Welcome to the lovely seaside town of Serpent Creek. Your journalist friend, Helen, has gone missing here, and it’s up to you to find out what’s going on. As you make your way through encounters with some of the locals (people and “other”), you learn there is something seriously wrong. So, you ask yourself, “What would Scooby do?”
There are a few styles of game-play with this one: hidden object puzzles, logic puzzles, clue gathering/investigation, and interacting with the other characters. The last bit usually just serves to move the narrative along, but you do sometimes get clues or objects.
The hidden object puzzles are pretty straightforward and not very difficult. The logic puzzles are a bit varied and also relatively easy to solve. The clue and object gathering takes a bit of bouncing around the town, but the game provides a map to show you the location of the next action point and to serve as a quick transport to jump to your desired location.
If you find yourself stuck, there is a clue clock at the bottom right of the screen you can click, and the game will send a sparkly line to point out the next object or location, etc. The higher you set the game difficulty level, the longer it takes for the clue clock to recharge, so use sparingly or prepare to wait. The other drawback to the higher difficulty setting is that you’re docked for wrong choices; be careful if you’re going for a high score.
The game almost has a graphic novel look to it. The imagery is not realistic, but the game is well rendered and detailed. The setting is the 1950s, so the objects may look a little unusual to the younger crowd—will the kids even know what an ink well is (keep clicking, you’ll find it)?
There is not a lot of animation, but the game doesn’t really need it given the game-play employed. The background sounds are pretty good, even if some of the repetitive sounds (footfalls) sound a bit wrong. Most of the actual gaming is controlled by clicking on objects or clicking and dragging objects (track pad or mouse driven work equally well). One thing to remember is that when you want to select and move an item, click once and pause to let the game know you have grabbed it. If you try to click, hold, drag method you will not get what you are after.
The game’s storyline leans to the supernatural/spooky side, and the perpetual nighttime setting is in keeping with this theme. There is nothing in the game which is too scary or gory, but the game comes with a 12+ rating due in part to some references to drinking and the snakes (I hope mentioning snakes when the town’s name is Serpent Creek isn’t really a shock to you). There is a mild level of suspense and anticipation as you progress through the game, trying to find out “whodunit?” and “how do you stop it?” Gather all the clues you can, solve some puzzles, find some stuff, rescue Helen, stop the bad guys—no problem for you because you are Helen’s friend and paranormal investigator, (enter character name).
The game retails at $6.99 and will keep you busy for about two to three hours on a play-through. For experienced gamers and hidden object fans, this one is a bit on the easy side. The addition of some “detective mode” scenes do add some spice to the game, but you only get to point out the clues in the room—the game will put the story together for you. Interesting, but it feels like there could be more to it.
The entertainment value is descent for the price and you can play on the three different difficulty levels if you want squeeze the value for money aspect. Besides, it may be a couple of runs through the game before you spot and collect all of the hidden question marks (there are 9 throughout the game). They are a bit more difficult to spot than the rest of the game elements, but this is mostly because they are optional and most players will focus on the task at hand.
9 Clues: The Secret of Serpent Creek has a well-developed story, the imagery is good, and the game-play is varied and entertaining. It’s also free to try out, so do it.
Genre: Puzzle / hidden object
Seller: G5 Entertainment
Compatibility: Mac OS X v10.6.6 or later
Price: Free ($6.99 for full game unlock)
Age Rating: 12+