You might be familiar with this scene: You walk into the living room, looking for the phone. You see the cat, the goldfish, and a set of weights. Some candles, a chip, an old corn dog (ew!) Ok, so, it's a little messy. Still, with a bit of effort, you soon see the phone sitting in plain sight, near the chess set and the coffin. Wait... a coffin? Perhaps this isn't your regular living room. In fact, you're inside Ravenhearst Manor.
Mystery Case Files: Ravenhearst is a game of "hunt the item" similar to Hidden Expedition: Titanic and the previous Mystery Case Files games. The Queen of England (affectionately known as "Queenie") has sent you to investigate the mystery behind this creepy cluttered mansion. But beware. Not only is this house abandoned, and likely haunted, but it is also filled with strange twists, puzzling locks and hidden clues. Unlike other games of this genre, which have you search for the essential magic pixel, Ravenhearst will frustrate you by hiding objects in plain sight. While the clock ticks down (her majesty is waiting!) you might find yourself in a bathroom crying out "where is that tuba?"
Much of the game play is similar to the "I Spy" book series or the "Hidden Pictures" game from the children's magazine, Highlights — just a bit creepier. Explore the manor, room-by-room, looking for the objects listed on the right hand side of the screen. Search carefully, as random, rapid-fire clicking may cause you to lose time. Some objects may seem a bit obscure. If you have trouble finding a particular item, a limited number of hints are available.
Don't despair, because this game is as beautiful as it is maddening. The delightful graphics and various sounds will keep your senses sharp, while the clever puzzles are sure to please. To enter some rooms, you'll have to solve strange and wonderful locks, reminiscent of Rube Goldberg contraptions. Find the right combination of oddities, and you'll find passage into the next room. When you gather enough clues (the recovered objects), piece them together to reveal a diary page. The diary, kept by the Lady of the Manor, Emma, will begin to reveal the dark mystery behind Ravenhearst Manor.
Analysis: Mystery Case Files: Ravenhearst is a perfect addition to any puzzle collection. A few notable features set it apart from other games. For one, the sound options offer three separate dials to control the music, background noise, and sound effects. This allows you to set the creaks and moans to your preferred volume, without drowning out other sounds. You have some control over the passage of time, as well. The regular "Detective Mode" is fast-paced enough to keep you on your toes, while the "Relaxed Mode" is still timed, but at a much slower rate.
Be sure to check out the other installments in the Mystery Case Files series, Huntsville and Prime Suspects, Madame Fate, as well as Travelogue 360 and Hidden Expedition series, both of which introduce additional gameplay elements.
The creators of this game consider it appropriate for all ages, but the creepy objects and sounds might be a little much for small children. (There is a small fright in the ending sequence as well.) Parents, use caution, or play alongside your child for reassurance.