Cate West - The Velvet Keys
A new hidden object mystery game has appeared: Cate West - The Velvet Keys! Following the style, story and gameplay conventions set by Cate West - The Vanishing Files, The Velvet Keys casts you in the role of the young scarlet scarf-wearing author/psychic as she digs through occult legends in search of a way to contact departed souls. It's a great-looking game with surprising variety and an enticing plot that gushes out as the game progresses.
Cate West has the unique ability to see places, people and things associated with items simply by touching them. Naturally, this is quite useful in murder investigations, and that's exactly where Ms. West finds herself in this game. The Velvet Keys begins in an asylum where you look into the disappearance of a former patient, a man you might recognize from The Vanishing Files. Cate uses her ability to search for clues by going through the patient's cell and gathering certain items, hidden object-style. She soon discovers this case may be more complicated than anyone thinks, and after a mysterious man visits her in the middle of the night, things start to get really serious.
Cate West - The Velvet Keys packs a fair amount of gameplay diversity into its unassuming package. Not only are there hidden object scenes, but you'll also have to put items back in their proper places, engage in "spot the difference"-style games, find a handful of one item (locating 15 stars in one scene, for example), and complete a few simple mini-games. You're never stuck in one mode for too long, which keeps the game's pace moving at a steady clip.
At the start of the game you can choose between normal and relaxed mode, the former featuring an in-game clock while the latter is without. In most scenes you have unlimited use of the hint button, and it recharges in just a few seconds, which is nice. Be warned, however, that with each use you decrease your points bonus at the end of the stage. Sometimes one more glance at the scene can be well worth the time.
Analysis: The Velvet Keys had me from the first scene in the asylum. While there were fewer crazy characters and wild conspiracy theories than I would have liked, the story spun by Cate West still captured me from chapter to chapter. It has an intriguing murder mystery/police drama/Da Vinci Code vibe, paired with Cate's psychic powers which makes the whole set-up possible.
The plot will have fans of The Da Vinci Code a little excited, as Gamenauts has woven quite a bit of arcane legend into this tale. Sometimes what the story asks you to believe is a bit far-fetched (one of the characters actually points this out, which made me feel a bit better), but it's all fair in the spirit of the game. I couldn't help but notice the dialogue was more expository in nature, with characters popping in and spouting things like "Ok. I just opened the cabinet.". It's a fair substitute for expensive cutscenes, but the game leans on them just a little too heavily.
Even though Cate West is a story-driven game, there are a number of points-related features present, including a penalty for frequent mis-clicks, chain bonuses, hint bonuses and more. Normally I couldn't care less about accumulating, but the ending you get is based on your score ' a mechanic I could do without, although some gamers will appreciate the challenge. I don't think a story should revolve around something as non-story-related as your score.
Just like its predecessor, Cate West - The Velvet Keys paints an intriguing mystery with varied gameplay and great artwork. The emphasis on scoring points and its affect on the ending is unfortunate, but the game draws you in so well you'll hardly notice.