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Casebook: Episode III - Snake in the Grass

Score: 72%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Areograph
Developer: Areograph
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure/ Puzzle/ Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:

In the same manner that the previous two installments offered, Casebook: Episode III - Snake in the Grass uses a unique gameplay technique to deliver the visuals on-screen. By using what appear to be sequences of real photos, the game allows you to walk around small environments that are quite photo-realistic. The only exception is that the ceilings/roofs of the environments are done in 3D, and it is unfortunately obvious. The realism of the environments is outstanding from a distance, but admittedly gets pretty bad when zooming in with the camera... to the point where you often can't distinguish anything at all. The photographs that result end up being actual high-quality pictures as you process them in the lab.

You'll also be treated to video clips of your partner talking with you and performing interviews. These clips are generally of a pretty decent quality, and really help make this game appear to be somewhat of an interactive movie. Some of the video clips actually allow you to pan the camera around slightly, although it is still limited to the full view of the original picture, of course.

The audio of Casebook: Episode III runs both ends of the spectrum to the fullest. While the video clips and voiceover audio is really pretty good (even if it may not be the best acting in the world), there are times where there is no audio at all. While I suppose that not having music play in the background keeps the game feeling more realistic at crime scenes, it would have been nice to have more ambient noise of some sort. The sound fx during interactions at least helped break up the silence.


Gameplay:

The Casebook trilogy has kept the gameplay aspect very consistent, having you investigating crime scenes in order to find evidence that will help book the criminal involved. As Episode III wraps up the series, we find that the chase is still on to nail Hapman for indirectly murdering a man, and for drugging an entire town.

Because of the nature of the game, the Casebook series is both innovative and linear, as it uses photo-based environments and video cut-scenes to drive the story. The acting isn't horrible for something on a low budget, but it does plenty well enough to keep the story interesting. Admittedly, as I did in the first Casebook, I really didn't follow the story until well into the game though.

Casebook: Episode III emphasizes easy gameplay that involves very basic controls for movement and taking pictures that will be processed for evidence, which means that the game can be easily played by just about anyone. The simple point and click methodology involved will have you taking pictures of items that you perceive to be evidence, and then taking those photos back to your crime scene van. The photos act as the means for interacting with the actual objects, which means you'll have to dust for fingerprints, isolate DNA strands, look for hair or cloth fragments, and find out the chemical makeup of substances, among others. After processing and separating actual evidence with items of no consequence, you'll have to begin linking the evidence pieces to each other by linking the photos in your evidence book.

The game will take you through three crime scenes where you'll have to link evidence together to pin the crime on Hapman, getting closer and closer as you go. The video cut-scenes really do a pretty good job of driving the story elements, but it should also be said that Casebook: Episode III, like its predecessors, can sometimes be a bit too ambiguous, leading to a "what do I do next" feeling. Of course, if you've played the first two Episodes, you'll be able to fall right in, and you'll certainly want to play through them before you jump into Episode III. You will get a quick little catch-up video at the beginning of this game, however, in case you decide to jump straight into this final episode.


Difficulty:

There are no difficulty settings to choose from in Casebook: Episode III - Snake in the Grass because, quit frankly, the game is quite linear in nature. While you'll be able to take and process photos in any order that you choose, you won't be able to progress until certain requirements are fulfilled. The simplistic design, however, makes this game easy for anyone to jump into, young or old.

This linking of photos to each other and to the people involved in the story, like most of the game, is almost handed to you and there isn't a whole lot of thinking involved. The photos will have a semi-transparent chain link symbol showing that they can go hand-in-hand with other evidence, and will have a full symbol once linked. In the same manner, during your photo-taking opportunities at the three crime scenes, if you are even remotely within range of a picture-able object, a reticule appears on the screen, so you'll know exactly where to take the picture and if you have to zoom in or out to do so. While processing the evidence, you'll have tiny mini-games of sorts, that usually last for no more than a few seconds while you dust for prints or use a black light to look for blood, to name only a couple. These styles of mini-games recur frequently throughout the game.

There are a few other times when you'll have slightly more complex objectives in the mini-games, but even there, they really aren't hard. The exception to the rule is that Casebook: Episode III doesn't give a whole lot of guidance at times, and it can take a bit of trial and error sometimes. This was the case on the final puzzle, for me, as I didn't realize what I was doing at first. It is possible that I may have skipped through the instruction by accident, but then there was no way to learn what to do once in the mini-game. Fortunately, at least in terms of looking for evidence, you can always press the (I) key to use your "Intuition" if you get stuck and can't find those last pieces of evidence that you need. In this case, sometimes you need to be looking at it from the correct angle.


Game Mechanics:

Casebook: Episode III - Snake in the Grass is about as basic as you can get in today's videogame market. Essentially, the game plays like a point-and-click I-Spy type of game where you'll be looking for evidence in three small, cluttered environments. You'll use the mouse to bring up your camera, zoom in and out (you can also use the walk forward/back keys), and to take pictures, as well as process evidence and link that evidence to the perpetrator. The only real keyboard buttons that you'll need to use are the WASD keys for walking, (F1) for Help, and the (N) and (I) keys to view your Notebook and use your Intuition (hints), respectively. As such, anyone looking for their next casual game will be able to control Casebook: Episode III without a problem.

The one major drawback of Casebook: Episode III is that the time it will take you to complete the entire game won't be all that long... it could easily be done in one long sitting. The gameplay itself is a bit repetitive as well, but the feeling of an interactive movie makes up for it in some way. I would highly recommend that anyone interested in the game start from the beginning with Casebook: Episode I - Kidnapping. This series is intended more for the casual gamer, as it can be played entirely at the player's own pace. Overall, Casebook: Episode III - Snake in the Grass was an enjoyable title that wrapped up the series nicely, and fans won't be disappointed.

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 SP2 or Windows Vista; 2Ghz CPU (Core 2 or equivalent or newer); 1.5GB RAM; Graphics card that supports Shader Model 1.4 and DirectX 9.0c; 1.4GB hard drive space; Sound card
 

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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