Not too long ago we reviewed Xbox LIVE Arcade title Interpol, a game in which you have to scan a series of still images in order to find what is essentially a shopping list of items. On the Xbox 360 this proved to be a dull, rather soulless experience. It is something that we saw working very well on the DS though, and that's more or less what we have in Mystery Case File: MillionHeir.
While Nintendo's casual friendly title is no relation to Interpol, the core 'find items on a picture background' gameplay is more or less identical. In MillionHeir you play as the so called Master Detective, hired to find a very wealthy man. You use the stylus to scroll around the touch screen, finding whatever items the game is asking you to spot. On the face of it it's a dull, rather mundane thing to do, but on the DS it is somehow an enjoyable experience.
The attempt by developer Big Fish Games to inject a storyline into this most simple of gameplay mechanics is admirable, and far better than what we got in Interpol, but it is still fluff. There is an assortment of quirky characters, no doubt named by someone with a flair for puns (wealthy man Phil T. Rich, astronomer Lee O. Ryan, wannabe actress Emmy Daynow and gem prospector Cole Minor are just a handful of the cleverly named characters you'll come across), and Big Fish has attempted to make you believe you're being a detective, but look behind this very thin veil and you're just clicking on things.
MillionHeir gains bonus points for trying to do more with this basic concept, even if the result is hardly ground breaking. Rather than just clicking on objects with a virtual hand, your stylus can become other tools, such as a torch or X-Ray device. The items you're looking for aren't always what you think they're going to be either, so you'll frequently have to keep an eye out for things that aren't obvious. Items are also regularly hidden behind other items and positioned in seemingly random positions, so MillionHeir does require a fair amount of concentration.
Certain items require a degree of interaction beyond a simple click. These are indicated by their description in your list, so instead of simply saying "mug" you might see something like "fill the mug". By holding L or R you're then able to draw on the screen. In the case of the mug you simply have to colour in the empty glass, but other items require you to draw lines through them, circle them or similar.
It's not a hard game, but in order to stop no good cheats Big Fish punishes anyone who randomly clicks all over the screen by deducting time. There's no need to cheat, but it's good that the deterrent is there. Designed predominantly for the new breed of "casual" gamers, even on the hardest difficulty, in which you get given less clues to an item's whereabouts and less time to find everything on your list, most people won't find themselves struggling. You'll tackle mini-games from time to time too, giving you a break from the 'detective' work, but these are rarely more taxing.
Once you've gathered the items you're after you enter them into the crime computer, which then gives you a fact about the case you're investigating. It's fair to say that the actual detective work going on here is next to nothing, but the game does its best to make you believe you're doing some work. If you're expecting a thinking person's game along the same lines as Nintendo's brilliant Professor Layton, you're not going to find it here.
What you get in Mystery Case File: MillionHeir is the kind of game that would appeal to anyone who spends time on the train completing spot the difference puzzles, Sudoko puzzles or word searches. Hardcore gamers are advised to stay well clear unless they're partial to something simple to wile away time, but the Brain Training crowd should lap this up. A more taxing challenge that required real thought and detective work would have been preferable, but MillionHeir does what it sets out to do very well.