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Four enjoyable mysteries, September 7, 2010
Like Seastalker, which I reviewed earlier this week, Moonmist is an Infocom game aimed at younger interactors. However, Moonmist is far more successful. Rather than writing down to children, or assuming that for a kid being given responsibility is enough of a thrill, we are treated to a solid combination of gothic horror and detective stories that is quite enjoyable for readers of any age.
This is not to say that Moonmist's plot and characterisation are deep: this is standard stuff. We are in an old castle. The previous lover of the young local lord has died or been killed; his new lover, a female friend of ours, has been threatened. In addition, a ghost haunts the castle. And finally, the previous lord has hidden a fabled treasure somewhere on the premises and uses hidden clues and audio-taped messages to direct us towards it. The eight guests, all of whom might be somehow implicated in the plot, are quite stereotypical: the older female artist, the grumpy doctor, the young débutante, and so on. Nevertheless: stuff is going on, the characterisations are miles beyond those of Seastalker, the British setting is British, there is atmosphere, the descriptions are almost lush, and we even get Edgar Allen Poe quotes.
After an introductory sequence, gameplay mostly consists of searching the castle for clues. There are of course secret passages, cryptic clues (including wordplay and riddles), and lots of hidden objects. You will be spending a lot of your time walking through the castle, which is large, and although you will unfortunately need to read some of the room descriptions from the feelies (hello, copy protection scheme!) this is generally enjoyable. Plus, you can instantly go to any room, person or object you have previously seen. With several different tasks to perform (follow the clues to the treasure, find out who the ghost is, find out what really happened to the dead woman) you won't quickly run out of ideas, especially since the difficulty isn't high. One tip: if you successfully "search" something, do it again, because there can be more than one object hidden.
At the beginning of the game, you are asked to state your favourite colour. This seems an innocuous question, but it is actually very important: choosing red, blue, green or yellow starts one of four completely different scenarios. (Choosing another colour will randomly select one.) The treasure will be different, hidden in a different place, and different clues will lead to it. The ghost will be someone else, and the real story behind the death will be different too. Thus, Moonmist is really four games in one; and although solving one will help you solve the others, it will far from make it automatic.
All in all, then, very enjoyable. It's not in the end truly memorable, but as a relaxed gothic detective romp, there is nothing wrong with it either. Three-and-a-half stars.