Saturday, June 06, 2009

Games of Mystery Review: The Hardy Boys, The Perfect Crime

Games of Mystery

, your source for mystery-themed electronic and board games, parties for kids and adults, and mystery getaway vacations, is publishing a new review of The Hardy Boys: The Perfect Crime. For readers of Mystery Books News, we are printing it here first in advance of its publication on our website.

The Hardy Boys: The Perfect Crime

Mystery Game Review: The Hardy Boys: The Perfect Crime.

The Hardy Boys probably need no introduction. Frank and Joe Hardy have been solving mysteries in and around their home town of Bayport for over 80 years. What is relatively new is their sleuthing activities are now available in a series of casual games, the second of which, The Hardy Boys: The Perfect Crime, was recently released as a download by Big Fish Games. The Hardy Boys: The Perfect Crime (boxed version) will be released June 16, 2009.

In The Perfect Crime, Frank and Joe attempt to solve a series of malicious crimes that have gripped the city. It is up to the boys to uncover who's behind these crimes in the four chapters that comprise the game play of the story.

The Perfect Crime is little more than a standard hidden object game and really not a very good one at that. There are a few between-scene challenges, but none are very challenging nor do they relate in any meaningful way to the storyline.

The Hardy Boys: The Perfect Crime

Players sign in, set a few options (remember to turn off the ambient music, it's awful), and begin the first chapter. Though there's no obvious reason not to do so, there doesn't appear to be a way to play the game other than in order, chapter 1 through 4. Furthermore, there doesn't appear to be a way to go back either, and replay a chapter (not that you'd want to anyway). The chapters are titled Grand Theft Motorcycle, Corrupt Commissioner, Time Bomb, and Bigwig the Submarine. There are two modes: timed and untimed. In timed mode, you have 12 minutes to find the objects. I played the game in untimed mode (though I don't think I spent more than 2-3 minutes on any given scene).

The first thing you notice is how poorly drawn the images are. Most other mystery games today have richly rendered drawings; these are pale, washed out, and unexciting. There is also a lot of dialog to be read, most of it rather silly, none of it really relevant to the game. You can skip the dialog by pressing the ESC key. You'll probably be doing this a lot.

The Hardy Boys: The Perfect Crime

You're asked to find 10 or so items per scene. Though all items are readily on display, some players might be confused by the description of the item to be found (mostly British expressions). For example, in one scene you're asked to find a "spanner". It's unlikely many Americans, in particular American kids to whom the game is targeted, know that a spanner is a wrench.

There are several disappointing aspects not only to the hidden objects themselves but also the images. First, none really have anything to do with the story. Second, the hidden objects are located in odd locations, sometimes randomly affixed to a wall or hanging in space. (In the image to the right, there's a hammer above the speakers on the wall, and lightsticks attached to the back of the theater seats. And what's with the seats facing one direction, but the TV monitor on the wall to the left?) Third, the objects are not proportional in size to other items in the drawing. There are probably a fourth, fifth, and sixth, but you get the idea.

In the unlikely event you cannot find an item, you can ask for a hint. Three hints are allowed per scene, but look quick! A tiny poof of an explosion appears for a millisecond or two when you click on the hint button; if you miss it, you've wasted that hint.

There is an occasional challenge between scenes, and it can't be skipped, but they are tediously dull in their simplicity.

The Hardy Boys: The Perfect Crime

As if I weren't discouraged enough, the dialog is riddled with syntax errors. The developers apparently didn't know when to properly use "it's" and "its" or worse, were indifferent to its incorrect usage throughout the game. ("Being good is it's own reward," says Frank Hardy.) Quality control clearly was not a priority here.

All could be forgiven (or at least somewhat overlooked) if the story in The Perfect Crime was compelling in any way. Alas, it is not. By the beginning of the repetitive fourth chapter it's likely players won't recall anything significant from the previous chapters, or what the boys were investigating in the first place. As to whodunit? I'm not even sure the Hardy Boys care.

The Hardy Boys: The Perfect Crime is really not worthy of your time. There are so many other good choices out there, including any of the Nancy Drew mystery games, to which this series of games will inevitably be compared.

Reviewed on June 06, 2009 by Ms. Terri, game reviewer for Mystery Books News.

The Hardy Boys: The Perfect Crime may be downloaded and purchased for as little as $6.99 with a Big Fish Game Club membership. A trial version may be downloaded and played for free for one hour. Also available: The Hardy Boys: The Perfect Crime Game Walkthrough.

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