Developer: Zandel Media
Publisher: Zandel Media
Release Date: May 25th, 2015 [Windows], August 17th, 2015 [Mac]
With Missing: An Interactive Thriller – Episode 1, you have another game that picks an episodic format over having all content prepared for release at one time. It’s a formula we’ve started getting used to, with those like Telltale turning it into a standard way of releasing content. It’s a format that can work, but does Missing: An Interactive Thriller have an exciting enough first episode for this to have been a good idea?
In Missing, the first thing you’ll notice is the fact that this game uses real footage in real environments. The characters are all actors, and all of the environments you interact with are modified real backgrounds. It’s an interesting approach, and for this title, it certainly works.
The actors seem competent, the footage is relatively well done, and it seems like the developer really put work into making sure the presentation was solid. Overall, I was relatively impressed with their choice of using real footage over animated visuals.
When it comes to the game itself, you start the episode witnessing a man named David in a dimly lit room. A locked door with a menacing message greets you as David slowly comes to realize that he is cuffed to chains dangling from the ceiling. You spend most of the first episode trying to help the captive escape from the building he was abducted and placed in.
On the side, you also get to play from the perspective of someone else. Part way into David’s story, you are placed in the shoes of Detective Lynch. Having been called to a suspicious scene of an abandoned car with signs of a struggle occurring by it, Lynch becomes the detective on the other end of the case trying to figure out what happened to David.
Despite both characters being present, with you solving part of the mystery from both of their perspectives, the first episode primarily focuses on David in his attempt to escape the building in which he’s trapped. Detective Lynch’s role is small, although the end of the episode does hint at him being more present in solving what is presumably the larger mystery that is relative throughout each episode.
Now what about gameplay? In the first episode of Missing: An Interactive Thriller, you might find yourself slightly disappointed. This is basically a hidden object game when it comes to the puzzle portions. You click around, looking for objects you can pick up, and clues that can solve the small puzzles in each room.
This episode really didn’t bring much challenge, though. It’s understandable that there has to be a balance in this type of game or even genre, as it’s hard to appreciate the hidden object approach when things are made blatantly difficult to locate due to design choice. At the same time, when it’s too easy, you simply leave feeling disappointed.
In this episode, I found that only one puzzle really had the capacity to make me think a little, while the rest were largely finding an object and putting it in its rightful place. After the first area, the puzzles really started falling short for me as well. Your starting room is one of the only places I felt the game attempted to have any level of challenge, slightly becoming unhinged as most are solved with ease.
What really damaged any potential difficulty was two major factors. Environments are generally sparse due to the fact that your primary play area is an abandoned building. This means that things you need tend to standout in most areas. The choice of presentation also made it so that only objects you needed to interact with could be clicked and interacted with in general, which only made it that much easier to work with the relatively empty space.
The most damaging part of the entire experience had nothing to do with the presentation or gameplay mechanics. Instead, the worst problem is how long the episode is. It took me only 35-minutes from clicking “Play” in Steam to seeing the end of the credits rolling at the end of the episode.
It’s almost like this was initially a movie or TV pilot that wasn’t quite fleshed out enough, let alone having gameplay mechanics to be marketable. So to make up for the shortcomings, they decided to make it into an episodic game instead. It isn’t a bad idea by any means, and it does work well enough for what it is. At the same time, it really doesn’t feel like there is enough content.
The Bottom Line
Missing: An Interactive Thriller – Episode 1 is interesting. It manages to use real footage without seeming cheap or cheesy, while presenting us with puzzles for progression. The story also shows promise for future episodes.
At the same time, the gameplay just doesn’t do enough. Puzzles are largely too easy, and if similar environments are present throughout the rest of the episodes, I don’t have much hope for that aspect improving. I wanted to feel at least a little bit challenged, and I was largely left unfulfilled.
Then there is the ridiculously short playtime of this episode as a whole. Even if it’s only the first episode, a half hour is just not long enough for me to consider the game okay for release. You walk away with only a vague understanding of what’s happening outside of the little bubble of the perspective of your characters, and it’s almost frustrating knowing that you won’t get to find out more until whenever the next episode comes out.
In the long run, I think the episodic format only stands to hurt this game rather than help it, and that the developer would have been far better off waiting to release either longer episodes, or all of the content at one time. Had I not received this game as a review code, I would have been seriously disappointed to have even spent the $3.99 asking price.
As of now, my recommendation is to wait and see what future episodes bring before jumping in.