Mystery of Joyville
Ah autumn, a lovely season. The chill breezes, the scratching of bare branches against a window, the rustle of dried leaves, those long mysterious shadows lurking in every corner... Hmm. Halloween aside, autumn seems pretty spooky on its own, doesn't it? PuppetShow: Mystery of Joyville has arrived just in time to help you celebrate the season, as well as the aforementioned holiday. A creepy hidden object/adventure hybrid brought to you by ERS and G-studio, PuppetShow: Mystery of Joyville is guaranteed to bring spookiness even to the brightest, warmest household.
The adventure begins as a nameless detective arrives in Joyville, a derelict town counting the days until it becomes a ghost town. Greeted by the scary-looking hotel proprietor and his lovely daughter, our nameless detective soon learns that something is amiss. The owner's grandson has been missing for two days, the latest in a long string of disappearances that have baffled the police and guaranteed that no one in town will venture out after dark. It is up to you, intrepid casual gamer that you are, to solve the mystery and rescue the grandson before... well, that would be telling, wouldn't it? Wander the town, break into buildings, find lots of hidden objects, and figure out who is behind the mystery of Joyville.
Navigation through the world of PuppetShow is smooth and easy. Hidden object scenes are identified by multiple sparkles, other areas of interest by single sparkles. The beautiful tool-like cursor changes to a spyglass when hovered over things to examine; a grabbing hand when hovered over things that can be picked up; and a spinning globe when hovered over locations you can travel to. Like other HOG/adventure hybrids (Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhurst and Princess Isabella: A Witch's Curse come to mind) you can travel around various locations searching for items to use and clues as to what has gone so terribly wrong in this once nice town.
Hidden object scenes are cluttered, but not nearly to the level some games take them. Each yields one or more useful items that can be used later on, making them feel less tacked-on than similar hybrid titles. As always, the addition of a refilling hint-timer is a plus. The mini-puzzles are, sadly, a bit of "more of the same", nothing new or unique, but nonetheless fun to look at and play. A nice feature is the ability to skip the mini-puzzles after a certain period of time. While the credits roll an epilogue in pictures flashes by, giving closure to what is, after all, a rather creepy experience.
Analysis: Ever since the release of Return to Ravenhurst, many, many, many HOG/adventure hybrids have attempted to copy the formula. With such a glut out there, it can be difficult finding the gems that are worth the time and money to play. PuppetShow: Mystery of Joyville is one that is worth the effort.
The devil is in the details, they say. And it's the details that make PuppetShow: Mystery of Joyville stand out from the pack. Set in what looks like Victorian times, no effort has been spared to recreate the fashions, styles, decorations, architecture, and furnishings of the era. Every location is a joy to look at, whether the lobby of a hotel that has seen better days or a child's bedroom gone horribly wrong, just pause to soak in the beauty and the sharp, clear scenery. This attention to detail extends even to the cursor and the design of the menus. Look closely at the menu pull-up screens to appreciate the glistening porcelain detailing, marvel as you open the toolbox and receive a beautiful, unfolding ivory fan instead of a functional bottom of the screen inventory. This is the mark of a quality game, where nothing has been overlooked in creating the mood and tone of the story.
The music of PuppetShow: Mystery of Joyville only enhances the experience. Even more attention has been paid to incidental sounds that can be heard under the music: the drip, drip, drip over the Puppet Master's grave; the rustling of the leaves; the creaky noises of a house settling in the cold night. All add to the experience without being obtrusive. Rounding out the stunning artwork and appropriate music are the little animations that add to the scare factor: rats scurry in and out of the picture, dolls suddenly blink their eyes, gargoyles appear to be more than just stone statues...it all adds up to one spooky, fun experience.
The game itself is, unfortunately, on the short side. More time and more scenes in the town would have been a welcome addition, as well as more rooms in the hotel to explore. The mini-games, as stated before, are not very original. Still, despite these minor problems PuppetShow: Mystery of Joyville is definitely worth a second look.
Has it been done before? Yes. Has it been done this well? Rarely. For those who enjoy hybrid hidden object/adventure games PuppetShow: Mystery of Joyville is casual gameplay done right. It is worth noting that due to the subject matter (kidnapped child) and some of the later scenes (there is a bit of blood and nastiness) this is perhaps not a game for the very young. Small children might be a little freaked out. However, if you want to kick off the Halloween season right, then sit back, relax, and make your way through Joyville before evil completely envelops the town. Just one word of advice: you might want to play with the lights on.