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Dr. Lynch: Grave Secrets

Score: 78%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Big Fish Games
Developer: Oberon Media
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure/ Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:

Dr. Lynch: Grave Secrets is an unusual blend of adventure and puzzle genres to make something that really does stand out, even if it gets a little tedious at times.

The look of Dr. Lynch is very 2D. The investigation story is portrayed via a comic strip with next and previous page buttons at the bottom, while the levels themselves are actually semi-static images filled with random objects available for your clicking pleasure. By semi-static, I mean for the most part the image is still, except for some accent items moving about. So why are seemingly random objects thrown about your screen? More on that later.

Sound actually works really well in this game. Since most of the time you will be focusing on these still images, the ambient sounds and background noises help to keep your mind off of that fact. While in the woods, you will hear birds chirp and the wind blow. Similarly, while in the main house's study, you will hear paper rustle and maybe an occasional dog bark. I do believe that, without the sounds, having to stare at the same image for five to ten minutes at a time would make the game far less approachable.


So what's the deal with Dr. Lynch: Grave Secrets's very static presentation? Well, the game has a point-and-click adventure feel to it in that there are items you will be picking up to help further the story. And some of the items you will pick up are used to solve fairly simple puzzles. But the core gameplay is actually a hidden-item search. You will go to several locations on the map and be presented with the aforementioned semi-static screen. To the left of the screen is a clock counting down how much time you have to complete the current investigation (which is made of several screens), and a lot of items that you need to click on. These items can be everything from several leaves, to a slipper to ... well pretty much anything. The images themselves are cluttered and filled with tons of objects that blend together quite nicely. If you're looking for a snake, look real closely at the green bushes, or that ruler might blend rather nicely into the sign on the table. Needless to say, this is where a lot of the tedium comes into the mix.

Each investigation requires you to scour several locations on the town map, and you can jump between these locations at will, so if you get stumped at one screen, just go to another and make some headway there. In the end, you have to cross off all of the items on your list before you can draw your conclusions. The odd thing is that most of the items are downright random and don't actually help in your investigation. Typically though, there is one item on the list that gives you a clue to the overall mystery (which has Dr. Lynch trying to debunk a local haunting).

After finishing an investigation, you are then treated to a bonus level where you use some of the items you picked up in order to learn something a bit more substantial to the case. In the early investigations, you had to pick up a set of colored keys. These keys are used later to open a compartment, while another investigation required you to grab a dozen or so leaves and then arrange them in a specific configuration, and yet another one is a jumble from a newspaper. If you get stumped on these bonus puzzles, you can just skip them and learn what you need to learn anyway.


Dr. Lynch: Grave Secrets's gameplay style is designed to be most pleasing to those that like to study the screen and pick out every little detail, but inevitably there is always the last couple of items that are a pain to find. Thankfully, the game has a fairly solid hint system built in for when time is running low. Simply click the button and one of the items left to find gets highlighted. The catch is that you have a limited number of hints in an investigation, so you will want to use them wisely. But if you don't quite have enough hints, then you can perform one of the bonus puzzles that appear at some of the locations to increase your hint-count. These are things like find all the acorns and line them up by size on a bench, or collect busts and line them up by time period. One of the more annoying ones though involved me having to find a dozen bugs and put them in a jar (a few moved around, but most were static and well hidden).

Also, if you end up running out of time and have to redo the investigation, don't assume that you will have the same list to check off. While the ones that are real clues (and not just the random objects you need to pick up for no obvious reason) still remain, the rest of your list could be completely different. On one hand, this makes the game tougher because you won't necessarily know where any of the stuff is (though you might have seen them in the previous venture), on the other hand it could be easier since you might find these items easier to find than the previous list.

Game Mechanics:

Dr. Lynch: Grave Secrets takes one of the most aggravating aspects of most point-and-click adventure games, and builds an entire gameplay experience around it, namely, pixel hunting. But, where this could be a major issue for the game, there are a few mechanics in place that really helps keep the whole experience from feeling like a series of random mouse clicks. For one, if you click too frequently without actually getting any items, then you are docked 30 seconds from your time. So anyone who expects to just click away at the screen to get through the game will be disappointed. Oddly enough, by ensuring that the user can't do that, the game actually forces you to look closer and really hunt for those specific items. Where this is a lot better than standard adventure games is that you know (pretty much) exactly what you are looking for, and not just something that might help in some convoluted puzzle that you are trying to get through. That, combined with the fact that the game seems to have a good click radius around the object-of-interest, means you don't have to get the exact pixels the object takes up.

As I said earlier, Dr. Lynch is a strange hybrid game, and while it won't appeal to everyone, heck most people, there are a lot that would probably enjoy the experience. If you like hidden object picture games, then definitely give Grave Secrets the trial download at least.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows XP/Vista, 800 Mhz CPU, 128 MB RAM, DirectX 9.0, 102 MB Hard Disk Space

Test System:

Alienware Aurora m9700 Laptop, Windows XP Professional, AMD Turion 64 Mobile 2.41 GHz, 2 GB Ram, Dual NVIDIA GeForce Go 7900 GS 256MB Video Cards, DirectX 9.0c

Microsoft Xbox 360 Blitz: The League II Microsoft Xbox 360 Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated