Saturday, November 28, 2015

Miss Clue: Secret of the Haunted Garden

I'm doing a walkthrough for Miss Clue: Secret of the Haunted Garden.

Strictly speaking, it's not a full-length game like the previous one. It's more of a mini-adventure, released for Halloween. It's three chapters long, and it should be finished in under two hours.

My main gripe with the previous Miss Clue was the episodic format. This game is a large improvement on that front, simply because it's short. Backtracking at the start of every chapter is a pain when you do it fourteen times in a row, but it's not so bad when you only have to do it twice. Plus, the backtracking isn't as much of a hassle, because there's a lot less area to cover.

That said, it still looks likes the programmers were forced to release the game, before it was finished. There are two spots where an area is closed off, because the programmers haven't finished it yet. In later chapters, these areas are opened, and the game acts like you could explore them the entire time. These two areas being the haunted garden, unlocked in Chapter Two, and Miss Clue's bedroom, unlocked in Chapter Three.

Actually, there's a third area which seems like it was originally intended to be part of the game. It's the locked door upstairs. You can interact with this locked door, unlike all the other locked doors; Miss Clue has a line of dialogue about needing the key to open the door. There's also a cutscene where she overhears people talking behind the door. That certainly makes it seem like you were intended to go through the door at some point, but no. The door remains forever locked. This, and some unused inventory items, makes me think that perhaps the programmers weren't able to finish everything on time.

Speaking of inventory items, I would be remiss if I didn't mention a particular puzzle which had me stumped. That would be the music puzzle. The puzzle itself is really simple; you use the sheet music on the piano, then play the song. The tricky part? This is the only puzzle in the game where you ABSOLUTELY MUST take the inventory item back, after using it. You have to pick up the sheet music, because it triggers a conversation ten minutes later. The conversation has nothing at all to do with the music, and indeed, you never use the music for anything again. But it HAS to be in your inventory, or else the game won't progress. It's a completely non-intuitive puzzle, and I'm pretty sure it's NOT supposed to be a puzzle. It's just weird programming. Unless there's a reason why you're expected to pick up used inventory items?

I'd say this game on par with the previous game, in terms of puzzles. The puzzles make sense, in general. The only one that gave me trouble, besides the unintentional puzzle I mentioned in the previous paragraph, is the big finale puzzle, and I'm willing to let that slide, because it's perfectly fine to have the finale puzzle be extra-difficult. Still, I can easily see some players getting stuck on puzzles, and wishing that the game gave you an explanation of how the puzzles work, at any point.

The storyline in this game is...okay, I guess? The problem is that there's only one character, Mrs. Danforth, and she sounds super-bored the entire time. She could not care less about her tragic family backstory. The two other characters are a ghost cat and the ghost of Mrs. Danforth's sister. Neither character talks; they're just there to wander around in the night and make the game spookier. At one point, the ghost possesses Mrs. Danforth and writes a note, but when she talks about it, she sounds just as uninterested as ever.

The culprit of the game is Kenny. You catch the culprit, and Mrs. Danforth--trying her hardest to sound like she cares--says, "It's Kenny!". She then proceeds to explain who Kenny is, because he's never been mentioned at any point until just now. That was frustrating and unsatisfying. There's a REASON it's against the rules of detective fiction to have a culprit who isn't introduced until the end.

The only other thing I have to say about this game is that the navigation is improved, through the use of larger hitboxes. "Improvement" is probably the best word to describe this game. It's not perfect, but it's a step in the right direction. I hope the series continues to improve. The next game is allegedly NOT episodic, which means that maybe, just maybe, the programmers will have completely finished the game BEFORE release!

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