Saturday, 28 December 2019

Game Review: Mystery Case Files: Moths to a Flame Collector’s Edition (first play)

Developer: Eipix Games
Publisher: Big Fish Games
Original Release Date: 23rd August 2019
Platform: PC


This is quite a delayed post. I actually played Mystery Case Files: Moths to a Flame back in the autumn, but I haven’t had chance to write a review until now. Sorry about that.

So, Moths to a Flame is the latest instalment of the Mystery Case Files series, which is currently in the hands of Eipix Games. I – like a lot of MCF fans – was a little less than enthused by the last game in the series, The Countess. It wasn’t a bad game as such, but it just couldn’t hold a candle to the early Ravenhearst games. Not much can, to be honest. Although I thought The Countess was okay, I pretty much came to the conclusion that I was done with Mystery Case Files. I’ve seen other people saying the same thing when new titles come out… this series is pretty much done now. No more Mystery Case Files games for me.

And then they release a new game, and we all fly to it like… ahhhhh.

Moths to a Flame is set up as one for the fans. In fact, the storyline would probably be a bit confusing for anyone who hasn’t played at least some of the earlier titles in the series. The Mystery Case Files unit – and the Master Detective himself (the player-character seems to be male in this instalment, though obviously that’s a controversial subject in the series) – are under attack. Some files have been stolen, and an ‘Archivist’ (with a grudge against the MCF agency) is holding a group of agents hostage in order to draw the Master Detective into a twisted game.

The game involves visiting recreations of the settings of some of the detective’s iconic cases (specifically, Ravenhearst, Madame Fate’s carnival and the boarding house from Broken Hour) to piece together the puzzle of why this is all happening. These recreations are housed in the Zenith Museum of Oddities, which is part prison and part tribute to the Master Detective. You have to navigate your way around the museum to solve the case and free the other agents.


The game design is very good here, with lovely attention to detail in the scenes. Obviously, a big draw for MCF fans is the recreations of settings from earlier games. These were well-done, and there was a definite attempt to capture the intricacy and style of those games. However, the problem with offering recreations of iconic scenes from earlier games is that you are openly encouraging comparison with those games. And, for those of us who love them, the new game will fall a little short.

It’s hard to say exactly what’s missing from these facsimiles of Ravenhearst and Fate’s Carnival, but something is missing. I think the game – like most of the later MCF series – lacks the darkness of the earlier instalments. I don’t mean it’s too bright and colourful, but rather that it’s just a bit… harmless, when compared with the disturbed malevolence that rippled under the surface of the other games. So, although there’s a good attempt to capture the visual feel of previous chapters, Moths to a Flame doesn’t quite capture their soul. (Also, I missed the theme music. It really felt like it should be there for this one, and it sort of was at times, but, again, the soundtrack lacked something when compared with, say, Escape from Ravenhearst or Fate’s Carnival.)

Gameplay in this one, as expected, is pretty slick and has all the bells and whistles we’ve come to expect. It’s standard point-and-click on the whole, with movement between scenes (without too much distracting back-and-forth). There’s a Custom difficulty level (yay!), collectibles and morphing objects. The puzzles are a mix of HOGs and mini-games, which you can replay afterwards on the CE. Some of the reviews I’ve read have commented on the welcome return of the Rube Goldberg puzzles, which were a characteristic feature of some of the earlier MCF games (most notably Fate’s Carnival). I was happy to see these but, like much of the game, the Rube Goldberg puzzles were a shadow of their earlier counterparts. They just lacked the intricacy and weirdness of some of the early instalments.

However, Moths to a Flame does have a very classy (and unexpected) element to its gameplay. I’m loath to say much about this, as it’s a spoiler for anyone who hasn’t played or who has only played the demo. All I’ll say is that something I thought was going to be a bit of annoying feature has a brilliant twist to it that I very much enjoyed!


As this is a first-person, single-player game, all eyes are on the player-character – in this case the Master Detective. There’s very little detail given, as is usual for the MCF games, though the motive behind the antagonist’s actions does suggest that the character’s reputation precedes them. This isn’t the first time someone has become obsessed with the Master Detective, so the success in the previous games has certainly brought the detective to people’s attention. Not, sadly, to the Queen’s attention this time, as Moths to a Flame eschews the once familiar phone call from Her Majesty to kick the adventure off.

Of the NPCs, the most interesting one is the antagonist. The others (the agents who have been taken captive) are, at least, a bit more well-rounded and a bit less whiny than the NPCs in some other games. They can’t complete the adventure for you, but at least they don’t just sit and demand that you perform tasks for them. The Archivist is the one who gets a bit more attention, as it’s his obsession that has resulted in the storyline happening at all. Unfortunately, once again, the game hampers itself with its own continued reference to older games. The Archivist was fine, as antagonists in HOPAs go, but by encouraging a comparison to the Ravenhearst arc, the game was drawing attention to the fact that he’s a far cry from Charles Dalimar (he’s not even Alister Dalimar). There was a moment, part way through, where I thought there might be a twist ending in which it turned out the Archivist was a Dalimar, but sadly that was not to be.

I played the Collector’s Edition, so there was a bit of bonus content. The main feature of this is the bonus chapter, which in this case is a sequel chapter (more a sort of coda to the main adventure). This didn’t add a lot for me, as it all felt a bit arbitrary – as though the developers knew they had to extend the gameplay for a little longer, but couldn’t think of any more storyline. Outside of this, I enjoyed being able to replay HOGs and mini-games, and to have another chance at getting Achievements. The bonus content also includes a Souvenir Room (popular with some) and the usual wallpapers and extras. It’s all as you would expect from a HOPA Collector’s Edition.


So… has Moths to a Flame redeemed the Mystery Case Files series? The jury’s out on that one. It was a better instalment than I was expecting, but those early games just set the bar too high. I suspect I’ll play the next game (which is already out, since it took me so long to write this review!), but my heart hasn’t been torn away from Ravenhearst yet.

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