New York Mysteries: Secrets of the Mafia
I think I'd make a pretty good mobster. I look great in a flattering pinstripe suit. I talk with my hands (and out of the corner of my mouth). And while I don't know that my inherent Canadian politeness would let me call anyone a dirty rat, I could say that I am very disappointed in them, which is, like, way worse. So I think we're pretty primed to play the hidden-object adventure from 5 BN Games New York Mysteries: Secrets of the Mafia, and let me tell you guys this game is amazesauce. Set in the '50s, New York has suddenly had a lot of its prominent mob bosses go missing, leaving behind only a mysterious green liquid and an equally mysterious butterfly. Less mobsters means less crime, right? But the problem is, children are going missing too... and each of them has drawn the same butterfly before vanishing. As the story begins, you, a reporter, have arrived at the scene of the latest disappearance, the Museum of Natural History. You're following a phone call from a man named Bishop who claims to want to hire you to write an article on the disappearances, but he clearly knows more than he's letting on. Will you survive uncovering the truth? With clever puzzles, a rock-solid and creative storyline, and stunning visuals, New York Mysteries: Secrets of the Mafia is a fantastic game any casual game fan needs to make a date with.
What's most surprising about Secrets of the Mafia is how intelligent its gameplay is. At the start, you can individually customise everything from how long hints take to recharge, to whether you want indicated interactive zones, to whether you want the map to show you where you need to go next, and much, much more, going far beyond the simple arbitrary easy/hard offerings of other games. As usual, you'll be scouring areas for items to use and solving hidden-object scenes and puzzles, but Secrets of the Mafia keeps you engaged the whole way by feeding you clues and scenes that advance the story. Hidden-object scenes tend to be contained puzzles, where every item you track down needs to be used to unlock the next up to a final contraption to get what you're looking for, and as a result, you find yourself doing a lot more thinking and a lot less mindless clicking. While the game does indulge in some tedious busywork, such as sending you to find a specific item to clear away a thin layer of cobwebs, most of the puzzles are fairly creative and mentally engaging, even down to a Doodle God-esque contraption. The heavy focus on puzzles, in fact, makes Secrets of the Mafia a seriously meaty game, with hidden compartments, ancient mechanisms, and many more challenges coming thick and fast. The downside is that the interface can be a little fiddly, requiring precise clicks to pick up or use some objects, and some puzzles suffer from unclear mechanic explanations.
Where Secrets of the Mafia absolutely shines, however, is in its story, that turns out to be far more creative and complex than you'd suspect at first blush. It almost does a disservice by presenting itself as such a basic straight-laced noir mystery that a lot of people will just pass it by. The story just keeps twisting the more you play, and while a lot of it is admittedly sort of cheesy, the game's sense of drama and mystery combined with the way it keeps whisking you to new and interesting locations will keep you hooked. It looks great too, with beautifully detailed environments and characters, as well as largely professional voice acting. (Apart from one particular soul who delivers all their lines with the weird pauses and emphasis of Captain Kirk.) Even the cutscenes look and feel professionally animated, with characters that move and emote realistically, and some genuine tension. It's also a long game to boot, with eight hefty chapters in the standard edition (and a bonus chapter for the Collector's Edition) that will provide a lot of entertainment.
I've played a lot of hidden-object adventures over the six years I've been working for JayisGames, but few of them are honestly memorable the way New York Mysteries: Secrets of the Mafia is. It was in every possible way an unexpected delight, and makes 5BN Games a developer we should hope we see much, much more from in the future. Do yourself a favour and give the demo a try... it just might surprise you in the best possible way.
Note: Currently, only the Collector's Edition is 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.