Review – Cate West: The Vanishing Files [DS]

Posted: February 22, 2012 in DS, Reviews

Cate West: The Vanishing Files is based upon the PC game of the same title and revolves around finding items hidden in images, but not hidden as you might expect, some are stashed “in” the furniture, a shotgun might be superimposed on a chair leg or a broom, and the quest to find them begins.

Surprisingly, you assume the role of Cate West, a mystery novel writer who has visions. The main premise behind the game, taken from the official website:

A series of unsolvable crimes dubbed The Vanishing Files have paralyzed the city. The police turns to novelist Cate West, whose visions might just be the key to solving the mystery.

Use Cate’s powers and hunt down the clues to uncover the link between her father’s murder and these crimes…and an unexpected connection to the Biblical legend of the 3 Magi.

In this Story Mode, the “connection” mentioned appears to happen in reverse order. You solve the crimes which seem to have a religious undertone, then shortly after informed that it just might be related to the murder of West’s’ father which happened 17 years previously. Cate has blamed herself for his death as she received a vision but didn’t act upon it.

The logic behind the game is astoundingly terrible. An example of one crime is that a painting is stolen, and to solve this you need to visit a certain number of locations and find a certain number of really obscure items, such as newts and ice creams. Apparently these random things will give you a psychic vision of two items, for example a watch or wine bottles. These in turn are hidden in pieces in another location, which point to the culprit’s hideout. It then turns into a game of Spot The Difference as you point out the errors in the hideout compared to Cate’s vision. Using the items you put back together they give West hints on suspects where you must deduce the culprit from a list of eight, using their appearance, jobs, likes and dislikes. Then comes the court case, where you briefly assume the role of Detective Ben Shephard, as he “describes” the crime scene, which is basically another Spot The Difference routine, except you’re putting items back. The formula is rinsed and repeated again and again. There are fifteen chapters in the game. Needless to say, I have got a little bored.

These screens are pretty much the same size as a DS. Can you see the fun already?

 

 

You mainly play the game with the stylus, cut scenes are moved along by tapping the screen and finding items by tapping where you think they belong. The majority of these missions are timed, however the time limit is fairly long [around 45 minutes], so the possibility of the time running out and the forced restart is unlikely. Time however is subtracted from your limit as a “Random Tap Penalty” if you tap too many times without finding an item. After the required numbers of clues/differences are found, put back or suspect arrested, you are given points which can affect how the game ends. These are affected by how much time remains, the speed in which you found consecutive items and hints used. Hints are available to point out items you are having trouble with; however you have a limited amount in each chapter. Locations previously completed will be unlocked in the games’ Quick Play section.

This is a game which is not made for the DS, even with the option to zoom in using the shoulder buttons helps to a degree; the fact is the screens are too small to contain all this detail. Because of this items look like things they shouldn’t, even though that the game is designed with that in mind, the tiny nature of the DS screen makes some items impossible to find. What also doesn’t help is the names of some items are harder to find because:

A] They might not look like what you have in mind,
B] You might not have ever seen one before.

An example of each based on my experience:
A] I was asked to find an ice cream; in my mind I was envisioning a Mr. Whippy type ice cream, maybe with a flake. Using a hint I was shown where it was hiding. It looked more like a Cornetto when revealed, but when hidden looked more like the top end of a magic wand.

B] One of the ‘clues’ I was asked to locate was a Chinese Coin. I have never seen one before, but I found it by a fluke as I was tapping on an item hidden next to it.

The graphics don’t look too shabby, in the cutscenes you have a Hotel Dusk type interaction, and in the locations you have to search look quite professional, however some look a little poor, having all that detail crammed into one screen. There is some music which plays as you search, but it isn’t that inspiring. I found myself turning it down and playing music on my PC.

Whilst playing, I kept having a quote from the film American Pie: The Wedding, “The food and drink here are really bad. F for presentation”. This is how the game felt to me. The game is presented as a horrible attempt at copying Where’s Wally? With a ludicrous plot strapped to it to give some sense of logic at finding butterflies and salt and pepper pots in an abandoned car. I have played the PC version before, a few months back with my Dad, and it was a lot more enjoyable because we could actually see the landscapes. With the tiny size of the DS screen it’s just infuriating. If you like this sort of game, the Wii or PC versions would be much better.

Gameplay 1/5
Playability 1/5
Sound 1/5
Graphics 3/5
Lifespan 2/5

Pr0’s
A] Challenging
B] Long lifespan if you wish to see other endings.
C] But you wouldn’t. You really wouldn’t.

Cons
A] Repetitive
B] Frustrating
C] Not suited for the DS
D] You’d be spending actual money on this crap.

TOTAL

1/10

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