, with dust motes hanging in the air and sinister, broken dolls scattered around the buildings. A phenomenal effort and level of resources has been invested in the development of this game, and it shows. There’s a brooding background of Gothic horror in the repeated images of roses, hearts and broken toys in the locations of Ravenhearst manor, creating a wonderfully macabre atmosphere.

The orchestration of background music is lush and textured, adding to the Victorian ambiance of the game, while unsettling children’s singing and the pleas of ghostly voices add a spine-chilling quality to the soundtrack.

Return to Ravenhearst is a masterful addition to the MCF series, and hopefully marks a turning point in the development of the series of games. With a teaser for the next MCF game hidden in one of Return to Ravenhearst’s puzzles, let’s hope there is more to come from this innovative and inventive games series very soon indeed.

Rating: 4.5/5