Review: Mystery Jigsaw

AT A GLANCE:
Genre(s): Hidden Object Game/Puzzle/Jigsaw Puzzle/Mystery
Link: Candystand
Difficulty: Medium
Warnings: None
Control Scheme: Mouse
Sherlock Holmes references: Sadly, not nearly enough
THE SET UP:
Paul and Jenny are your average adolescent siblings. One catch, though. The family home is so big that Paul and Jenny’s parents have allowed a number of friends and family to live in the giant manor as well. Such an arrangement would be tricky enough on holidays, I’m sure, but lately someone’s been sneaking around and committing petty thefts and crimes all about the house!
For each case our young heroes are faced with, you’ll help them first solve a jigsaw puzzle (piecing together the scene of the crime, natch), employ your object finding skills to hunt down clues, and then use your keen prowess of observation and deduction to match the clues with the suspects and finger the true criminal.
So on with our deer stalker caps and magnifying glasses, the game is… ahem… afoot!
THE LOWDOWN:
Most Hidden Object Games available are typically downloaded games that you have to shell out some change for. That’s why I always get excited when I see a HOG available for free and, even better, playable in your browser. To be fair, many online distributors such as Big Fish Games, have stripped down demo versions of their games available to play online, but it’s just not the same thing.
And along comes Mystery Jigsaw, a free browser based HOG brought to you by Candystand. And I’ll be honest, I’ve paid money for HOGs of lower quality (granted, not that many, but still). Before now, Mysteriez! set the standard for browser based object finding, and in most categories, Mystery Jigsaw outpaces the old numbers based HOG easily.
The visuals are nice and the story is minimal but acceptable, but what really makes Mystery Jigsaw a joy to play is the pacing and gameplay itself. Mystery Jigsaw is set on a standard rhythm: first you build the scene by completing a jigsaw puzzle. Then you find a modest amount of objects. Finally you pinpoint the crook using descriptions of the suspects and the clues you have found. The fascinating thing at work here is that the formula, though repetitive, does an excellent job of keeping the experience fresh. This is clearly a result of constantly switching up between three totally different styles of gameplay where at least two of them have stood the test of time. People like jigsaw puzzles and they like HOGs and switching back and forth works incredibly well.
The final stage of each case is actually somewhat new, but Candystand has done a good job of coming up with a mechanic that is definitely fun and gives you at least a sense of mystery solving. In a way, these final stages give this an almost Clue type feel, which is far from a bad thing.
Mystery Jigsaw has some issues though. For one, I would love to have seen more scenes (see what I did there?). I like what I see and the settings are very done, but this is definitely an area where more is better. Incidentally, this is one area where the Mysteriez! series has a leg up–Mysteriez! and Mysteriez! 2 each have a tone of settings.
Also, being browser based, you’re working with a small area here. This is, obviously, of particular importance given that you really have to scrutinize every detail in a Hidden Object Game. What makes matters worse is that all too often the items that need finding are of the really small variety that could give your peepers a bit of a strain. A full screen mode would do absolute wonders here.
The final bit of criticism is the hint system or lack thereof. In fact, this might be the biggest fault in the game. There is no hint system in Mystery Jigsaw. That in and of itself isn’t terrible, but instead of having a hint system, the items yet to be found will sparkle periodically as time ticks by. This could lead to situations where the location of an object is revealed before you wanted help finding it.
Flaws aside, though, I have every bit of confidence in saying that this is easily the best browser based Hidden Object Game I’ve played, full stop. Indeed, I could probably dig up a few downloaded HOG’s that could take notes from Mystery Jigsaw.
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