Why is this game so endearing? It's a mystery...
Posted by Kyle Orland (September 10, 2010)
Games for Lunch chronicles the first hour of a different game every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Each hour ends with the answer to the only question that matters at that point: Do I want to keep playing? For more information, check out the Frequently Asked Questions.
Developer: Wideload Games
Publisher: Disney Interactive
Release Date: Aug. 31, 2010
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site
In a nutshell: Why is this game so endearing? It's a mystery...
0:00 Usually I wouldn't be this excited about yet another Wii party game, but I've heard surprisingly positive things about this title from people I respect, so I jumped at the chance to get a review copy.
0:01 I know I'm supposed to play this game with multiple people, but I'm a lonely misanthrope so I'm just gonna go it alone today. Nice tinkly spy music loops on the preview screen.
0:02 Loading, logos and the title appears in front of a salt-and-pepper-bearded man, contemplating something in an ornate chair. '60s style doo-wop singers come in: "There's been a crime/A crook is on the loose/You have to act/Before he cooks your goose. ... You have to find the guilty party before the guilty party finds you!" Catchy.
0:03 On to story mode, where I have my chocie of six stereotypical-looking detectives. I go with big fat lug in a fedora, Max. I can only choose the Rookie difficulty and the Prologue chapter. What is it with party games locking content? I was forced to play the single player version of WarioWare: Smooth Moves at a party recently because we didn't have the multiplayer mode unlocked yet. Ugh.
0:06 More loading. Love the piano-heavy backing music. "I see you've accepted my offer in a refresher course in the art of detection," says salt-and-pepper beard (S&PB) to all six detectives. "Mom said we can't have dinner unless we humor you," says Max.
0:07 Quote of the Moment: "It's a desk... or is it? Maybe it's a robot disguised as a desk." Spoken by a kid in a superhero costume. Heh.
0:08 Someone ate S&PB's pudding, and he wants us to find out who. My first clue-detecting mini-game involves dusting for prints: "Point and wiggle the Wii Remote to remove the dust." I do and I do. "You won 30 Savvy Points!" The clue is a golden spoon with a short hair stuck to some dried pudding. "This clue tells us the culprit has short hair!" OK, I know this game is aimed at children, but that hint is just insulting to everyone's intelligence. I enter it in my notebook, anyway.
0:10 I use the Remote to look around the mansion and find Olivia and S&PB (actual name: The Commodore) in the Gallery. Interrogation time.
0:11 Interrogation takes the form of a staring contest. I have to move the eye-shaped Wii remote cursor to line up with her eyes as she tries to dodge my gaze. Pretty easy and simple, but cute and fitting at the same time. When I win, Olivia tells me only the men in the house eat pudding. "This testimony tells us the culprit is a man." REALLY? IT DOES?
0:12 I head to the bathroom as instructed to interrogate Bilge the Butler. "The butler is a man with short hair," notes the game. "Interesting."
0:13 Interrogation here takes the form of a bribe -- I use the Wii Remote to move money from my hand to his. He gets ever more excited, as I do, screaming loud English exclamations like "CRACKING!" It's still way too easy, but I can't help but grin at all the silliness.
0:14 Bilge says he saw someone tall with the pudding. "This tells you the culprit is tall!" YES THANK YOU GAME I GET IT! Also, couldn't these people be lying? What kind of detective just trusts everyone he talks to?
0:15 My last interview is with the Commodore. I have to arrange his memories, from a full bowl of pudding down to an empty one. This reminds me distinctly of an exercise we did all the time back in Kindergarten.
0:16 Ah, for the Commodore's testimony we break out the lie detector, which flashes red to tell me that "the culprit is not thin, but round!"
0:17 So I open up my notebook and find the Commodore is the only suspect that is tall, male, round and short-haired. I accuse him and he's quite shocked. "Accusing the Commodore of a crime? Oh this I have to see." There's so much character in the voices and animations, which really helps since the gameplay is dull as dirt so far.
0:18 Wow... I actually have to go through every clue and explain to the Commodore why I think he matches it. As if that was too tough, there's a Hint option here as well. I mean come ON!
0:19 "Well of course I ate the pudding, it's my pudding. Who else would have eaten it?" Um... what? You were just indignant about my accusation. Crazy old man... "All right, let's eat!" says Max in triumph.
0:20 I earned five stars for my perfect mini-game and accusatory performance, as well as some utterly meaningless Badges. If I can't share them online, who cares?
0:21 A rather elaborate (and cleverly written) cut scene sets the stage for the next mystery. Short version: Mr. Valentine, "The Shakespeare of crime" kidnaps the Commodore's wife just after he announces he's retiring. All six playable characters are related to the Commodore by blood or by marriage, and they all want to follow in his footsteps. "I'm retired... you figure it out!"
0:24 Quote of the moment: "Roses are red, violets are blue. Who kidnapped your wife, guess you don't have a clue."
0:26 This time around I have to spend tokens to move between rooms and interrogate people. I start off locked in the dining room, but I luckily draw a skeleton key "Savvy card" that lets me escape. My first clue: A heart shaped pudding bowl that smells like bananas. I don't see how that's supposed to lead me to the suspect, but OK...
0:27 Into the kitchen to interrogate Chef Madeline Ash. "Who wants haggis?" she asks for no particular reason. I have to fit the suspect's favorite food into a silhouette. It's two teapots, quite obviously. She says she saw something suspicious in the office, so off I go. "Be back for dinner!" she calls.
0:29 I shuffle away some papers on the desk to find a heart-sealed envelope at the bottom. It contains a man's bow tie with dark red lipstick and teeth marks. The game does NOT scream that "This means the culprit is a man" which I guess means it just assumes you're stupid during the tutorial.
0:31 I'm out of tokens, so it's on to the next turn. Seventeen more and the Guilty Party will escape. Doesn't seem like a very pressing time limit, to me.
0:34 I'm promoted to Detective rank after arranging an apple from "uneaten" to "eaten" in a super-simple timeline. Yawn.
0:35 Wow... to interrogate groundskeeper Shmoot I have to use the Wii Remote to punch him when his eyes get wide. What's this game rated, again? Anyway, Shmoot tells me he was working in the house when it happened, but he's lying. Ok... that doesn't help me at all, but the fact that he's lying makes me suspicious.
0:37 There are some photos on the shelf in the lounge, which I pick up and shake out to develop in a mini-game. Someone should tell the developers that that's actually a bad idea.
0:38 The photos were hidden on a high shelf, implying that the culprit is tall. Well, it's a little more subtle than someone just telling me they're tall. Also, why didn't they just burn the photos?
0:39 Who knew that unlocking a safe was as simple as watching the six-digit combination flash on the keypad and copying it immediately after? This is sooo easy!
0:40 Another bribing mini-game for the French maid, but it's a little trickier now. For one, she keeps jumping up and down and switching money between hands, making it hard to get the bills to her. For another, a gloved hand keeps trying to steal the money out of my hand. I fail to slap it away fast enough and actually fail for the first time. Hey, it was bound to happen eventually...
0:41 To fix the lights, I have to use the Wii Remote as both a flashlight and as a screwdriver to put fuses back into place. Kind of cute.
0:42 Quote of the moment, from the French maid: "This is a dirty job! One learns things." No comment.
0:43 The French maid lies about sending Shmoot out into the rain. That's two lies about Shmoot... he's definitely my prime suspect. Now if I only had some hair evidence...
0:45 With one token left, I use a quickness Savvy card to run to the bedroom for free. If I was competing against real people, I bet this would've been a slick move.
0:48 I run into some trouble with a lock-picking mini-game, mainly because the interface makes it unclear when the lock is ready to be turned. Cute mechanic to tap the lock tumblers into place, though.
0:49 There's some dark red lipstick in Ms. Dickens drawer there. Probably has something to do with the lipsticked bow tie. Can you accuse accomplices too?
0:50 So the path to the room with the suspects I want to talk to is locked, and I don't seem to have the skeleton key card necessary to get through. So... I just wait, then?
0:53 Oh, I can get to the butler in the bathroom, at least. I interrogate him through an incredibly cute tickling mini-game, where I have to shake a feather at various points on his body as he tries to blow it away. His laughter is infectious.
0:54 The butler says he and Mrs. Dickens went golfing that day. I have no idea why I should care.
0:55 There are no more clues in the house, as far as I can see, but there's still space for one more in my notebook. It must refer to the culprit's hair, because that's the one bit I'm still missing.
0:57 Ah, the final clue is in the locked servant's quarters. So I just have to wait until I draw the skeleton key card, I guess? There's no unlocking minigame for these locks? ARGH!
0:58 Even though I don't have enough evidence, I accuse Shmoot anyway, just to see what happens. Apparently he's innocent, because he says so very loudly after I'm done accusing him. So... why did he lie, then? I only have two accusations left.
1:00 After two turns of immobility, the artificial locks are automatically opened, letting me move on. Too bad I'm out of time for the hour... but I definitely want to keep going.
Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.
Why? The mini-games are sloooowly getting more difficult, and the clever characterization and writing are cute enough. If I had a ten-year-old or two to play this with, it might just be perfect.
This review was based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
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