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Casebook: Episode I - Kidnapped

Score: 65%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Big Fish Games
Developer: Areograph
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure/ Puzzle/ Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:

I'm not quite sure about the exact technology behind Big Fish Games and Areograph's Casebook - Episode 1 - Kidnapped, but it is pretty amazing how the developers have converted what appears to be 2D imagery into walkable 3D worlds, albeit small ones. Apparently a whole lot of images have been merged to create three-dimensional worlds, which allow you to use the mouse or keyboard to traverse these images in any direction.

For certain close-ups, you'll be zoomed into actual pictures of things like hair, footprints, or even objects that may have fingerprints on them. The game also has live-action videos merged in at moments that act as cut-scenes. These videos also allow you to have some limited camera movement for looking around, but for the most part, you are locked into a relative position (stationary or in motion), getting information from a fellow investigator. There are some noticeable problems with the edges of these videos, but they are generally not overly distracting.

The audio in Casebook - Episode 1 - Kidnapped is relatively a minimum effect in the game, but does consist of voiceovers and some sound fx, as well as that of live-action shots and interviews. There is nothing special here, but again, nothing that takes away from the game either.


Gameplay:

Casebook - Episode 1 - Kidnapped puts you in the middle of a crime scene after the kidnapping of two young children from a well-to-do family. It is your job to figure out who committed the crime by searching through the crimes scene and the subsequent locations that the story leads you to as you look for answers. Was it the maid who kidnapped the children? The father? The mother? An outsider? Following the clues that you uncover at each location, you will come closer to the truth.

The gameplay within this mystery boils down to you searching each scene for clues, then gathering the evidence and taking it back to your mobile headquarters for processing. You will have to take pictures, gather DNA samples like that of hair follicles, and dust for fingerprints, among others, all from the processing of those pictures taken. These pieces of evidence can then be cross-referenced with each other to determine who they belong to, and if they have a reason to be at the scene of the crime.

Most of the gameplay is quite easy and somewhat (or at times fully) automated, depending on what you are working on. You'll be able to also get hints when you don't know what to take pictures of (the main form of gaining evidence to process later) should you choose to, so if you don't feel like procedurally covering every square inch of the crime scene, you don't have to. However, the flip side is that you can go through these parts of the game without help, which can be frustrating, yet also feel a bit more rewarding.

Unfortunately for Casebook - Episode 1 - Kidnapped, the gameplay is very linear though. After filling your camera with pictures, you'll process them and repeat until the crime scene has been thoroughly investigated. At that time, you'll move one step and another scene closer to solving the crime. The processes needed to solve the crime generally come in the form of mini-games, which are quite clever in their presentation.


Difficulty:

As far as difficulty goes, Casebook - Episode 1 - Kidnapped does have a small learning curve for the processing of some pieces of evidence, but in general, the game is relatively easy. In fact, after figuring out some of the not-so-obvious problems to solve, the game is easy enough that a monkey could play it.

The linear nature of the game is a big reason for this. Sure, you can process evidence in different random orders, depending on which pictures you take first, but until you process all of the evidence, you will not move on in the story. You'll also sit through interviews and get advice from your partner, but these bits are nothing more than video clips and don't really require any interaction or thought on your part.

Casebook - Episode 1 - Kidnapped also will give you clues about which types of evidence to look for as you play, just in case you get stumped. As mentioned previously, you can also (at any time) show a hint of specific areas in the environment to take pictures, and zooming in with the camera is done only when a magnifying glass icon shows up on the screen. All of these hint and helpers make the game a bit too easy, but you don't have to cheat by using the picture hint button at least.


Game Mechanics:

The controls of Casebook - Episode 1 - Kidnapped are as simple and easy to use as the gameplay. While moving around each crime scene, you can choose to use complete mouse control or gain a bit more precision by combining the mouse with the WASD keys. Icons appear on the screen when you can interact with objects by zooming in with your camera, and you will use mouse movements and button clicks to perform all of your other actions. The developers creatively used mouse movements to help make interactions more enjoyable in the form of the forensic mini-games.

Casebook - Episode 1 - Kidnapped is definitely meant for the casual gamer, and fans of shows like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation are likely the target audience. While the actual crime may be serious, it is a bit hard to feel the same amount of drama in this game as you would in those action-packed shows due to the sub-par acting, which almost gives the title an unintentionally humorous side to it. As it were, Casebook - Episode 1 - Kidnapped will likely not appeal to everyone. There is a certain mentality you have to take when playing a game like this, and that is one of patience. This title is has nothing to do with fast-paced action, but is a relaxing game that will, in the end, give a small sense of victory.

Special Holiday Offer for Game Vortex Readers

Game Vortex readers can receive a 20% discount off any (and all) Casebook episodes valid until the end of Dec. 2009. The pricing is as follows:

Episode 3: $12.00 USD
Episode 2: $6.00 USD
Episode 1: $4.00 USD

Please use the following code: 20CBGVDEC09

Episodes can be purchased here: Buy Casebook Episodes

The code needs to be entered in the "purchase" screen and then "apply" must be clicked and the sum will reduce by 20%.

If you have any issues applying the code, please contact Areograph at [email protected] Merry Christmas from Game Vortex and Areograph!


-Woody, GameVortex Communications
AKA Shane Wodele

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows XP/Vista, 1.0 GHz, 1024 MB Ram, DirectX: 9.0, 1073 MB Hard Drive Space
 

Test System:



Dell Vostro 1700 Laptop: Intel Core 2 Duo CPU T7100, Dual 1.8 GHz Processors, 2 GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT

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