Cate West and the Vanishing Files

Game review by
Alex Porter, Common Sense Media
Cate West and the Vanishing Files Game Poster Image
Find hidden and missing items in creepy crime scenes.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

You play as a psychic assisting in criminal investigations.


As a psychic assisting in criminal investigations, there is discussion of murder, arson, and assault, though no graphic displays of either. One scene shows a burning church.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Several references to smoking, though not overt.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this game has a slightly eerie tone that could frighten younger children. The environments - static images with objects hidden in them - are sometimes creepy crime scenes. The game also discusses murder, arson, and assault in dialogue scenes, though none of these crimes are graphically shown. Overall, this fun hidden object game is as appropriate as most mystery fiction aimed at the target age.

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What's it about?

CATE WEST: THE VANISHING FILES is a mystery game in which players assume the role of a psychic investigator. The game first appeared on Nintendo DS and PC and now is available on the Nintendo Wii with essentially the same story, play, and comic book graphics. With a simple point and click-and-drag gameplay mechanic you solve a series of mysteries from crime scene to criminal trial, while the plot is revealed in dialogue scenes that occur between gameplay missions.

Players begin each chapter by going to the cluttered crime scene and finding \"clues,\" or hidden objects. Then, you'll identify differences - often very subtle - between two images side-by-side; one is a photo of a criminal's hideout, the other, Cate's mental vision of the location. Once suspects are narrowed down, you'll use Cate's deductive powers to pick out the criminal from a lineup.

Is it any good?

Cate West is a mostly engrossing experience. Finding the stubborn object hidden in a messy room, an ever-so-slight variation between two images, or picking out the suspect given limited info can be lots of fun. The ominous music and dark environments supply an eeire tone, as well. And there is no shortage of gameplay, with 15 "chapters" that take you through a case from crime scene to trial verdict.

Some players, however, may not see this game through to the final mission. Each chapter follows the same five-stage sequence that can get a bit too repetitive. Though there are dozens of backgrounds to keep the locations fresh, clicking around on a static page might not be enough to engage gamers seeking more action and movement.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how this game is similar and different from mysteries on TV or in books. Is finding hidden objects a satisfying way to solve a mystery? Do kids find this activity challenging enough and does it seem connected to the story or is it simply an activity dropped between explanatory scenes?

Game details

  • Platforms: Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS
  • Price: $20-30
  • Available online? Not available online
  • Developer: Destineer
  • Release date: March 25, 2009
  • Genre: Adventure
  • ESRB rating: E10+ for Tobacco Reference, Violent References
  • Last updated: August 25, 2016

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