Sign of the Spirit
Every family has dirty laundry they don't want spread around, but when yours is cursed by a vengeful witch's spirit who has been systematically murdering every male descendant, well... that's kind of hard to keep under wraps. Especially when the locals start going missing as well, and they start wondering if sacrificing the latest unfortunate fellow to move to the family estate might not work wonders for their misfortune. In the hidden-object adventure Mystery Heritage: Sign of the Spirit by Urse Games, you are a detective who has been called in to look for the Williams family's lawyer who vanished while visiting the estate. Is it supernatural murder most foul? Simple human greed? Or is the truth behind the disappearance and that family's "curse" much more complicated?
Well hey, luckily for us, we've got an ace detective like you around to sort things out! Boy, it sure is a good thing you're an actual, licensed detective with years of experience who's qualified to handle such a dangerous case, and not just some random berk who downloaded a casual game on the interwebs! So get cracking, ace! Click around to search for clues and items of use, and rely on your handy-dandy magical eye-gas-releasing owl (it's complicated) to get a hint or skip a puzzle if you're stuck. As a totally real and not fake detective, you should also be prepared to solve hidden-object scenes, handle dead bodies, reassemble ancient locking mechanisms, disarm rabid dogs, and not get murdered yourself. Oh, didn't we mention? Seems like there's a lot of interest in your investigation, and not all of it is helpful... or part of the physical world.
Analysis: Mystery Heritage: Sign of the Spirit is, to be frank, kinda gorgeous. The artwork and environmental design is stellar, despite consisting mostly of static images, and the use of rich, saturated colours makes each area a joy to behold. The plot, while still having a few wrinkles you'll see coming and blaring fanfare from a mile away, has a few twists and turns that mean it isn't the same old boring "ancient family curse" yadda yadda you've heard before. You'll interact with several different unique characters, and on the whole the voice acting is actually pretty darn good... which is a relief if you're painfully Canadian like me and hearing bad voice acting tends to make you feel both embarrassed on behalf of the actor and then guilty for doing so. (In Canada, this is known as the Shame Cycle.)
The downside? Back-tracking, and lots of it, complete with some repeated hidden-object scenes. Perhaps the biggest criticism you could levy against Sign of the Spirit, however, is that it's familiar. If you play a lot of these types of games, you'll recognise certain puzzle types and even plot tropes, but on the other hand, this also makes this an excellent introduction to hidden-object adventure games. It's beautifully designed, intriguing, fun, and just a little bit spooky. At around three to four hours or so for an average playthrough, you may want to try the demo to see how fast you blaze through it, though the three difficulty settings are there to forcibly slow you down if need be. Though it doesn't take any risks, Mystery Heritage: Sign of the Spirit is a beautiful and fun bit of gaming that can serve as a great springboard into the genre, or just a relaxing evening's play for fans who don't demand a whole lot of innovation.
A Collector's Edition is also available. It contains a bonus chapter, art gallery, strategy guide, and more. Remember that Big Fish Game Club Members pay only $13.99 for Collector's Editions (or 2 club credits), and collector's editions count 3 card punches of 6 total needed for a free game.