Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst is the fifth hidden object puzzle game in the MCF series published by Big Fish Games for the PC. The series started in 2005 as a simple hidden object puzzle with a story. You play the role of a detective who’s given a mystery to solve, and you search for clues in several set locations that are oh so cluttered. Remember those I Spy children’s books from the 90s? That’s exactly what they are!
Ravenhearst was released in December 2006 and it marked the series’ transformation from light-hearted whodunit to sinister ghost hunt. It also introduced a variety of puzzles to solve outside of the usual search-and-click on hidden objects. In the game, the player is tapped by “Her Majesty” to investigate a mysterious abandoned manor whose rooms are secured by elaborate puzzle locks. As you solve the puzzles, you also unlock the mystery of one Emma Ravenhearst, whose diary provides clues to the manor’s secret. At the conclusion of the game, you find and free Emma’s ghost.. and something else. The nature of this evil spirit was actually revealed at the end of a sequel released in 2007 – Madame Fate.
So in Return to Ravenhearst, you once more don your detective hat and enter Ravenhearst Manor in an effort to find and destroy that malevolent spirit.
The game retains much of its original charm as a casual game. The puzzles are just the right level of difficulty, requiring more thinking than reflex action. The only puzzle I really hated was the Whack-A-Mole one. I do believe it’s easier to hit those stupid moles with a real mallet than with a mouse, especially on a 24-inch wide screen. I like that they’ve added a “Skip This Puzzle” option though. This minimizes the frustration and offers you a way to get through any puzzle that’s too tricky for you, albeit with a time penalty.
As with its predecessor, the graphics, music and sound effects in Return to Ravenhearst create a macabre setting that’s guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat. You might want to consider turning the sound volume down if you scare easily. They have also made one major change to the interface that makes the game a great deal more immersive. Moving from one area to the next is now accomplished by clicking in the direction you want to go, adding to the illusion that you are actually moving from garden to manor to the rooms within.
You can download the game from Big Fish Games but we warned: the free download will only let you play the game for 1 hour. After that you will have to buy the full version for $19.99 ($6.99 if you’re a Big Fish Game Club member).
I think it’s worth it.