Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 06/25/04 | Genre: Adventure
At E3 2004, one of the quiet little titles that really caught our eye was Missing: Since January. This is a PC adventure game that attempts to give the genre a shot in the arm. Anyone who keeps up with the status of the Adventure genre will tell you that it is filled with numerous Myst clones and rarely bring anything new to the table. However, this is not the case with Missing: Since January. While it isn't the best adventure game every developed, it is worth picking up due to the cleverness of the title and the low retail price point of $19.99.
Because Missing: Since January is more of an experience than a game, I will do my best to not spoil anything in this review. However, there may be a few spoilers in here about some of the puzzles. If you do not wish to read any potential spoilers about the different puzzles in Missing: Since January, please skip down to the final paragraph to read my final thoughts on this title.
Missing is about a character called The Phoenix who has sent out a piece of software to help aid users in solving the mysterious disappearance of Jack Lorski and Karen Gijman. They were abducted by The Phoenix while investigating a murder case based on an old film canister Jack discovers. However, before you can begin trying to solve the mystery, you will immediately see some of the unique elements of Missing: Since January. Upon entering the game, you will have to register an e-mail address. I setup my own personal account and within a few minutes, I received an e-mail from the SKL Network, the company Jack worked for, with my username and password inside it. You then can use that information to log into the game.
I was not prepared to begin receiving e-mail from other people though. In fact, I almost deleted a great deal of this mail because my spam filter picked it up. However, once I adjusted my spam settings, I was able to receive e-mail from a variety of different characters within the Missing universe. A couple of these are people who are supposed to be your team members and are actively working on solving program alongside with you. As you defeat certain puzzles, you will receive updates from your team talking about new puzzles that open up. These characters are not e-mail robots though. I actually responded to a few of the e-mails I got and was sent a custom response. While there was a slight delay, this did add to the realism of being involved in solving this crime.
So what is so special about receiving e-mail while playing a game? For starters, the puzzles in this title are extremely difficult. At times, they are almost impossible. So they can take a few days to get through some of them. While you are away from your computer, working, going to school, or whatever you do, you will find e-mail waiting for you when you get back. This will constantly be a reminder about the case you are working on. And if you give the game your primary e-mail address, it will be mixed in with every other piece of e-mail you normally receive.
The puzzles are also very unique but can get a bit tedious. At first, the puzzles are all about typing in a password. You get this password by rubbing an item on the screen to reveal it, attracting letters to your mouse cursor like a magnet, and the most difficult puzzles require you to take hints from the game, Alt-Tab out of the title, open up Google and do a web search. You will be searching the Internet for websites. Some are actually real sites and others have been created specifically for this game. But you won't be able to tell that they were made for this game if they are. Once you get the information you need from the web, you can go back and enter the information. If it is correct, you will move on and complete the puzzle.
Puzzles are divided up into different areas. Each of the areas contains a different number of puzzles. Normally, you can select the puzzles in any order you want. After defeating all of the puzzles in an area, the next area will open up. Between puzzles, you are given some sort of message or riddle from the mastermind behind this whole ordeal. These messages are greeted by creepy music that can make your hair stand on end. In addition to that, you will be shown videos from The Phoenix giving clues about their location, and details about the case Jack and Karen were on.
I do not want to spoil the ending for the game; however, I really enjoyed how they concluded the title. They did it in a very unique way and if you happen to make it all the way through, continue to check your e-mail and see if anything happens to be sent to you after about a week or so?Ķ
Besides the creepy music between puzzles, there isn't a lot of other music. Some puzzles have sound effects and music but none of it really stands out. Visually, the game is also pretty standard with FMV being used to tell the bulk of the story through the eyes of Jack and Karen.
Overall, I found Missing: Since January to be a very entertaining experience. The title gives a shot of innovation into an Adventure Genre that is starving for some unique gameplay elements. While there isn't a lot of replay value, if you can get through the game on your own, you have accomplished quite a bit. These puzzles are some of the toughest you will find in any adventure game. This title may be released at a value price but the game is worth far more than the $19.99 price. Missing: Since January is one title you don't want to miss.