Mystery Mania makes a good first impression but not much else

Posted: October 9, 2009 in Puzzle

Experimentation with personality…that’s pretty much the theme behind Mystery Mania from EA. A puzzler at its core, Mystery Mania offers the visual appeal you’d expect from a highly polished cartoon-animated. What it lacks, however, are puzzles with any depth or in many cases, the lasting satisfaction from finding a solution. Think of Mystery Mania as an attractive date good for a few laughs, but ultimately leaves you wanting more.

The idea behind Mystery Mania is conceptually good. You play the role of F8, a robot with amnesia who finds himself in a mansion. The objective is venture through the 27 rooms piecing together clues and random objects that slowly reveal the story behind F8’s existence. In most cases, the task is to figure out how to interact with and combine items to perform a specific activity. Once an activity is performed to satisfaction, a dialogue box appears indicating mystery solved. Of course, interactions with others or additional parts of the storyline are presented in a similar fashion.

Visually, Mystery Mania delivers great animation and graphics along with several animated scenes that you’ll have fun just watching. F8 is an old school kind of robot from the days of Commodores and IBM dumb terminals. His computer monitor head does a fairly good job at showing his emotions, and physically, he seems pretty agile for a model that’s been sitting in a storage room for who knows how long.

The game is controlled by touch, and F8 will automatically interact or use that item. Items that are tapped will have a green or red circle. A green circle appears on items that you can interact with, while red ones are not. These can include switches, plugs, and levers among other things, but not everything F8 can interact with is necessarily useful for solving the puzzle.

Mystery Mania also has an achievement system which is a mixed bag since many of the achievements can be rather simple. With 33 achievements, these can include things such as throwing a baseball, kicking a mouse, or even lifting a dumbbell. In some ways, the achievement would have been better served by focusing on solving specific rooms rather than recognizing simple tasks that may have been done regardless.

As I said, the concept is good, but the execution almost certainly will leave many players wanting more. The puzzles are short, and unfortunately, with a low level of difficulty. While the puzzles tend to incorporate physics-based elements and require a certain degree of logic, they aren’t intricate by any means nor challenging enough to satisfy. Given that there are only 27 rooms which can be solved in short order, Mystery Mania is a good looking date that won’t last too long in the relationship department.

Combined with the fact that the gameplay itself is all about experimentation, and there lies the problem. F8 is never really in danger, which further makes the gameplay less urgent. If you make a mistake, F8 certainly experiences the effects, but he simply reverts back to his normal robotic self. For example, F8 will often get short circuited and land in a pile in the corner or he will rust from getting wet. In these and in all cases, he simply pops back up without penalty.

Don’t get me wrong. Solving these puzzles does make you feel clever, and in some cases, there are several solutions which I found out after experimenting. But, the challenge isn’t consistent enough nor does it ratchet up.

Mystery Mania is definitely a game with personality and charm with its terrific cartoon graphics, a unique visual style, and a great character in F8. But, the simple and overly straightforward puzzles will likely disappoint. Of course, if you’re into looks over substance, always a gamble by the way, then Mystery Mania should suit you just fine.

Albie Meter: 3.5 Stars (great visual style, but the lack of challenging puzzles and limited levels make this a game without substance)

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