A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this game hasn't yet been rated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board, but falls in line with past Mystery Case Files adventures that range from "Everyone 10+" to "Teen." Return to Ravenhearst has some potentially disturbing imagery for kids, including ghosts of children (played by real actresses), statues that appear to come alive and a dead woman's skeleton in a casket.
What's it about?
Seasoned PC gamers with a nostalgic leaning towards point-and-click adventure games from the '90s -- such as Myst, 7th Guest, and Day of the Tentacle – will likely enjoy clicking through Big Fish Games' MYSTERY CASE FILES: RETURN TO RAVENHEARST. In Return to Ravenhearst, you play as a detective called back to the mysterious 19th century mansion constructed by Charles Dalimar as a token of affection for his love, Emma Ravenhearst. The Queen of England, no less, asks you to once and for all solve the mystery of the now-decrepit dwelling and decipher the odd happenings taking place inside. At the start of the game you arrive at the gates and must find a way onto the locked property, and then figure out how to get into the mysterious mansion.
The game-play is basically divided into two parts. As with past Mystery Case Files titles (which are free to try and then costs $20 to keep playing after the hour-long trial is up), the first kind of puzzles are \"hidden object\" tasks, where the gamer is presented with a busy scene and must find a dozen or so items listed at the bottom of the screen, such as a spider, apple, heart ,or knife (curiously, the items are usually unrelated to the location or story). Once you find the item by scouring the screen you click on it, which crosses it off the list. One of the items you find will be added to your inventory, which leads us to the second type of puzzles. Similar to the adventure games of yesteryear, players will need to use an item on the environment in order to manipulate it. Some are fairly easy tasks, such as using a crowbar to pry open a loose floorboard early on in the game, but eventually players will be faced with tougher Myst-like lever, dial, and number puzzles. Clues on how to solve these conundrums can usually be found in the player's case files notebook, accessible at anytime within the game.
Is it any good?
This fifth chapter in the popular Mystery Case File series, which has sold more than 2.5 million copies to date, includes some of the game-play elements found in its predecessors, yet has made considerable strides when it comes to production values and story, as well as puzzles that harkens back to the classic head-scratchers from a decade ago. Return to Ravenhearst is an excellent point-and-click puzzle/adventure game hybrid complimented by moody and highly detailed graphics, live motion sequences with real actors, and an original classical music soundtrack performed by the Berlin Film Orchestra. Be sure to try the free 60-minute trial from BigFishGames.com.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether point-and-click adventure games are still popular? Do today's gamers demand a more visceral, fast-paced action game than slower, puzzle-based stories? What is it about Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst that makes it game-play interesting?