Review: Midnight Mysteries 4: Haunted Houdini (PC, Steam)

Haunted Houdini is the latest adventure game in MumboJumbo’s “Midnight Mysteries” series. This time the plot is based around – of course – Harry Houdini, who has gone missing. And not just “hey, Houdini was in that box and now the box is empty, where’d he go?” missing like the man was always known for. His (deceased and now ghostly) wife can’t find him, either in the plane of the living OR in the afterlife. Is this his greatest disappearing act of all? Or does the afterlife have kidnappers? If you think that plot may be enough to hook you, then read on to find out more about the game!

Midnight Mysteries: Haunted Houdini is part of that genre of game which, despite being supremely popular, I’ve never been able to come up with a pithy name for. Put bluntly, it’s a title where most – not all, but certainly most – of the gameplay involves you having to find particular items in an otherwise huge, scattered pile of objects. Kind of like finding a needle in a haystack, except the needle may be a fireplace poker, and each piece of hay can be anything from antique earrings to a book about how to grow mushrooms. This description doesn’t really do it justice – it’s actually pretty fun if you’re into visual puzzles. Haunted Houdini is a great addition to the genre.[singlepic id=6203 w=320 h=240 float=right]

And what makes it great? Well, first and foremost, the graphics. Really, while there are some other mini-games to be had in Haunted Houdini, far and away most of your time is going to be spent trying to find specific items in an otherwise knick-knack filled room. That means that the graphics are doing a lot more here than it would in another game – it’s not mere polish, it’s essential to the entire product. To MumboJumbo’s credit, they’ve crafted a very beautiful game – environments and items are expertly drawn and arranged intelligently, and whatever difficulty you may have in finding a given item, it won’t be because it was poorly or confusingly drawn. On the visual front, Haunted Houdini is just plain beautiful.[singlepic id=6204 w=320 h=240 float=left]

Well, with the graphics getting an A+, how about the plot? This is where personal preference is going to play a big role, since Haunted Houdini focuses on what I suppose would be called the “Houdini Mythos”. Facts about Houdini’s life and acquaintances take center stage here, along with some legends that have been built around them – and, of course, some flat out fictional embellishment. It’s all well-written and engaging, but your enjoyment will be enhanced if you either have a thing for occult mysteries, or at the very least, are enough of a Houdini buff to find a game loosely based on his persona intriguing. If you do, then there’s a very good chance you’re going to enjoy the storyline on this one – and between that and the graphics, you have your justification to seek this one out.[singlepic id=6206 w=320 h=240 float=right]

Alongside the fine story and beautiful graphics are the game’s controls. The interface is extremely intuitive and easy to get into, and the gameplay itself is very straightforward and easy to understand. The challenge of this game is visual and cerebral – don’t worry about having to wrestle with the interface on this one. There’s a decent variety of puzzles you’ll encounter in addition to the item-sifting, and personally I had no trouble at least figuring out what the objective was and how to go about completing it. For those of you who prefer your puzzles on the easier side, the game sports three difficulty modes – casual included.

All in all, Haunted Houdini is a great entrant into this particular style of game. If you enjoy visual puzzles and an adventure based around occult mystery, then really, head on over to the Steam marketplace and give it a look.

Victor Grunn has been a gamer since the days of single-button joysticks and the Atari 800XL. When not lamenting the loss of the Ultima series or setting people on fire in Team Fortress 2, he's an aspiring indie game developer and freelance writer.

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