Mystery Case Files Dire Grove Review

Mystery Case Files: Dire Grove is a hidden object adventure that sees you trying to solve the mystery behind a strange legend and the disappearance of several students, simply through having the bad luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (or the right place at the right time as a less cynical person might say!)

Returning home following your investigations at Ravenhearst you are caught in a blizzard and forced to pull over in Dire Grove.  You find an abandoned car and the first of many videotapes that you will encounter throughout the game.  Unnerving footage shows a young woman in a car trying to scrawl a note.  She is deeply distressed and frightened but the tape cuts shortly after.  It is up to you to try and figure out who she is and – perhaps more importantly – what has happened to her.

Various locations in the game elicit either a hidden object puzzle or warrant further exploration to see what objects you can collect or interact with.  Highlighted areas indicate a puzzle to be solved and you may require another object in order to interact with an item and move forward.  You have an inventory, allowing you to store useful objects which may be of use later in the game.  Addi tionally you can also access a ‘crime computer’ which the various video tapes that you retrieve throughout the game can be added to, enabling you to play them back.  These video tapes are an integral part of the game and will enable you to piece together the events that led to the students’ disappearance (and occasionally provide the odd piece of vital information.)

The game offers three options for attitude, including snarky, motivational and normal.  I chose snarky and, accordingly, suffered a barrage of abuse throughout the game, all of which was very tongue-in-cheek.  It’s a small detail but it’s nice to see this offered in a game: a firm nod to the fact that different gamers prefer a different approach to these types of puzzles.

Mystery Case Files: Dire Grove is hugely atmospheric with dramatic music playing, ghostly apparitions appearing when you least expect it, particularly in mirrors, and desolate and eerie locations through the game, including an abandoned bed and breakfast, general store and museum.  The sense of unease throughout the game heightens as you uncover more of the videotapes and learn more about the legend of Dire Grove.  Though I was initially sceptical of the addition of video footage to the game, I have to admit that the video clips did enhance the supernatural overtone of the game and playing them through in succession once I had found them all was quite a creepy experience!

In this ‘Collector’s Edition’ there are some additional extras, including a chapter-by-chapter strategy guide, which also includes concept art, outtakes and wallpapers.  Additionally, there are achievements to unlock, such as completing the game in under six hours (which I managed – just!), finishing all hidden object puzzles without using a hint and solving all puzzles without skipping.  In total, there are fourteen achievements to unlock.  Whilst they don’t necessarily add anything in particular to the game, they do perhaps act as an incentive to be more thorough and take a little more time to explore.  An in-game object that isn’t necessarily essential to find could still unlock an achievement if you uncover it.

Mystery Case Files: Dire Grove has much to recommend it, including excellent clear and detailed graphics, atmospheric music and sound effects, an intriguing background story and a wealth of puzzles.  It is possible to complete the game in around six hours, though clearly that will be easier for more seasoned hidden object puzzlers than newcomers.  Whilst six hours may not sound a lot, it actually compares very well to other hidden object puzzles on the market and at a cost of £9.99 also represents good value for money.  I thoroughly enjoyed the last Mystery Case File game I played (Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst) and assumed that this would be of a similar high standard.  I’m pleased to say it’s better.  It’s a top class effort and a superb pick for hidden object and puzzle lovers alike.