As a child, my dad was always in charge of the television set after dinner. He wasn’t into sports really, so things usually turned to mystery and problem solving TV shows – Matlock, NYPD Blue, The Commish, and Jake and the Fat Man to name a few. I remember growing up with a composition notebook by my side every Monday, and dad and I would sit down and watch TV, write down clues, and try to figure out who the killer was before the police on the TV did. It was super fun and as an 8 year old, I was pretty good at it… and I’m pretty sure it is what spawned my ultimate love of mystery and thrill games as an adult.
Perhaps my love of mystery is why I enjoyed KISS Ltd’s Melissa K. and the Heart of Gold so much. It reminded me a lot of my favorite Nancy Drew mystery games (of which, I own ALL of them – I am not ashamed!). Discovering clues, solving puzzles, and playing through a story are my absolute favorite parts of a good mystery game… and this one is made even better by the gorgeous artwork, superb voice-acting, and occasional jump-scare thrown in.
You spend your adventure playing as Melissa K, a brilliant British professor, who is called personally by the Queen of England to an important teaching opportunity in 1947 Thailand. Upon arrival, your mission almost immediately begins with your new charge mysteriously disappearing. Naturally, it becomes your job to find them. Queue game play!
Now, there are three levels of difficulty when beginning the game. I chose to play as an “Adventurer”, which is the medium level of game play, though I found it to be quite simple. I suppose if I were to play through the game again, I would likely choose the harder option, though for the purposes of this review, I figured the mid-level of difficulty would be appropriate. The benefits of playing as an Adventurer include medium puzzle difficulty, fewer shiny zones, help text display, medium hint tutorial and skip reload, and a hidden object click penalty (though I could not tell you what that penalty was).
Navigating the game is also quite simple, with a natural point-and-click or drag system allowing you to move and “look around” smoothly in every location of the game. And you will definitely need to look around – there are many spots in each location that are not immediately visible at your default camera location!
There are, also, a couple of unexpected jump-scares in the game, which were a pleasant surprise to me as someone who loves not only mystery games, but the horror genre as well (is that not obvious by now?). Keep an eye out for those!
While I really enjoyed the game, it is not without flaws. The voice acting was spot on in my opinion, however, much of the animation was spotty with the voices not really matching up very well with the animation. This is, of course, not a deal breaker and does not take away from any aspect of game play, but it is something that the developers can probably improve upon in the future.
Another minor complaint I may have, and which I already mentioned above, is that the puzzles seem to be just a touch too easy. This, again, could be because I played the game on medium difficulty, though I can’t imagine that the difficult level would change TOO drastically. Of course, I could always be wrong – I will definitely be replaying to find out. I can never get too much of a good story, and the game definitely kept me interested in that aspect.
Might I mention, keeping me interested is hard to do – I have quite the short attention span!
Overall, I would say Melissa K. and the Heart of Gold is a solid adventure game with some pleasant surprises, gorgeous art work, smooth voice-acting, an interesting story line and a pique level of interest that is high enough to keep me wanting to come back again for more.
Now, here’s the best part.