reviews\ Jan 14, 2011 at 7:00 pm

Midnight Mysteries: The Edgar Allan Poe Conspiracy Review


The circumstances behind American poet-writer Edgar Allan Poe’s death remain a mystery, even 150+ years after his actual passing. Shortly following his engagement to long-time love Elmira Royster Shelton, Poe was found in need of serious assistance. He was hospitalized, slipping in and out of consciousness while crying out “Reynolds'” without explaining what it was in relation to. He passed away soon thereafter, with an obituary that turned out to be written by Rufus Wilmot Griswold, his long-time nemesis, acting under the pen name Ludwig.

With Midnight Mysteries: The Edgar Allan Poe Conspiracy for Nintendo DS, MumboJumbo attempts to bond fact with a little bit of fiction, providing its own alternative answers on the long-time mystery. You play an up-and-coming author who receives a visit from Poe’s spirit one evening, goaded on to solve the mystery for yourself. There are many questions that need answering, however. How deep was Griswold’s rivalry with Poe? And who exactly is Reynolds?

We say attempts lightly. Midnight Mysteries could’ve easily been a fascinating take on folklore along the same lines of The Davinci Code, especially going with a survival horror approach. Instead, it’s a by-the-numbers seek and find adventure, where you scavenge through stages to find highlighted items that will help you out, along with a raven or two. (The ravens make sense, especially given the “Quoth the raven, nevermore” line.)

You’re given a list of clues and then sent on your way through each stage, with about 30 in all. It’s cool that the items change location through replays, although the mystery itself is hardly intriguing enough to warrant a replay. Only a pair of Edgar Allan Poe’s writings is used for reference – “The Gold-Bug” and “The Mystery of Marie Roget” – and that’s it. There’s no mention of “The Pit and the Pendulum”, his most memorable work, nor anything tying in with “The Raven” (outside of picture reference) or “The Tell-Tale Heart”, which we believe would’ve made things more interesting. You’ll get through it within a matter of hours and then wonder just what the big deal was, as there are barely enough twists to validate getting through it all.

The item seeking gameplay isn’t broken, but it holds your hand way too often. Most of the time, you can find items very easily, either hiding in the background or located just outside of plain view. Even if you are struggling, Midnight Mysteries provides the easiest hint system in the world. Poe’s ghost provides you tips of where items are located, and even if you use them all up, they refill over time, giving you ample opportunity to coast through the game. We’re pretty sure that’s not how Poe would’ve wanted it.

At least MumboJumbo tried to capture some of Poe’s energy in the presentation. While the backdrops don’t provide much movement, they do provide a creepy ambience, including a moonlit raven that overlooks the proceedings. The musical score is pretty cool too, managing to creep in under your skin as you try to solve each stage.

Fans of Edgar Allan Poe or those who like a “twist” to historical fact might find Midnight Mysteries to their liking, but it’s hard to recommend the game to anyone else. It never really digs into Poe’s legacy as promised, and the gameplay never excels due to a heavily flawed hint system and lack of genuine challenge. Maybe it was Reynolds’ fault.

Below Average

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