Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Dire Grove 2 - Sacred Grove

It’s the week before Thanksgiving in the USA and so we get a new Mystery Case Files game. To be honest, after several dupes in a row, starting with the abysmal “13th Skull,” I wasn’t really hyped any longer, even though the very first HOG I ever played was an MCF game: “Mystery Case Files: Ravenhearst.” By now, the series has redeemed itself in my eyes and the newest one, out today, has even endeared it to me again.

A little MCF history first, even though I’m not going to go into details. “Mystery Case Files: Dire Grove” was the first Collector’s Edition BFG ever did. It wasn’t like the ones you get today, with bonus game-play and additional stuff, it had one extra area and two extra hidden object games so you got what you needed to get there. Most people were not impressed, but it obviously sold well enough to make BFG produce more CEs and make all following MCF games CEs first, too. A lot of people complained about the production costs for the videos with real people in the game (not realizing that there had been such videos in the one before, “Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst,” too). Apart from that, though, the game was very good. It had a haunting atmosphere, good puzzles, a good story. As a matter of fact, I played it again a couple of months ago and enjoyed it as much as the first time I ever played it a long while ago, when it came out.
Two years ago, BFG decided to get rid of their own game developing and so they needed a new studio to make their MCF games (the only series BFG had been doing themselves). They decided on Elephant Games, luckily. The first game from the new developer was “Mystery Case Files: Fate’s Carnival,” a sequel of sorts to “Mystery Case Files: Madame Fate.” Fate’s Carnival was a good game overall, it only suffered from one big problem: it was too long. Just like a movie that would be perfect, if it took 70 minutes to watch, but was artificially blown up to last 120 minutes, just because ‘that’s how long movies take these days.’ There was a huge map with loads of locations and quite often you had to move from one end to the other for the next step. There were times when you had to go from location to location to find ‘x of something.’ The game wasn’t bad overall, but like its predecessor, it was just too long and felt like it.

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to try out a survey version of the new MCF, Dire Grove 2, and realized soon that this time Elephant Games had found their feet with the new series they were making. Since then, I have been looking forward to the new game.
Today, it was released, on the Tuesday before US Thanksgiving, just as every MCF game in the MCF history. And I grabbed it immediately and played it in one afternoon, which should show just how much I enjoyed it. As a matter of fact, I might just start over again later and play it once more right away. They have toned down on hidden object scenes (I do play IHOGs for the adventure part, the puzzles and the item-usage, not for the hidden object searching as a such) and made them quite diverse. They have incorporated nice dialogue. They have incorporated the Rube Goldberg puzzles which made Ravenhearst such a great game. (Admittedly, those have been in Fate’s Carnival, too.) They have a wonderful art that makes you shiver with the unusual cold that has come over Dire Grove (again) and make you want to take a holiday there, nevertheless. They have a good bonus game, too. They have added loads of achievements and a lot of stuff to pick up, which means I will have to play again, since I’m still missing some miniature houses and puzzle parts.

It’s been a while since I really enjoyed a HOG, I’ve been a bit tired of them recently. But both the newest Dark Parables (“Dark Parables: The Little Mermaid and the Purple Tide,” not a HOG, but a FROG) and Dire Grove 2 were fun to play, so perhaps I’m over that now. I had a wonderful afternoon with Dire Grove 2, enjoying my return to the place (with that ‘oh, I know that place, it still looks the same’ feeling) and enjoying the new stuff they have incorporated. I enjoyed the story, enjoyed walking the snow-covered place. I liked the diverse hidden object scenes and the puzzles. I liked the dialogue and finding clues to find out what was going on.

I fully approve of this Mystery Case File and it makes me hopeful for next year’s episode. Only one thing is clear: if Dalimar is in it again, I will take something heavy and beat him - ghost, spirit, non-human being, whatever - into bloody pulp. I’m so tired of that guy by now, I don’t have any words left for that.

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