-- Hidden objects puzzles, the kind found in "Where's Waldo?" and "I Spy" books, have always appealed to kids. Those types of puzzles can now be found in the video game "Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir."
Developed for the Nintendo DS, "Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir" puts you into the role of a detective trying to solve the mystery of the disappearance of Phil T. Rich, an eccentric millionaire. By interviewing 12 of his business partners and associates, you glean clues to explain his abrupt departure.
To solve this mystery, you tackle visual puzzles in more than 30 environments. The puzzles require you to study a cluttered picture to find hidden objects that are on a list. The list is displayed on the upper screen of the DS, while the picture to scrutinize is on the bottom screen. When you find a hidden object, you simply tap on it to make it disappear and watch as it's scratched off your list.
Lest you get bored by the sameness of these puzzles, even though the pictures are constantly changing, the game adds gadgets and gizmos to change up the game play. In some of the hidden object puzzles, you will find special areas where you might need to draw lines between two objects that go together, like an animal and its paw print. In others, you can activate a flashlight if an area is in the dark, or an X-ray to look inside another object. At times, you will even need to blow on the DS to make things move out of the way.
There are other visual puzzles as well, including jigsaw, sliding panels and find-the-differences, which occur at the end of interviewing a suspect.
While the mystery theme is fun, your solving the puzzles doesn't directly relate to finding clues. Instead, the in-game Crime Computer analyzes your found objects to present you with a clue. This disconnect keeps you from feeling that you are the detective.
But the puzzles themselves are challenging, varied and accompanied with outstanding ambient music and sound effects that help to set the mood of each location. Plus, you can play the puzzles on two levels of difficulty and unlock a third, harder level. On the harder of the first two levels, you must find the objects with few hints before time runs out. On the easiest level, there is no time pressure and there are lots of hints. And if you get stuck, you can always reset the puzzle to get a new list and refresh your hints. In all, there are more than 1,000 hidden objects to find.
In addition to the mystery story mode, you can simply explore the puzzles. Plus, the game can be played with up to three of your friends in either a cooperative or competitive mode, if they each have the game. There is also a Quick Play mode to broadcast over the Nintendo wireless feature, which lets you play with someone who does not own the game.
"Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir" is based on a popular downloadable PC series developed by Big Fish Games and it flawlessly transfers this license to handheld gaming. While most kids are keen on visual observation puzzles, the added mystery theme really draws them in. And parents will appreciate that their kids can now hone their visual acuity skills while playing a video game.