MISSING: Game of the Year Edition – PC – Review

The point-and-click adventure genre.
Ah yes, the point-and-click adventure-game genre. It’s one of the easiest gaming
interfaces ever created and one of the most popular genres around today. Most
casual fans know the genre just by one name, Myst. The hardcore fans of the
genre know there are a wide variety of games that describe the genre. But where
are the new ideas for the genre? Where will the genre be five years, 10 years or
20 years from now? Maybe one game has the answers. The game is called Missing.

The premise behind Missing is just
the first innovative part of the game. I shouldn’t even call Missing a game
because it tries very hard to hide the fact that it’s a game. The plot centers
on the disappearance of Jack Lorski and his friend Karen Gijman. The game isn’t
supposed to be a game played on a CD-ROM, not at all. In fact the CD-ROM that
you “play” was created by an individual called “The Phoenix” who has requested
that the CD-ROM be released to the pubic. Jack’s employer, SKL Network, and its
CEO have decided to release the CD-ROM to the public in hopes of solving the
mysteries hidden on the disc. Got it?


Now imagine yourself playing a
point-and-click adventure game with the usual puzzles you have to solve. Now add
to that mix the ability to search the Web, checking emails and watching short
films to uncover clues to solve the puzzles. It seems like a simple idea but one
that hasn’t been used frequently in point-and-click adventure games. In Missing
you can imagine yourself playing the role of criminal investigator, just like a
character in a TV show or a movie, trying to find clues to solve the puzzles of
the mysterious Phoenix. The CD-ROM from the Phoenix is loaded with graphic and
disturbing imagery that you need to sort out in hopes of finding where Jack and
Karen have disappeared (or been taken) to.  Instead of just wandering around a
virtual world inside a game you now can use the resources of the Internet to
help you.


The “game” includes a toolbar that
you can access to go to the Internet or check your e-mail account to help in
solving puzzles. The Internet access will always take you to the SKL Network’s
Web site where you can find different bits of information on Jack and use
different tools such as an Internet search engine and translation Web page. The
e-mail part of the “game” requires you to setup your e-mail account so you can
receive bits of information and clues from SKL Networks and other individuals
trying to crack the CD-ROM. The Game of the Year edition of the game requires
you to download a patch in order to receive e-mails since the server of the
developer was changed after the initial release of the game.

The meat and potatoes of the game is
spent trying to figure out a puzzle by the Phoenix to open up the next part of
the CD-ROM. I will be honest and admit that I thought the puzzles in the game
were very tough. The game, excuse me, “Phoenix” doesn’t want you to waltz right
through the CD-ROM. The puzzles will have you searching several different Web
sites and reading various e-mails from other players (actually computer
generated e-mails to help you along) to uncover the right clue. Once you entered
the correct answer(s) usually another short film will play to advance the plot
and give you some more clues as to where Jack and Karen might have disappeared.
Then you need to solve the next puzzle to move on to the next part of the
“game.” Some of you might be thinking to yourselves “Is that it?” and the answer
is yes. But that’s the beauty of the point-and-click adventure game. It’s about
solving the puzzle, and uncovering the mysteries in the game.


After a few minutes the mysteries of
Missing will really start to grab you and make you believe that this could have
actually happened. You really could be helping to try and find Jack and Karen.
The game is always dark, mysterious and at times graphic in its visual
presentation. One minute you’re watching a happy video of Jack and Karen and
then the next minute you see Karen screaming as someone, Phoenix, is videotaping
her trapped in a locked dungeon-like room. The screen, at times, will flash and
change it seems a will to try and keep you guessing as to what you might
discover next on the CD-ROM. The music and sound effects are creepy and moody
with the “voice” of Phoenix being just a low noise while words are typed on the
screen. You never get to hear the Phoenix but the same sound effect will play
while the words are typed on the screen, telling you about the next puzzle or
other bits of information. This is definitely a game to play with the lights out
and one that will probably leave you feeling a little jittery at times.

 Missing is a great experience that
shouldn’t be passed up for anyone that is looking for a great adventure/mystery
game. I really believe that an accurate and fitting description of the game
really can’t be put into words. You have to experience the game yourself to
understand just how involved the game will try to submerge you. If someone just
made a friend sit down and play the game I would be surprised if the friends
commented that they thought the game was a true-life experience. Searching the
Web and getting clues via e-mail is a novel approach to the standard
adventure-game genre but an idea that could be the wave of the future. Why not
search the real world for answers? Isn’t that what life is all about anyway, one
big game?

Review Scoring Details


Game of the Year Edition

Gameplay: 8.5
You might not want to go back to other adventure/mystery games after playing
Missing. Why just play a game when you can search the real world for answers.
Unfortunately the real world is still limited a little in the Missing since
finding the correct clues on the Internet usually would require you to use the
default search engine on the SKL Network’s Web site.

Graphics: 8.5
You need to know that this game doesn’t run a game engine that is usually built
into a game. The game is played out via QuickTime movies or flash animations
built upon a point-and-click interface. But the images in the game are striking,
breathtaking and disturbing at times. Fans of psychological thrillers/horror
movies will appreciate all of the subtle touches in how the game looks.

Sound: 8.7
I never thought words typing on a screen could give me the chills but the sound
effects associated with Phoenix, while he typed, did at times. The music in the
game is really just atmospheric and ambient music to set the tone of the game.
But the music and sound effects do a great job in creating the spooky conditions
for the game.

Difficulty: Medium/Hard
The puzzles in the game can be extremely tough at times, especially with the
expansion pack, The 13th Victim. You will probably spend hours on
some puzzles and then just a few minutes on others. Even searching the Web for
clues from other gamers on how to solve some of the puzzles can be difficult
since everyone doesn’t want to give away all of the answers.

Concept: 9.0
Missing: Game of the Year Edition is a collection of the original game, the
expansion pack called The 13th Victim and a behind-the-scenes making
of the movie. The original game might be over a year old by now but it’s still
innovative and risky compared to the standard point-and-click adventure game.
One issue for some players could be the gameplay time of the expansion pack,
which is only at 10 hours. If you’re clever enough you might breeze through the
expansion pack in less than one day.

Overall: 8.7
Missing: Game of the Year Edition is a fantastic title that should be on
everyone’s must-get list. If you’re not sure of getting the Game of the Year
edition I’ve even seen just the regular game at various retailers at a
consumer-friendly low price. I have to admit that I didn’t play the game when it
first came out but I’m thankful for having played it finally. It’s an experience
that shouldn’t be missed by anyone that loves PC games.