by Marko Susimetsä
previewed on PC
The sea has many secrets...
Adventure games have existed on computers for almost as long as home computers have existed. But the overall title 'adventure' may refer to a wide variety of different kinds of games. The Mystery of the Mary Celeste represents one of the oldest kinds: a point-and-click 'hidden object' adventure in the style of static screens where the role of the player is basically to go through a series of puzzles – using items on other items or just solve simple minigame puzzles - in order to solve the main mystery.
The story of The Mystery of the Mary Celeste begins when Mary Morehouse receives an invitation to spend her vacation onboard the Mary Celeste II. Although Mary has been afraid of the sea since her childhood (Morehouse, that is, not Celeste), she cannot resist the temptation of a free sea voyage. She doesn't even mind the fact that the fate of the first Mary Celeste is still shrouded in mystery as she lost all her crew at sea and was found drifting on the seas near Gibraltar in 1872.
Naturally, the fate of Mary Celeste II is no better than the predecessor's – it wouldn't be much of an adventure if it was, really – and all her crew disappear in a nasty storm. It is up to Mary Morehouse, the only survivor, to solve the mystery of the original Mary Celeste in order to save Mary Celeste II. And she does this feat by hunting the ship for objects that will appease the deceased crew of the original Mary Celeste.
As she tries to solve the mystery, Mary Morehouse will search through sixteen environments in both the old and new Mary Celeste. And as she works through the mystery, Mary will also learn a bit of her own history and how she is linked to the fate of the original Mary Celeste...
The fate of Mary Celeste – a brigantine merchant ship – is actually a historical event, but there has never, to my knowledge, been a Mary Celeste II – it would be like naming your ship Titanic II. Bad luck to everyone involved. The storytellers behind The Mystery of the Mary Celeste are by no means the first fiction writers who have got their inspiration from the fate of this ship; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle made the whole event part of the popular culture already in 1884 with his story The Captain of the Polestar. It remains to be seen whether the developers of The Mystery of the Mary Celeste prove to be as imaginative as Doyle.
Point and, well, click
The gameplay in The Mystery of the Mary Celeste is based mainly on hidden object point-and-click tradition with some simple puzzles thrown in for good measure. It is as unexciting as it gets, especially since you basically hunt for pixels and items in various screens whether there are spectral apparitions confronting you or not. The puzzles seem to be no less unique, being a collection of traditional puzzle-types. Therefore, the main attraction of the game will be the story and it relies mostly on the gamers' interest towards the mystery of Mary Celeste.
The presentation – meaning the graphics and sounds – of these types of puzzle games have lacked years behind most other genres throughout their history. This seems to be the case also in the case of The Mystery of the Mary Celeste. The animations are certainly more fluid, but the general style of the graphics is very simplistic, making it easy for the gamer to spot the items that can and should be clicked on.
For point-and-click adventure fans
The Mystery of the Mary Celeste is a representative member of the hidden object adventure games and thus it will appeal to those who like this type of gameplay. Perhaps the topic, the mystery of Mary Celeste, will draw a few additional gamers to try it out – certainly it should be more interesting than the various Sherlock Holmes adventures that we've seen – but it will certainly not be on the top of the best sellers list. The Mystery of the Mary Celeste is perfect for casual gamers and it will certainly be a nice new adventure for the fans of the genre.