I had mixed feelings after reading the description of Strange Cases: The Faces of Vengeance. Maybe it’s the overprotective mother in me, but I find horror stories involving children to be too creepy most of the time.
On the other hand, a game that takes place in a mall intrigued the Jersey Girl in me (malls are kind of like our mother ship) so I decided to give it a try.
My mixed feeling continued as I played – there were a lot of cut scenes and less action, particularly at the beginning, which made it more difficult to get hooked on the game. The music was more pleasant than creepy, which I appreciated since I can’t stand the suspenseful music found in some games.
The voice-overs were well done and did not come across cheesy as many do (even the garbled voice of the kidnapper). The back story is weaved into small details you may or may not notice – a board in Claire’s office contains a photo of Anna with her parents, noting they were killed. Another picture clues you in that Anna’s father was Claire’s partner. I liked that these details were present but not overbearing, and you could pick up as much of the back story as you wanted. The game stands alone if you aren’t familiar with the series, but isn’t too repetitive even if you know the storyline.
Following the kidnapper’s first clue leads Claire to the condemned Mercury Shopping Mall where she and her sergeant, Tom, split up in the race to find Anna. Claire is soon on her own to work through the dilapidated structure and navigate the traps set for her.
The graphics in Strange Cases: The Faces of Vengeance make the mall appear as though it’s stuck in the 1950s with the outdated televisions (complete with bunny ears), icebox style refrigerators, and rotary phones. It was hard to tell if that was intentional, as many other elements of the game seemed modern.
The Hidden Object Scenes in Strange Cases: The Faces of Vengeance were predictable – mostly irrelevant items hidden among other junk and a few objects that require interaction to uncover. After playing one scene, I was surprised to see I was guided back there a short while later in the game. The second time around, rather than a list of items, the key showed silhouettes of items to be uncovered. While the items remained the same, it put a unique spin on the hunt for me. In casual mode, the hints recharged quickly, but I found the scenes easy enough that they weren’t necessary.
The mini games I came across were well-themed to Strange Cases: The Faces of Vengeance, and I enjoyed most of them. They were mostly traditional puzzles but with a twist on the usual elements. The televisions above had to be tuned to the same channel to display a coherent picture and a tile game revealed the kidnapper’s masked face. They played into the course of the game and accomplished a goal relevant to the storyline. No hints available within the mini-game did cause me to skip one because I just ran out of patience.
There were some unique and fun elements to the game, but overall, I felt there was too much storytelling and too little game playing. The games and HOS were good, but I would have preferred to see more of those throughout the game and more challenging ones as well. Lucky for me the kidnapper’s true target is Claire so no creepy scenes with Anna, much to my relief.