Midnight Mysteries: Haunted Houdini Game Review

History and magic buffs may recall the unfortunate incidents surrounding the death of famed early 20th-century magician, Harry Houdini. Midnight Mysteries: Haunted Houdini by Mumbo Jumbo adds a twist Houdini’s death, that it was not mere chance and acute appendicitis that did him in, but a conspiracy. You know, the butler did it.

No, no, actually, you, the player, while minding your own business gets spooked by the late Mrs. Bess Houdini’s ghost, a spirit wanting your help to contact her late husband and find out what really happened over 80 years ago. To accomplish this, you will need to travel to different locales and view ghostly history replayed as you search for clues to unravel the true fate of Houdini. Haunted Houdini is at its core a murder mystery with many Hidden Object puzzles for players to ponder and hunt for clues.

Every time the player uncovers an important clue, either through talking to various ghostly characters encountered or finding an important object, the clue information will be added to a journal to assist players in keeping track of their progress. Talking to the various ghosts of persons in Houdini’s orbit is important such that players won’t be able to proceed without talking or interacting in some way with those encountered.

As I mentioned earlier, Midnight Mysteries: Haunted Houdini has at its core a lot of hidden objects puzzles, and finding objects is imperative in order to continue forward. How difficult the search will be is initially determined by your Difficulty Settings choice when starting the game, be it Casual, Advanced or Expert:

Movement in the game from location to location is cursor driven. The cursor takes the form of a skeletal hand, a nice gothic touch lending a bit of the supernatural. Areas available to investigation will show a blue arrow as the cursor touches them. Simply click and Abracadabra! you are instantly transported to snoop anew.

Certain areas that bear closer examination, or perhaps more precisely, an area within an area, will be indicated with an eye icon.

When you encounter a hidden object puzzle, you may notice that objects needed may have different colors than the default black. This is itself a puzzle within a puzzle, as colors represent an aspect of the object listed. Green items mean the object listed is a description of the object type that you must figure out to understand what you ought to really be looking for. Blue objects are those hidden, either under another object, inside a drawer or within something like a box. These can be quite tricky!

Fortunately, Haunted Houdini has Hints that can be used to find what you are looking for. This can be done by seeing an outline of the object in the lantern on the lower right, or by clicking the Hints red tag below the lantern to make the Raven sitting atop the lamp help you actually find where the object in question resides. Typically once a player completes the hidden objects puzzle, a final necessary item will appear that needs to be found as it will be used in some way during the course of the game. Found items, whether from the hidden object puzzle or those in a given room you are investigating will be put in your inventory slots.

Many objects must be combined before they can be used. In the screencap above, taken from the initial “tutorial” encounter with Mrs. Houdini, a pack of cards is required. On the far right of the picture can be seen a blue arrow pointing to a white square. This square and the one next to it are where players combine objects to make a new object. So here playing cards + card box forms a complete pack of playing cards.

In most locations, careful players will note the images of a raven and four-leaf clover. Finding ravens increases the number of available hints to use, as indicated in red below the lantern, and once a player uses them all up, no hints for you!

Speaking of four-leaf clover, they may very well be lucky. Consider this: a few years ago when I was just a reader of Gear Diary, and while picking up the newspaper, I encountered two four-leaf clovers that I promptly put in a cup with water to show the family. A few hours later I received an email from Judie, seen here on my HTC Fuze:

Anecdotal to be sure, and though finding clover in the game won’t win you phones, they will help you unlock unlimited hidden object puzzle games that you can play over and over with new objects to find, plus it can be an interesting challenge seeing just how the game chooses to depict and hide a room’s clover.

Now while searching for hidden objects, bird and foliage in Haunted Houdini might be tricky, that’s peanuts, for in addition to hidden object puzzles and searching for items in sundry locations, the really big obstacles are very frequently logic puzzles of varying degrees of complexity. From the easy…

To the more difficult… (They must have shopped at Crate & Barrel, right?)

To the downright fiendish…

 A real big bonus of the game is that the puzzles are also quite varied, so where puzzles are concerned players shouldn’t have to worry about the “same old same old.” They will test your wits. Solve the puzzles, find the right tools and clues, fulfill mini-quests of sorts and you can unravel the mystery of Houdini’s death and help reunite him with his long-suffering wife’s ghost. Oh, and you can win little trophy achievements that you can show off to your friends as well. All right, so I don’t have a lot yet here. I was early in the game when I did the screencap, okay?

Midnight Mysteries: Haunted Houdini was an enjoyable romp into the realm of logic and hidden object puzzles, mixing a bit of history, mystery, stage magic into an interesting whodunnit. There was spooky atmospheric music, eerie sound effects, lush visual sets and animations to add spice to the game. I thought the hint system was well done, there when you needed it, but not so obtrusive or necessarily obvious to be overtly spoiling. The Bonus Content was a nice feature as well. In it players can download game music and add screen savers to their PC. There are also images showing how scenes were first drawn out and ultimately rendered.

Midnight Mysteries: Haunted Houdini

Where to Buy : Direct from Mumbo Jumbo (PC version) NB: While I did not review the iPad version, Mumbo Jumbo offers Haunted Houdini for the iPad and it can be found here.

MSRP: $19.95 (PC Version) $2.99 (iPad version)

What I Like: Lots of thought-provoking logic puzzles; Many items to hunt for and deduce proper usage of them; Interesting plotline twist involving the famous magician Houdini; Well done music and sound effects to enhance unsettling story mood; Nicely done graphics

What Needs Improvement: One thing I’d like to be able to do is have a few game waypoints to go back and try certain areas again in case I know I missed a minor item or simply wanted to replay a section; Require all questions to be selected when talking with the game ghosts…while not always imperative to completing a game, there were a couple of instances where I selected the wrong question (e.g. the last question in a set) and was moved to the next “level”, thereby missing the chance to find out what the other questions/answers involved

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