Review: Missing: An Interactive Thriller – Episode One

In a world where graphics and hyperrealism mean everything, it’s refreshing to see a game developed around actual actors playing the roles of their characters as well as having scenes that are filmed on location without the help of any digital enhancements or green screens.  MISSING: An Interactive Thriller – Episode One, an FMV (full motion video), takes a fairly obscure trend from the ’90s and modernizes it.  This being the first game by developers Zandel Media, MISSING plays like your average escape game and manages to make a video game with nothing but cut scenes seem fun again.  You play as David, a construction worker who awakens in what seems to be the basement of a building after being kidnapped.  While there is no clear reason for his being kidnapped, David is given the opportunity to escape should he solve a series of puzzles.  Juxtapose to David’s struggle, you also briefly play as Detective Lambert who is investigating a series of strange disappearance, currently focusing on David.  

The game itself is reminiscent of the Saw franchise and even after the episode ends, it keeps players wondering exactly what is going on.  Although it is only the first episode in a series of many, the episode can be finished in around forty-five minutes, cutscenes included.  It’s no Night Trap, but it’s clear that Zandel Media is trying to create a game that can potentially have a culture built around it to bring back such an old genre.  The story might be something new out of the array of games that have come out or are coming out this year, but despite that, it is far from perfect.  

The entirety of the episode relies on quick time events as well as point and click interactions throughout all forty-five minutes of gameplay.  These interactions are not utilized in a way that can be considered great, though, which makes what could have been a great title fall short. Before diving into the gameplay, however, you have to dive into what drives the gameplay, the puzzles.  The game being a point and click cheapens the puzzles as they become more and more simple, never going beyond looking for something and placing it where it belongs in order to go to the next area.

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If you aren’t trying to solve puzzles, (find items), then you’re sliding open doors so that you can have more areas to search for things, which is where the gameplay comes in.  After that, the episode doesn’t offer much else other than the suspense of why David was captured and what Lambert has to do with all of this.

There isn’t much ground to cover, either.  There are about a total of five different areas you can ‘explore’ and even then, if you’re quick to do the puzzles, you aren’t in those rooms for long.  Fortunately, the gameplay can be covered by the suspense and the quality of the acting within the episode, as it’s what drives these types of games.  It’s easy to see the importance of the roles that these characters will have later in the series and their relation to one another gives players a reason to keep up with it.  It’s also fortunate that this episode is only a part of a whole, so it cannot be judged as anymore than just the introduction to a series.  So, while this particular episode may have been a short ride, the rest of the roller coaster will eventually release and allow the series to be enjoyed as it should be.

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Closing Comments:

Missing: An Interactive Thriller – Episode One feels a little incomplete, even for an episodic series.  The episode was too short and the puzzles were dissapointing, but that doesn’t make the episode as a whole terrible.  The characters and the way that they went about presenting the story is what allowed the puzzles to be looked over and is what will have people returning for the second episode.  It keeps you interested to find what David’s fate will be which is really what the episode intended to do.  As long as you’re focused more on the story rather than how you go about playing through it, you’ll enjoy it as it was made to be.