Mystery Trackers: Silent Hollow Collector’s Edition
Publisher: Big Fish Games
Developer: Elephant Games
Genre: Hidden Object/Adventure
Release Date: 07/19/2013
Slowly but surely, I’m getting my hands on every hidden object series. At least it seems that way. Before Silent Hollow, I had never played a Mystery Trackers game. However, it appears that this was my loss. If this game is any indication, the series is at the apex of the hidden object genre.
The Mystery Trackers are a group of gifted individuals with the mission of solving mysteries and righting wrongs. They’re basically the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen minus the famous characters. You play as a detective in the organization who shows up at the worst possible time. It seems a former member of the organization has broken free from prison and wrought devastation upon headquarters and the surrounding towns. Your fellow agents are powerless against his psychic assaults, but you aren’t. So it’s up to you to make your way to his lair and finish him off before the whole organization is destroyed.
As a story, it works well enough. It’s straightforward and all about the action, with a small bit of characterization thrown in to keep things interesting. I consider it a bit like the big summer blockbuster. It’s big on production values, but keeps the story simple so everyone can follow. For a four to five hour game, it works.
The production values on this game are far and above the norm. For starters, characters are represented by live actors that fit almost seamlessly into the game world. They don’t do a terrible job either. The visuals as a whole are sharp, bright, and colorful. While there wasn’t a whole lot of variety, it still looked pretty darn good. Voice acting in the game might not be on par with a AAA console title, but it was pretty darn good for a low budget hidden object game. The music and effects are pretty much what you’d expect, which is to say serviceable.
As with any game in the genre, the gameplay is split into three parts: point and click adventure, hidden object, and mini-games.
The adventuring is some of the best in the genre. The controls are smooth and precise. There are very few instances where what you need to do can’t be gleaned through simple logic. The game even has a few powers that get used multiple times throughout the game. For example, you get the ability to control fire early on. This can be used to light fuses, light lamps, and burn some items. This saves you the trouble of hunting down candles, lighters, and other such objects that are staples of the genre. However, these tools could have been used even more effectively by having you combine them to create helpful effects. That would be have been great. The fact that you can’t do that is what separates this genre from the elite point and click games. Still, this game does a bang up job of offering a casual alternative.
Hidden object sequences in this game are pretty darn easy. Not only do the words on your list actually match the items on screen, but the items aren’t often hidden all that well. In fact, I manged to find all but two of my items in about five seconds one time. However, there are some bright spots that have you revealing a code to unlock a safe that contains one of your items. I wish more games did this, as it adds a nice bit of complexity to an otherwise simple task. On the plus side, you don’t have to replay hidden object session, so you save a heck of a lot of time not having to run back to the beginning of the game to do so.
Mini-games are as much a staple of the genre as anything, and they’re in full force in this game as well. While many classic puzzle types emerge, there are some more unique ones as well. Still, most of what you get is a lot of rotating, sliding, and switching. The controls work and the helpful info button gives you a good idea of what you’re expected to do without giving away the answer. As always, you can skip these mini-games if you wish, but there usually isn’t a need to.
The game comes equipped with four different difficulty settings. The first three are pretty much what you get with any HO game. However, the hardest setting completely removes hints and the ability to skip puzzles. You really have to figure out everything on your own. For those looking for a more hardcore experience, this is the mode to play on.
In-game shops can be a burden or a boon to an HO game. For this game, I’d say it straddles the line. During play, you can find coins to spend on the shop. With them, you can buy aesthetic changes to your HUD or buy accessories for your dog. The latter takes you to a special room where your dog and his family can be interacted with to a small degree. It can be amusing, but there’s no real point to it unless you want to earn some achievements.
The collector’s edition comes jam packed with extras. There’s the obligatory bonus chapter to start things off. However, this chapter is a whole new side story that I’m surprised didn’t get turned into a whole sequel. It follows the detective as he goes back in time to stop a madman from killing the Mystery Trackers off in the past. It was pretty nifty, and added a good hour of gameplay. Once that’s beaten, you’ll unlock the bonus room. Here you can replay selected sections of the game to unlock character bios. This may sound silly, but the bios represent your character’s ancestors, all of whom happen to be famous fictional detectives. We’re talking both Sherlock Holmes and Angela Lansbury’s character from Murder She Wrote. That’s just good fun there. Beyond that, you’ve got wallpapers, concept art, and music to look forward to. There’s also an amusing video featuring a CGI character dancing in front of a green screen.
Short Attention Span Summary
If you’re someone who’s looking for an upper tier hidden object game, than Mystery Trackers: Silent Hollow is what you seek. The production values are well above par for the genre, and the gameplay works well on all fronts. The collector’s edition adds a good amount of value to the game, and is worth it to anyone interesting in getting the most for their money. I’m sure this series will continue, and I look forward to the next entry.