Version Tested: PC
Available On: Windows, Mac, iOS
Developer: Zandel Media
Publisher: Zandel Media
Genre: FMV, Puzzle, Adventure, Point and Click
Official Site: https://www.zandelmedia.com/games/
Release Date: May 25, 2015 (for steam)
Where to Buy: Steam
MISSING: An Interactive Thriller is a brisk 45-minute modern take on the classic live action point-and-click FMV games of the 80s and 90s. The game plays and feels similar to Myst or Her Story, with the plot being the focus of the game. The plot is similar to many other television dramas and even the movie Saw to an extent; you are trapped in what appears to be a basement, and must escape before it is too late. The visual aspects of MISSING are seamless; progression from movie to gameplay is executed very well, and the game is fluid. Unfortunately, however, in terms of actual gameplay, the game falls flat due to puzzle layout. While I would love to give the layout a pass, I feel I spent too long trying to find obscure puzzle pieces in areas that nobody would think to look, or was simply unable to see. And because MISSING is a puzzle game at its core, these problems, as well as its positives, are things those looking to purchase this game must take into consideration.
The start of MISSING: An Interactive Thriller is exciting, as it starts with our main character, (David Newcastle) chained up in a room and scrawled across a nearby door are the words “PLAY WITH ME”. There are many items scattered throughout the room that you can use to try and maneuver locks and lights. Initially, I found the simplistic nature of the game entertaining, especially when solving the crossword puzzle that provides you an essential code word.
There are five total levels the player must complete, with each room containing different items for solving puzzles. The items available for solving puzzles throughout the game are tools you would find in an actual industrial warehouse, such as valves, wires, bolts, lights, etc. There is one level that required dodging from time bombs, which helped add to the suspense of the game. Overall, I thought that the design choices for escape and manipulation of the environment were thoughtful and appropriate for the situation of the character.
Despite this, the actual placement of key items in the environment was done poorly. Puzzles usually consist of gathering up objects, some of which are usually tiny and indistinguishable from the background. For instance, there is a scene where your flashlight dies, and the game indicated you need to find new batteries. What might have been interesting is finding an object like a remote control, then thinking to take the batteries out of the remote, and put them into the flashlight. Instead, you find the tiny tiny batteries just sitting in a remote location barely indistinguishable from the background. Since the game is fairly simple at its core, it seems bizarre that no one thought of utilizing better indicators for finding objects, or simply placing them in more transparent locations. I was usually frustrated when trying to progress through the game after the first level, especially later on when searching for batteries, and finally solving a puzzle failed to bring on a sense of satisfaction because of this.
MISSING: An Interactive Thriller’s cutscenes are live action, and the transition between cutscene and gameplay is fluid. The game did a pretty good job at living up to its promise of being a movie that you play. This game is visually appealing, and I never felt that I was in anything but an interactive movie. The game is a great example of how technology has greatly improved since the 90s, and I wouldn’t be surprised if other companies reignite the popularity of FMVs because of games such as MISSING and Her Story.
The soundtrack of the game is on par for what I would expect from an interactive thriller. The acting is decently done, especially considering that this game is made by an indie company. I felt that I was watching a Law and Order light show, and wouldn’t be surprised if someone told me this was getting picked up by a television studio.
The actual story of the MISSING: An Interactive Thriller seems promising but doesn’t quite deliver on the series’ first episode. One of the big problems of the game is that you start the game questioning what’s going on, and you leave the game still questioning what’s going on. The episodes plot doesn’t answer anything such as why David was captured, why the police force is searching for him and how they even know he is missing. I think the game would have benefited from having half time with David, and the other half with those searching for him, so the player could slowly start to piece together the plot of the game. The villain of the game is also completely absent of the game, so you don’t get any resolution as to what you were trying to escape from.
Missing has all of the ingredients for a compelling series, but the first episode doesn’t really answer many of the plot holes it set up. The next episode really needs to explore the reason behind the kidnapping, as well as who is involved and why. If the next episode continues on the same course, I will not be continuing the series. I also want to see the game fix some of the issues regarding hard to find items, and hopefully have a more diverse setting with new types of objects to solve puzzles. The key to the fun behind a point and click game is gathering objects, then using them and combining them in creative ways to solve a puzzle.
In conclusion, MISSING: An Interactive Thriller is worth checking out if you are into mystery FMV’s, but it is important to note that the first episode is only 45 minutes at most. If you haven’t ever played an FMV, I would check out Her Story first before considering this game, as that game set the bar for this generation of FMV’s, and if you don’t like that game you will probably like this one even less. If the game is ever on sale for around 1.00, I would definitely encourage those interested in the game to pick it up.
- Gameplay: Simplistic point and click puzzles, with sometimes aggravatingly hard to find items
- Graphics: Clean and fluid FMV
- Sound: Par for the course, with decent acting
- Presentation: Fantastic look and flow overall, with a somewhat lackluster story
- Fluid FMV style game that looks great
- Great utilization of believable items
- Environment is great for the theme of the game
- Hard to find items in obscure locations
- Plot doesn't progress at all
- The episode ends in a way where you don't really feel like you need to keep playing or know more