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December 3, 2011

2

WP7 – James Patterson’s Women’s Mystery Club: Death in Scarlett Review

by Master Pillow

While I had previously completed James Patterson’s Women’s Mystery Club: Death in Scarlett back on my old iPhone 3G here it is again for Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 and while it is nice to at least have a supposedly high quality hidden object game on the platform this particular conversion is downright pedestrian filled with low resolution textures that make finding objects nigh impossible which might not be so bad unless one takes into account the extremely sensitive controls that penalizes players at virtually every opportunity.

James Patterson’s Women’s Mystery Club: Death in Scarlett is based on the author’s series of books that revolve around four women who, surprise, solve murder cases.  In the interest of full disclosure I freely admit that I have not read any of these novels yet the very fact that there are ten of them indicates that they have achieved some degree of success.  This time around the game presents a case of a murdered local Chinese newscaster who appears to have discovered secrets she should rather have stayed away from.  Thus the game follows the standard hidden object gaming formula by tasking players to find certain objects from a list in order to clear each level.  Inbetween levels the game shifts to a 2D comic book style conversation between characters who appear to further summarize the significant findings as well as advance the plot.

In short the game takes a by-the-numbers approach to the genre but focuses to instead showcase hidden object gaming entirely meaning that there are no mini-games or puzzles that seems to buck recent trends to add variety to the gameplay.  Sure, there are a few moments early in the game where you need to use one item to retrieve another or to manually enter the name of the deceased into a computer but these moments are few and far between. This means that those who truly hate finding objects should probably stay away unless they really want to learn more about the murder case.  However, the narrative is far from compelling and presented with a very blasé writing style that presents dialogue that revolves solely on the facts meaning that character interaction and backstory is completely ignored.  For a novice like me this amounts to watching characters who might as well be store mannequins because none have any personality whatsoever.  Fans of the series might get a kick at watching their favourite crime stoppers show up on mobile devices but everyone else is going to be unimpressed.

Although the game never explicitly acknowledges it James Patterson’s Women’s Mystery Club: Death in Scarlett is broken down into chapters which comprise a few stages.  This is apparent when one notices how the hint system works.  At the start of each chapter the hint indicator, represented by a bulb in the top left hand side of the screen, is reset to five and while that seems like a lot it is actually deceiving as it really means that players have a total of five hints that can be used for a given chapter.  This is not explained at all and I am sure some players will wonder why the hint bulb sometimes goes back up to five.  Nevertheless, impatient players would be wise to use the hint system sparingly as the game becomes even more infuriating if one realizes they have no hints remaining and that they still have a few levels to go before it resets.

As mentioned, the game has incredibly low resolution graphics that look decent when zoomed out yet at any closer magnification quickly turn into a blurry mess throwing a wrench into the core hidden object gameplay as there are far too many items that are tiny which is sure to aggravate many players.  I have no idea why this is so as clearly all Windows Phone 7 smartphones are capable of displaying higher resolutions so one would assume the developers just got lazy with their code conversion.  If the game allowed unlimited guessing then the lower resolution wouldn’t be so bad yet this leads to what is perhaps an even bigger issue than murky images which is the downright inebriated way in which the game detects touches.  It is far too sensitive meaning that players who just want to scroll left or right or zoom in and out will frequently find that the game has mistaken their motions as excessive guesses and immediately penalizes them by removing time from the clock.  This is completely infuriating as this is not an uncommon occurrence and I suspect players will resort to abject cursing as they watch their precious seconds suddenly plummet.

The game also has the bad tendency to lag and wait for far too long before allowing the player to begin touching the screen again after an incorrect guess is registered as there were numerous times that I scrolled and was awarded a penalty and then proceeded to touch the correct object but instead of it counting as a correct choice I was instead awarded with yet another penalty.  In other words, the game has a cool down that occurs right after it hands out a time penalty where players would be best advised to wait a few seconds before touching the screen again or risk further punishment.  This bizarre programming does everything to dissuade gamers from even bothering to finish the game as no one likes to be penalized for no fault of their own.

Unfortunately, the negative issues extend beyond these points to include the object bar at the bottom of the screen and also the items menu at the top.  Because the touchscreen controls are too sensitive it wreaks havoc on these key areas as well as there are many times that I would try to scroll through the different items to see what it was asking me to find when the game would again mistake my scrolling as an unintended guess.  The same goes with pulling needed items down from the top bar to use in the main area such as moving a camera icon to a corpse to indicate that I wanted the game to think I wanted to take a photo when, you guessed it, the game instead surmised that I was making a bad guess and out came penalty number 5000.

To pour salt into the wound the developers even have the tenacity to create an achievement which requires players to not make a wrong guess during a stage which certainly requires that the player have the patience of an elephant since one tiny wrong move will award a time penalty.  As for the rest of the achievements most are obtainable just by playing through the story but with so many gameplay issues I think only real diehard achievement fanatics are going to invest the time needed to boost their gamerscores.

In terms of options the game is quite barebones with only the ability to turn sound effects and background music on or off or to do a hard reset of data.  There is also an about feature that basically contains the game’s credits as well as a tutorial which goes over the basic gameplay features with a series of still images with text instructions.

Unfortunately, replay value is next to zero here and when one couples this fact with the incredibly frustrating touchscreen controls it makes James Patterson’s Women’s Mystery Club: Death in Scarlett hard to recommend to anyone but diehard hidden object gaming fans.  It is also lamentable that the developer has done a less then exemplary port of the iOS game which features none of the crippling issues that are present in the Windows Phone 7 iteration.  In short, if you have both a WP7 and iOS device it is a no brainer to buy it for Apple’s mobile devices.

*1/2 out of ****

Publisher: I-Play

Released: 11/07/2010

Size: 84.9 MB

© 2011 The Galactic Pillow

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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. shennie
    Dec 6 2011

    Windows phone is not optimized for playing games? Or or is this just one case of bad programming?

    Reply
    • Master Pillow
      Dec 7 2011

      It’s bad programming for sure as there is no reason why any Windows Phone cannot run a hidden object game like this. Without knowing more about the developer I would guess they did a quick port from the iPhone version without really optimizing it for WP7.

      Reply

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