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January 22, 2014

iPad Review – Mystery Cruise (2012)

by Master Pillow

Mystery Cruise is an exercise in mediocrity from bland generic environments to uninteresting repetitive objects to discover.  Throw in a ridiculously overwrought plot and a protagonist who is drawn as a kind of airhead and you have a recipe for disaster. Kudos goes to those players who actually manage to witness the ridiculously abrupt and totally dissatisfying ending.

Players take on the role of Miss Danford, a kind of ditzy young woman who has just won a free luxury cruise on the Seawind ocean liner.  Excited, she arrives on the ship but soon after the vessel gets lost in a dense fog as Miss Danford suddenly finds herself in a kind of alternate dimension without a clue as to what is happening.  Fortunately, she is aided by a disemboweled voice that guides her through a convenient walkie-talkie and it quickly becomes apparent that our heroine’s life is at stake.  Can our slight dim-witted protagonist save the day or will she become trapped in time along with her predecessors?

Mystery Cruise plays almost exactly like every other hidden object game out there as players are given a list of items to discover within each area.  The one difference here is that certain objects can only be found inside other ones such as a paper clip that can only be accessed after opening a drawer.  However, the game tends to guide players too much by clearly identifying which objects are to be found inside others by labeling them in clear blue text.  At the same time the game also telegraphs where to find these items through glimmering lights that hover over furniture that can be opened.  While this obviously prevents players from needlessly guessing what objects can indeed be accessed it also is a bit of a bummer considering it feels like a gimmicky feature especially since the game makes these so obvious.

As always there are a few mini games interspersed between hidden object boards in order to break up the monotony but once again the developers play it exceedingly safe here as each one is a variation of those seen in a thousand other genre titles.  None are particular difficult although the game does allow players to skip them if desired without penalty.

Graphically the game features clear crisp visuals and a surprising amount of environmental effects such as moving lights or drapes that sway gently pushed by the breeze coming from an opened window.  None of these effects really adds to the gameplay but they do serve to spiff up the rather bland locations.  There is no zoom feature available in Mystery Cruise and though the graphics are generally clear there are still moments when players need to go pixel hunting for small objects that blend into the background.   There’s a generous hint system that refreshes quickly and really no penalty for excessive incorrect guessing except to momentarily freeze the screen with fog for a few seconds.

While Miss Danford looks a bit like a ditz the developer has also decided to skimp on her 2D character art thus she only has a scant few emotions that constantly repeat.  At the same time the narrative will occasionally lapse into comic book style paneling featuring the same art style but here individual panes are far too often repeated giving the impression that the developer is too cost-conscious and cannot afford to hire an artist to provide more illustrations.

The game’s soundtrack is generally decent but there were moments, such as early on, when it is so relaxed and nondescript that it resembles bad elevator music that will lull you to sleep.  Summarily, the sound effects are incredibly minimalist making no impression whatsoever.

However, the game does suffer from a few debilitating issues, the first being that players are tasked to essentially find the same objects no matter where they are on the ship.  It quickly becomes disconcerting to be asked to find a butterfly on the bridge and the exact same one in the dining room.  At the same time the game is a real dog when it comes to being repetitive to a fault as players are funneled through every board at least 3-4 times making the entire experience feel incredibly stale and frustrating.

It is always ridiculous to force players to wade through the exact same rooms over and over again especially when they are tasked to find similar objects.  Plotwise it also makes little sense to enter a room looking for a cup, exit to another room and then come back to find that the same cup has miraculously appeared exactly as it was before.  Not only does this break immersion it also becomes a total bore and it feels as if you are caught up in time loop not unlike Bill Murray in the film Groundhog Day.  Making matters worse is that the game has a bad tendency to ask for objects of which there are multiple choices available yet only one registers as “correct.”

The game’s narrative also has the propensity to throw logic out the window as early on our protagonist seems to have unfettered access to the ship walking from her cabin to obviously restricted areas like the bridge and engine room with impunity.  I don’t know about other people but I would certainly not feel safe if I knew regular guests were fooling around with levers, buttons and valves in the ship’s deserted engineering section.

If excessive backtracking was not bad enough Mystery Cruise is perhaps the only hidden object title that features a ridiculously over-complicated map whereby players need to collect light bulbs from each room in order to illuminate the corridors.  If you don’t have enough bulbs you won’t be able to proceed further into the ship.  This is the sort of busted logic system where the developers over-think things to the point of frustration.  With three decks to the ship players only have a finite amount of bulbs meaning they have to keep putting them in and out of sockets and one can hilariously picture a young woman lugging around a giant bag of bulbs much like Santa Claus as she traverses the ocean liner.

Nevertheless, the game keeps getting “better” with suspect object placement including one howler which had me shaking my head in disbelief as at one point I was tasked to find a shark inside the ship’s bridge.  Where could it be?  Having a real shark sitting under the captain’s chair would be ludicrous so I suspected it was some sort of photo or carving but alas it was anything but as instead of something which made a degree of sense the solution was a massive great white shark floating in the middle of the sky outside the ship.  Anyone seen the movie Sharknado?   Silly me as here I thought sharks were usually found in the ocean but apparently I’ve never heard of the flying shark that can soar into the clouds.

Mystery Cruise is basically a short game clocking in between 2-3 hours depending on one’s skill level but there’s no replay value at all and nothing to unlock.  Throw in a ridiculously abrupt ending that boots players back out into the home screen and players will be left hanging without any sense of catharsis.  Even then the nonsensical story never comes together in a meaningful or compelling fashion leaving the game to rely solely on its repetitive mundane gameplay.

On a personal note I bought this game on a lark as I wanted to play a new hidden object title but due to circumstance could not start it till months later and when I went back to the app store to check out its summary and details found that it no longer is listed on the Canadian store.  I have no idea why it was pulled or when it will be re-listed but consider its M.I.A. status as a positive as there is no need to play this average title when so many better ones are easily available.  Still, if you really want to play this train wreck it can be found on other platforms such as Android or on the PC.

*1/2 out of ****

Developer: Gameshastra
Publisher: Alawar
Version: 1.0
Size: 224 MB
Updated: 09/12/12

© 2014 The Galactic Pillow

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