Mystery P.I: The Acceptable Face Of The Pixel Hunt

By John Walker on June 9th, 2008 at 11:43 pm.

Play along at home!

Bearing in mind I make a career out of slating crappy adventure games forcing you to hunt for one sodding pixel in the middle of a busy screen before you can advance to the next tedious conversation and discover you were supposed to click the clipboard on the fridge before the Captain would give you the next assignment, or whatever backwoods misery it may be, it makes little sense that I enjoy Mystery P.I..

PopCap’s, er, “versions” of the Mystery Case Files-inspired casual genre are especially well put together, and yet remain nothing more than giving you a list of objects to find in a cluttered screen. It’s the sort of activity that would more normally go ignored in a bumper book of puzzles, perhaps glanced at once all the mazes were complete and fishies reunited with clumsy, tangled fishermen. And yet… cannot… resist. Which is to say, last month PopCap released a sequel to Mystery P.I., The Vegas Heist, and I just noticed.

The secret to why these games work is the incongruity of the simplicity of the task, and the obfuscating execution. On the left is a list of objects too long to be quickly put into short-term memory, and taking up the rest of the screen is a picture containing a billion things, all of which you’re almost certain were on the list, but, no. Here is my internal monologue as I play:

“Okay, a steering wheel, two fish, a gramophone, a crocodile… let’s see. Wait, was a bucket on the list? No, okay, so a pair of pliers too. Oh, wait, I’m sure it said snooker cue. It doesn’t say snooker cue? Hey, since when was chicken on the list? I’ve seen the chicken – where was it? How can I not find the chicken now? Wait, was there a steering wheel? This is ridiculous, there’s no gramophone in this picture…”

Find the key.

Of course the gramophone is there, and about eighteen feet tall, in the middle of the screen. That’s what I love best about this nonsense – that you can hide things by making them much bigger than they should be. You try noticing the hairbrush that’s as tall as the building it’s been stuck next to.

Should you want a go, there’s the usual 60 minute free trial available from PopCap, and of course every other casual game distributor on the internet. If your passion goes beyond the hour, you can get the full game for $19.95 (£10) from every casual game distributor on the internet, or for £15 ($30) from PopCap. In short, huh? Why the extra 50% for the UK? Get it from somewhere like Game Tunnel and save save save!

You think admitting to loving this sort of game makes me uncool? I’m listening to The Beautiful South as I write this. Oh yes.

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15 Comments »

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  1. Chris Evans says:

    Well The Sherlock Holmes find the pixel game was pretty poor. From what I played of Mystery PI that is a much better game.

  2. Pod says:

    Is there actually a gramophone in that second picture?
    The sooner you reply the sooner I stop looking and can go to bed…

  3. LlamaFarmer says:

    Urgh, that’s addictive. I’m finding I’m getting more and more into these “casual” games.

    @Pod, use the hint button!

  4. Dean says:

    John – might be worth checking out “James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club: Death in Scarlet” (no link as the only review I could find was on JA+, it got an A: shock) Apparently it’s along these lines, but has a few trad adventure elements and some other sorts of puzzles, and Jane Jenson is involved. Not played it yet but the only ‘find the hidden object’ games I’ve played were her Agatha Christie ones.

  5. Pod says:

    I just got kicked out of the demo. I thought it was pretty good actually. I should join the army as an intelligence offer – I’d be great at finding the enemy’s “thumb protectors” cleverly hidden amongst all the other oversized gubbins.

  6. sluzzuls says:

    i played one of popcaps pixel hunters once. three hours went by and i asked myself ‘are you serious? get away from this game!’
    where’s waldo was big too.
    pixel hunting enjoyment is one of lifes great mysteries.

    (hrm. btw, that stronghold crusader ad is a hog)

  7. Alonia says:

    If you like these sorts of games Mortimer Beckett And The Secrets Of Spooky Manor is a bit short but superb. Some one mentioned the Agatha Christie games which are some of the best “seek and find” games I’ve played.

    Its a shame that these are so popular because now every “casual” gaming site is churning them and “dash” games out like candy for the kiddies. Some of us want to see something new every once in awhile.

  8. Mal says:

    It’s only $9.99 on steam

  9. H says:

    Played the original of this and it was good fun for a while, but I couldn’t see myself buying it. I’ll give the sequel a go though, cheers.

  10. Slappeh says:

    This came free with my new acer laptop, played it for a couple seconds before getting bored and then uninstalled it.

  11. Pod says:

    Slappeh clearly has no soul.
    Alonia:
    By ‘revealing’ what genre these belong to, you’ve doomed my life. I’ve just found out that this site here has 800 demos, or so it claims, of these Seek and Find games. 800? 800! Eight-Hundred demos containing more than 800 screens filled with much-more than 800 objects.

    and I’m going to find them all! Bwhahaha

  12. Demikaze says:

    It reminds me of those internet sites that instruct you to do things like “TURN YOUR SPEAKERS UP REALLY LOUD” and “FIND WALLY.”

    Oh, he’s there alright, but not quite as I remember him…

  13. Taxman says:

    I love these games, yeah they basically are where’s waldo. They can be “tear out your own eyeballs” frustrating but nothing beats the relief of finding that last item.

  14. steve says:

    These games are weirdly appealing, but there’s another called Azada that mixes in some additional puzzle solving and object combining in addition to the pixel hunting. It gives it a slight 7th Guest feel, though given it’s “casual” nature, it’s pretty easy.

  15. Andrew Farrell says:

    (The bits where you get to go back to a location and remove all of the items, revealing the tranquil de-surrealised scene below are my favourite. I’m a bad man)