What would you do if the house of your dreams was haunted? And not just by some paltry poltergeist, but an entire infestation of unearthly manifestations? Well, if Bill Murray is unavailable, your next best bet is probably Hobblepop, the tiny man who shows up at your front door with a lot of strange equipment and seems suspiciously knowledgeable about the whole ordeal. Mishap: An Accidental Haunting, from Namco, is a ghostly hidden object romp through one unbelievable house. With eight chapters, 32 hidden object scenes, riddles, mini-games, and a host of unfortunate spirits, the game is as fun as it is gorgeous, which is saying quite a lot.
The ghosts, as Hobblepop explains, have left a lot of spectral energy about the house, so you'll need to seek out items they've interacted with to draw them out. Discovery Channel would have you believe this is done with forty minutes of two grown men stumbling around in the dark yelling, "Did you hear/see/smell that?!" (Spoiler: NO.) In reality, everyone knows the best way to make contact with the restless dead is by going through a list of items cunningly placed throughout the environment. That rubber chicken over there? Oh yeah, the ghost totally imbued that with spectral... whatever. Pick that baby up. Don't worry, it's not all junk; Hobblepop will use many of the items you find to build weird and wonderful machines to help you solve the chapter. If your cursor changes to a door, that means you can click on that place to move to a different area.
In each chapter, you'll uncover information that will tell you more about the spirit you're dealing with, but you'll also need to solve a riddle before you can reach them. Each time you finally coax the main spirit of a chapter out of hiding, you'll have to play a different mini-game to help put the ghost to rest. If you find a particular mini-game too difficult, or if you just don't want to play, you can hit "Skip Game" after the first round and move right to the next chapter.
Since you spend so much of your time crawling through hidden object scenes, it's a relief to find that they're so well done. Rendered in delightfully twisted environments, objects are carefully and sneakily placed and do a fantastic job of fitting in. While Namco does a good job of hiding things in plain sight, it's often the environments themselves that work against you. Since the house is so charged with ghostly energy, in any given scene you'll find ordinary objects warped and twisted, and their strange movements do a lot to distract you. You may find yourself reaching for the hint button once it's recharged, but be careful... too many mis-clicks and you could get an unpleasant surprise.
In addition to your star specter, each chapter also features five more ghosts you can track down using Hobblepop's device and playing a game of hot-or-cold. They don't impact the story, but most of them have an interesting story to tell. While exaggerated and deliberately ridiculous in their design, some of the central storyline ghosts are a little, uh, ghoulish, and might upset some younger children.
Analysis: There is a story at work behind Mishap beyond "here there be ghosts", and your quest to get rid of them. As you progress you'll find a mysterious diary that will begin to provide insight into just why all these seemingly unrelated ghosts have taken up residence in the same place. Most of you will probably figure out the Big Twist™ a few chapters in, but who cares? All the characters are so wonderfully bizarre that you'll want to keep playing just to see the next one. It's like Thirteen Ghosts, but without the guy from Scooby-Doo, and the need to hide behind a pillow. I was delighted virtually every minute I spent with it, and there aren't many games I can say that about.
While some of the character models look a little stiff and unpolished, Mishap on the whole presents an absolute feast for your eyes. Environments are absolutely stunning. A particular favourite of mine was the foyer, with its jaw-droppingly beautiful grand organ. The soundtrack is also pretty easy on the ears, with catchy tracks that fit each locale perfectly. And while it also features what might be the worst fake French accent I've heard all year, the voice acting is on the whole well done.
I have to say, I really appreciated the attempt to break up the gameplay by introducing the various mini-games at the end of each chapter, but it doesn't always work, and some are definitely more enjoyable than others. One, for example, involves recreating a complicated recipe by working from a list of instructions with a machine that looks like it would probably prefer to be tenderizing your face. It's weird, and it's mostly fun, and it's a bit of a let down that the others are just sort of... eh? Most of them are concepts that aren't quite as well fleshed out as they could have been, and feel a bit awkward in their execution, or simply fall back on being reflex tests. And, brace yourself; Mishap does feature one mini-game firmly entrenched in the defense genre, but the good news is if that makes your lip curl, you can always skip it.
If you're a fan of hidden object games, Mishap: An Accidental Haunting should be a no-brainer buy for you. You can expect to sink at least several hours into it, depending on how finely trained your ocular orbs are. Mishap throws all pretensions of seriousness out the window and gets straight to the ridiculousness, and the result is a very satisfying experience. If you're looking for a cerebral, thoughtful game to challenge your intellect, this one might not be for you. But if you're looking for a fun, funky good time, the sort that involves dancing around in your bathrobe, then Mishap: An Accidental Haunting won't disappoint.