Mystery Case Files 7: 13th Skull
(Interactive movie/IHOG/Adventure)Review from November 21, 2010. Playing with the first update, which was given on release-day.
I was having trouble with a "draggy" cursor when I entered the game, so I restarted my computer. No luck. I tried the Unlock Frame Rate option, but my computer didn't like that at ALL (the dragginess got worse). Disabling the custom cursor did the trick, however :D (I didn't have this problem when I beta'd the game)
The trouble with disabling the custom cursor is that there is no directional arrow - no indication at all of where you can travel unless you have the tooltips on. I really wanted to play without them, but it's either that or a draggy cursor, so I chose tooltips.
The first time you enter the game, you must watch the opening sequence (mostly live-action), but upon subsequent entries to the game, you can click to skip the movie.
You might want to check out the "Extras" button on the Menu page - There you'll find achievements, with 10 possible awards.
Options include separate sliders for music, environment and sound effects, custom cursor, appearance (full-screen, windowed or wide-screen), attitude (normal, southern or snarky), show subtitles, show tooltips and unlock frame rate (which is explained if you mouse-over it).
A lot of things to choose from! I am choosing "normal" mode for my first time through.
The journal is pictured (and accessible) above the Menu button. Interestingly, your task list is a notepad, which you can find in your inventory. Your journal also tracks game time (found at the top of the right-hand page).
The toolbar/inventory auto-hides until you mouse-over. What you will see (until you mouse-over) is the Objectives list, which will show you items you need to find during the adventure portion of the game.
HINTS are refillable. There is a mis-click penalty, which is pretty, but overdone in my opinion. You might not want to check it for yourself, or you'll miss out on one of your achievements
You might have noticed that I've used a new descriptive term up there by the title. "Interactive movie". There have been movie-esque segments in IHOG's before, but never to this extent. The story is told almost entirely via live action video segments, with the characters interacting with you directly (although one does seem to have a lazy eye and be looking everywhere but at you, most of the time
You can skip the dialogue during the live-action sequences if you wish - just be sure to click on the pop-up screen, and not the background. There is no click-through (reading at your own pace) - it's either wait to hear everything or skip it. There IS, however, a summary in your journal, so if you just can't stand the live-action portions, you'll still know what you're expected to do.
It seems like the video portions are a bit more balanced than they were during the beta, with the characters not quite so jarringly-crisp against the background game graphics.
The outdoor portions of the game are especially beautiful, reminiscent of Return to Ravenhearst, at times. You will spend a lot of time interacting with characters, but the adventure portions of the game are my favorite part. The hidden object scenes are the typical junk-piles that you would expect from the Mystery Case Files series.
The music seems to have been improved since the beta - not quite so "twangy".
At this point I am going to set the game aside until I can figure out what is causing the mouse to drag. I will come back and update this review once I have played more of the game.January 2012 UPDATE
I finally played the game through from beginning to end a couple of months ago. The early part of the game is still annoying, but some elements of the game are truly enjoyable. I didn't find the live interaction to be very fun, but the rest of the gameplay is stellar.
The extra gameplay that you get with the CE is actually much better than the standard game, with more of the gameplay you would expect from a Mystery Case Files games.
Overall, the live interaction left a bad taste in my mouth, but I will play the game again, simply because it is a good and well-made game.