Mystery of Mortlake Mansion

Mystery of Mortlake Mansion

For a game that was released more than 11 years ago, Mystery of Mortlake Mansion feels surprisingly fresh. What makes it somewhat unique is perhaps the beautiful toon-shaded art style that is quite uncharacteristic for a HOG, or the hidden object scenes that are crafted so well that all items fit perfectly with each other and appear naturally as parts of the environment. In any case, Mystery of Mortlake Mansion follows the recipe for a good HOG to the tee and manages to deliver a very enjoyable experience from top to bottom.

The two things I love the most in a HOG are a good story and well-designed hidden object scenes. Mystery of Mortlake Mansion has both of them, in ample amounts. There are lots of cutscenes and character interactions, and the protagonist also shares their thoughts about the puzzles (giving the player a small nudge in the right direction) or the items that are being picked up. All the lines have voice-overs and you can even pick a female or a male voice for your own character – a feature that I’ve never encountered before in a HOG.

The story itself is quite exciting and keeps the player actively interested mostly through various plot twists (making you wonder who the villain is) but also through the main character’s comments. The protagonist is summoned to an unknown mansion through a warning letter stating that they are in danger. Upon arrival they find the whole house in disarray but various notes written by its mysterious owner, who appears to now be absent, are scattered all over the place. Deciphering the secret of his bizarre disappearance will have the protagonist open portals to a parallel dimension from inside each room, leading them to a shadow-y reflection of the mansion and ultimately to a chain of magical / supernatural occurrences triggered by an evil necromancer and his quest for immortality.

Like in pretty much all other HOGs, the story is summarized into a notebook, which in this case takes the form of a diary containing a collage of the notes found, plus descriptive paragraphs of the plot that unraveled so far.

There’s also a map that you can use to fast travel, and which also indicates which rooms have available actions. The minimap from the corner of the screen is a zoomed-in version of the full mansion map, and it updates in real-time as you traverse the rooms, focusing on the newly visited location, and color-marking it as complete / incomplete as needed. This is very useful because it allows the player to see at a glance whether they still have available actions to do in that scene or in the ones surrounding it. Inside a location, not only the hidden object scenes are highlighted, but also all the puzzles that are unlocked and still have to be solved. There’s also a nice hint system in place, with a really low cooldown.

Mystery of Mortlake Mansion is overall a nice HOG, but since it’s an old port it doesn’t support newer monitor resolutions, and is not optimized for wide screens. As a consequence, the items inside the hidden object scenes remain quite small and sometimes difficult to spot, especially since there’s no zoom option. If you’re not bothered by these downsides, nor by the fact that the game doesn’t feature Steam achievements, then it’s certainly worth giving it a try.

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