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Picture Searching and Case Solving
The Search and Find genre has always been appealing to casual gamers everywhere. It's amazing how trying to look for hidden objects in a mess of randomness can prove to be so much fun. The Mystery Case Files series developed by Big Fish Studios is certainly no exception. Ever since the release of the first game of the series, Mystery Case Files: Hunstville, countless casual gamers have stepped in to play the role of Master Detective to do some serious case solving and picture searching. After all, it was Hunstville that started the whole hidden object game craze.
The MCF series has spawned 5 different titles of the PC. These are MCF: Hunstville, MCF: Prime Suspects, MCF: Ravenhearst, MCF: Madame Fate and MCF: Return to Ravenhearst. Each new game (or episode) adds new in-game features, ranging from flashlights, to word puzzles and of course, new hidden objects. Besides the fun of spending hours looking for required objects, you'll come across some quirky characters in the MCF games; criminals, rock stars, and paranoid fortune tellers just to name a few.
To further see just how far the MCF series has come since its beginnings, it's better to look at each episode individually.
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The Beginning of It All
Mystery Case Files: Hunstville was released Novermber 18, 2005. The game's premise was simple enough: assume the role of Master Detective and solve some crimes in the small town of Huntsville by solving a series of puzzles through picture searching. The player is given a list of hidden objects to locate per picture puzzle. While some objects are easy to locate, some are nigh impossible to find so keen sight is required. When the player finds all the objects, he progresses to the next area of play. As the game goes on, clues will be given to the Master Detective which can be used at the Crime Computer to help pinpoint the thief.
At the later stages of the game, evidence will link the crimes in Huntsville to an organization called S.T.A.I.N. (not a very prestigious name). Find more hidden objects, gather more clues and capture more criminals. There are over 15 crimes to solve, and over 20 locations to explore. Without even realizing it, you might have spent an entire afternoon on your PC.
MCF: Hunstville received critical reception. Breaking sales records for casual games, it put the spotlight on the Search and Find genre. Not surprisingly, it was just the beginning for the MCF series.
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You Be The Detective
The second installment of the series takes the Master Detective out of the small town and into the big city. Your mission is now to investigate the disappearance of the Queen's 800 carat Hope Diamond. Definitely no petty crime. Again, picture searching paves the way to solving the crime. Each hidden item that the player has to locate will give clues to the whereabouts of the suspects at the time of the crime. Once the required objects have been found, it's time to head to the handy-dandy Crime Computer to play some mini-games which will clear the name of a suspect or tag him or her as the Prime Suspect!
Even though MCF: Prime Suspects still involves the same hidden object gameplay as the first game, there are added details that make the game for appealing. Items, such as the flashlight, are now present. Also, in-game characters are moe fleshed compared to the first game. Quirky characters such as Pierce Hart the crazy doctor and Foley Zipper the ex-paparrazi are examples of suspects you have to investigate on.
As or replayability, MCF: Prime Suspects features game randomization. Once you finish it, you can play it again and tackle a new set of Prime Suspects. You definitely won't need an excuse to keep searching for hidden objects all day.
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Black Magic in the Manor
MCF: Ravenhearst is the third installment of the series. From here, the Master Detective begins to delve into the spookier side of investigation. Having proven yourself to the Queen of England herself, you're now being asked to investigate more serious crimes and more baffling mysteries. To be sure none are as baffling as the Ravenhearst Manor in Blackpool.
It's been said that Ravenhearst is haunted, with apparations appearing even in broad daylight - but why is there a ghostly spirit here, what curse has fallen on Ravenhearst that its inhabitants cannot move on? The Queen implores you to find out.
In present day England, you come across the diary of the late Emma Ravenhearst and it is through her that the horrors of this place come to life. It seems that somehow she was coerced into marriage, kept under tight observation and was even poisoned by her beau, Charles Dalimar. Is Charles the reason why Emma still haunts Ravenhearst? Or maybe it is he himself who roams these walls, cursing and moaning the fate that has come to pass and still even in death can not let dear Emma go.
Gameplay is pretty much the same, satisfying Search and Find game loved by Search and Find addicts everywhere. Added elements include a new puzzle type which involves locks. The player must solve these locks to gain access to doors. The game's setting also takes the player away from the usual criminal-detective scenario. MCF: Ravenhearst also begins a plotline that stretches to the following MCF titles.
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The Carnival and the Crystal Ball
The fourth installment of the series, MCF: Madame Fate, has you investigating carnival workers for the mysterious fortune teller Madame Fate. With her Crystal Ball, she has foreseen her own death once the clock strikes twelve. The Master Detective is now tasked to prevent a murder. Among the carnival workers the player must investigate are Art the Carny and Lucy the Bearded Beauty. It's a carnival after all, so don't be surprised to find some really strange people. Suspects will have their own motives, which the Master Detective can delve into using Madame Fate's Crystall Ball.
With more hidden objects to find and more quirky characters to meet, MCF: Madame Fate is stays true to the gameplay of it predecessors, only in a different setting. Big Fish Studios have added additional puzzle types just in case players find searching for hidden objects a repetitive task.
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MCF: Return to Ravenhearst is the fifth and latest installment of the series for the PC. Following the events from the fourth episode, the Queen of England has tasked the Master Detective to return to the decrepit Ravenhearst Mansion. The player will find that there is more to the mansion than meets the eye. New locations will be available, and familiar locations from the third game will now have some differences.
The fifth game will have you exploring locations within the manor and collecting items that are required to make progress as well as progressing through the familiar gameplay that has put the MCF series on the peak of casual gaming: hidden object puzzles. As the player solves more and more puzzles, more items will be acquired. The player must figure out where to use these items in order to proceed.
The setting of the latest game follows the continuity established from the third game. Instead of the usual crime narrative, the Master Detective is thrust into the world of the supernatural, the creepy, and the unknown. As with the rest of the games in the series, MCF: Return to Ravenhearst is another best-seller in the world of casual gaming.
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The MCF series set the standards for a simple gameplay structure that would prove to be highly enjoyable. From MCF: Hunstville and up to their latest release MCF: Return to Ravenhearst, the series has established itself in the world of casual gaming with its unique characteristics that have brought puzzle games back on the map.
With easy to grasp gameplay, appealing design and remarkable execution, it is no mystery how the Mystery Case Files series has become so successful. After all, it doesn't take a Master Detective to figure out how much fun these games are.