I like adventure games. I admit I don’t go out of my way to pick them up as I’m usually playing and buying RPG titles to play on my PC, but I’m almost always happy when I do pick up an adventure title. They’re quick to play, tease my brain a little bit and for a few hours entertain me. The Princess Case in this regard, is a bit of fun, but it has a few issues.
The basic idea behind it is you’re playing a reporter trying to get a big scoop for her magazine. The Royal couple has come into New York City for a brief stay and you’ve managed to get in on trying to get an interview. After whittling down which hotel they’re staying in, you sneak into their room, only to find out that the Princess has been kidnapped. You’re taken in for questioning by the police, who, for some strange reason, go along with you helping to investigate the case, which becomes important later as you end up having to deal with the actual kidnappers. While not cliché, the story isn’t all that original. It does entertain though, and it is at least interesting and feels faster paced than it really is. There are some bizarre story choices here that tie into a few of the hidden object bits but I’ll come back to that. While the story isn’t necessarily bad, and you get a personal pay-off at the end, there isn’t as much overall satisfaction as there could have been. I won’t spoil it, but it felt almost like an empty victory.
Visually the game is about what you’d expect from a budget adventure title. It’s all 2D sprites and either hand-drawn or very manipulated photos to give it all the same feel. For the most part every character has a face and a look, but there are a few instances where there should be someone there who you’re interviewing, and they opted for just a solid outline. Now I could see this when you’re talking to the kidnappers over the phone, as you don’t know what they look like. When you’re talking to a shop owner in person, you most definitely know who you’re talking to and they aren’t an orange blob. The puzzles themselves are pretty easy to differentiate and most of the hidden object mini-games are fairly distinctive, with only a few issues where I absolutely had to use the helper because the object just blended too well. This isn’t game of the year material, but I actually think they handled this better than the CSI:NY title I played a few years ago. On looks alone I’d pick this one over the CSI: NY title.
The game controls through the mouse, letting you click and drag on some scenes that don’t fit on your screen, zooming in to get a better look, and manipulating objects in puzzles or the hidden object games. I mentioned earlier some weird gameplay decisions based around the story, and here’s one example. When you end up talking to the Prince later in the game, he mentions his security picked up the pieces of a shattered cellphone. Ok, I can see that if the police missed it, but then apparently they scattered the pieces around the hotel room. What? Seriously? So then you have to find all the pieces and re-assemble the circuit board. Bear in mind you’re a reporter, not an electrical or computer engineer. First I would have fired his guards if I were the Prince, and gone to a tech for help as a reporter. It’s kind of an odd choice. Yes it adds in another hidden object section into the game, but it’s an annoying one at that point. There are a few of these that come up and you’re left wondering why you’d be doing this if it were really happening and honestly it feels more like filler. The assembly of the phone board is actually kind of fun, if not simple, but my initial reaction really had me wondering what kind of world these people are living in. The hidden object sections are ok, with objects hidden behind some object you have to clear out, which is a little weird, but you can’t just go down the list, you can only select objects they have listed at the bottom of the screen, even if they are objects you’re going to have to go for anyway later, and if they block other objects you’re going for.
The puzzle games are mostly re-arranging things in the correct order, like keys in order of length and type, or lining up the boxes in a store room to get to the box with the clue in it. One plays like Bejeweled only with Chinese characters instead of jewels, and one of the more fun ones was to spot the FBI agents to keep them from trailing you. Other than the hidden object sections that got a little overdone, there was a nice variety of other puzzles to hold my interest.
Audio-wise this game is very bland. I’m talking insanely bland. Like put Top Gear on the television or crank your iPod so you have something audibly to cue into while you play. There are sounds for a few things when you’re interacting with them, and background noises for the street scenes or room scenes, but no voiced dialogue, no real music to speak of except the intro bit. I got nothing more out of playing with or without sound.
You can replay it again fairly easily. There is a kind of score system and it keeps track of how long you played so you can try and beat your previous time. It’s short. I actually beat it my first go through in just a few hours. One place where I think they did a good thing, is you can pop into the extras menu option after you’ve beaten it, and the puzzles are there waiting for you. Puzzle Agent 2 did this as well, and it’s a nice addition for someone looking for a few minutes to kill who doesn’t want to do the whole game up to that point, or just wants the quick mind-distracter.
Other than the hidden object sections, the game is fairly easy. Even the puzzles don’t take much to figure out as there is just a bit of re-arranging for the most part. They don’t get progressively harder as you go, and the only reason some of the hidden object ones took me so long is because you had to move some objects by clicking on them and eliminating them, that aren’t even on the list of things you’re looking for, so you end up wasting time looking around when it’s behind a waste-basket or a stray box. While I wouldn’t feel entirely ripped off getting this game at its price point of $9.99 I do think if you’re looking for something challenging there are better titles out there. This especially rears its head when you find out there’s a version for the iOS for only $2.99 while this version and the Mac version are five dollars more. While there is some replay to this in the puzzles, they aren’t challenging enough as the game moves on, and not once did I fail one at all. I don’t think I’ve ever played an adventure game where you’re effectively the Paparazzi trying to get a story. So while it has that going for it, it feels like a hidden object game with some puzzles tacked on and like its trying to give it that adventure game feel and it just misses the mark in that regard. I wasn’t looking for a reinvented wheel, but this feels very basic to me.
I was kind of ho-hum about this to be honest. I like games with a strong lead character, but our lead feels less strong and more intrusive, especially breaking into the room the first time. The generic feel didn’t have me wanting to play it as much, and I really did have to force myself to finish it at one point even though it is a shorter title. It is priced reasonably as a budget title, and I could see more casual players taking an interest in this, as well as anyone who likes the gossip stories as you’re basically living one of these out with a bit more of a twist on it to get your story. Even looking at the box art though, you can tell this is a game on a budget and it plays that way. The only bug I had was when I went from full screen to windowed mode. It swapped fine, but when I went to use the mouse, whenever I clicked on anything after that, the mouse was hitting off center form where the actual pointer showed on screen. I ended up reloading the game and it worked fine after that, but it was a bit weird.
Sound: Below Average
Control and Gameplay: Mediocre
Replayability: Very Good
Addictiveness: Pretty Poor
Appeal Factor: Mediocre
FINAL SCORE: DECENT GAME
Short Attention Span Summary
The Princess Case is a budget adventure title that feels more like a hidden object game with some puzzles tacked on and a somewhat clichéd story with a few moments that left me scratching my head. You have access to the puzzles after the game is complete, and it is short, but the difficulty level to beat the game just isn’t there. It feels too easy and while it might be a nice distraction, I think there are better puzzle and adventure titles out there around the same price point as this feels a little bland. The story is mildly interesting, but I’m not sure it’s worth it unless you really like reporter stories and adventure titles.