I’m a complete sucker for Hidden Object games. The likes of Mystery PI engross me far more than a respectable gun-toting, army-controlling, murder-solving games player should admit, but there’s something cathartic about scanning a cluttered screen for the improbably placed list of objects. Especially for those moments when you finally find the umbrella hidden in the scene at the park, when you realise it’s the size of a building. Big Blue Bubble’s Masters of Mystery: Crime of Fashion takes the casual game’s themes, but does something slightly different.
The first big difference is the logic by which objects are hidden in scenes. With the SpinTop/PopCap games you’re invariably looking for tennis rackets in swimming pools or three dinosaurs in a study. In this murder mystery game, things are where you could reasonably expect to find them. To an extent – you’re still going to find a screwdriver has been cunningly placed along the edge of a table so it blends in. But it’s going to be the size of a screwdriver relative to the room, and it’s not going to be in a cup of tea. While all such games have some ridiculous stab at a story (“We have to find the ancient Mayan treasure quickly! Let’s search this caravan for sausages.”), Crime of Fashion manages to take its daft plot and make it a reason for searching.
You play a rookie homicide cop, working for a horrible, insulting boss, investigating the murder of a fashion mogul, and are searching locations for clues. Clever! But it takes this further, and adds in a few rudimentary tools. There’s a flashlight for highlighting dark areas in the scene (and in one level for searching during a power cut in a thunderstorm). You get a UV light for looking for blood, for analysis. There’s a fingerprint duster. And there’s a magnifying glass, which would have been great if the photos were super-high res, and it let you look in greater detail. Sadly all it offers is a blocky mess that’s bugger all help. Still, the flashlight works.
Of course it’s still bunkum. At one point your character declares that a glass of red wine can’t have been drunk by a woman as there’s no lipstick on the glass. But it’s really nice to see someone taking the extremely thin idea and giving it slightly more flesh. Not a great deal more, admittedly, but then this is the way of the casual. There’s an hour-long demo available here.
Be warned, by the way. Unlike most of this type of demo, the hour starts from the moment you launch the game, and doesn’t wait while you’re pausing. Which is a bit frustrating.