Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst
As one would expect from the title, Return to Ravenhearst is a sequel to the popular hidden-object game Mystery Case Files: Ravenhearst. But the latest addition to Big Fish Games' Mystery Case Files series goes beyond the genre, adding a compelling storyline and seriously challenging puzzles to the standard hidden-object fare.
Emma Ravenhearst's soul may have been freed in the earlier game, but locked away in spooky Ravenhearst Manor are other tormented spirits. Your task in Return to Ravenhearst is to unravel the mystery and free the trapped souls. To do this, you'll spend many hours roaming the gloomy manor and its environs, collecting clues and unlocking secret passageways. As in other adventure games, you gather items that are needed to complete various tasks, and the detective's diary collects the clues in one handy location.
The graphics in this game are simply gorgeous, with animations that enliven gameplay. You encounter ghostly Victorian ladies and other spirits, of course, and the beautifully crafted hidden-object scenes contain nice touches like running water or scampering bugs. Leaves rustle in the wind, and mists float by. The soundtrack compliments the game well, featuring orchestral flourishes, ghostly voices, and mysterious sounds. While testing this game, I found the hidden object scenes to be so poorly lit that it was sometimes impossible to make out all of the objects; I ended up needing to use precious Hints at times. Also, some of the puzzles were so challenging as to be frustrating. I was glad to avail myself of the "skip this puzzle" option available in some cases. Big Fish Guide also sells a Strategy Guide that you may want to avail yourself of (also $7).
If you enjoy ghost stories and supernatural mysteries, by all means pay a visit to Ravenhearst Manor. Return to Ravenhearst is a beautifully crafted hidden object and puzzle game that will entertain you and keep your brain busy for hours. The one-hour demo is just long enough to get you hooked; luckily, the full game is only $7. There's also a strategy guide available.
Note: This link takes you to the vendor's site to download the sample version. The demo installer also downloads Big Fish Games software that provides access to the company's Web site and other games. I experienced no problem with this software during testing.