The Wii is the best selling home console of this generation. Because of this, there are huge amounts of games released for it. This is good and bad: good, in that there's lots to choose from, and bad, because many, and some would say most, of these titles are not exactly high quality. So where does Mortimer Beckett and the Secrets of Spooky Manor fit? I'll admit I was skeptical at first, but there's actually a fair experience here, and the co-op aspects, in particular, are a treat.
The story behind Mortimer Beckett and the Secrets of Spooky Manor is quite simple. You are Mortimer, and after receiving an odd note from your uncle (all told in comic book style panels), you head off to Spooky Manor to investigate. In each room are several hidden items. Using the Wii remote as a pointer, you search for all the pieces of each item. By that, I do mean pieces. You may have to find a plate, for example, and the plate is broken into four pieces. I was certainly glad I had a decent sized TV for this; it was quite difficult to find some of the pieces. You can zoom in using the B button, but not enough to make much of a difference. Once an item is found, you can then place it where it belongs, adding a bit of puzzling to the "I Spy" gameplay.
About half of the items you find belong in the room you found them in; the other half belong in other rooms. A few items can be used to alter the environment, much like a key. An example would be a hacksaw you find that is used to cut a chain which blocks your way into the deeper parts of the Manor. I found these little touches to be quite well done, and adding a bit of pizazz to the otherwise tedious seeking and finding. You find pieces of a strange machine as you play as well. You can't just madly click your way to victory, though. If you press A too quickly or too randomly, up to three ghosts will pop up on your screen and roam about, blocking your view of the room. Sometimes, a ghost will latch on to your pointer, and your Wiimote will vibrate until you waggle it to shake the ghost off. I felt this was a neat way to keep players honest, and it just feels right in the story, too. As the game progresses, the puzzle elements become heavier, which I was glad for.
Playing through Mortimer Beckett feels like playing a PC game, which is unsurprising considering there is a PC version. The menus, loading screens, and many other little quirks about the game don't feel like the typical console game. One baffling design choice was the lack of an auto-save feature. The first time we quit playing the game, I just quit, and oddly, the game didn't even prompt me to save, it just let me quit. We lost about a half-hour of progress; not a big deal but still irritating.
The co-op experience is where Mortimer Beckett and the Secrets of Spooky Manor really shines. Up to four players each wielding a Wii remote can play simultaneously. Players can drop in and out at any time. Of course, more eyes looking for the items hidden in each room makes things easier and more enjoyable. When I played this with my family, we really felt like we were working together. "Has anyone seen a knife piece?", "DOH, who just found the last piece of the hat?", and so on. The ghosts seemed to pop up more when we had four players going at once. I don't know if this is by design or if my seven year old just had a bad case of the clickies. The co-op play was a great fit for this game, as it makes things move quicker, and you are far less likely to get stuck looking for that one last piece you need.
Obviously, Mortimer Beckett and the Secrets of Spooky Manor is not for everyone. It is about as casual of a game as you could ever find. It would fit in quite nicely in our upcoming Family/Casual based column, for sure. The game is short, and has little if any replay value, though it is priced as a value title. If you desire a hardcore, difficult gaming experience, look elsewhere. But, if you want a decent, clean game to play with young kids or non-traditional gamers, Mortimer Beckett just might be your man.
The Co-Op Experience: In "Mortimer Beckett and the Secrets of Spooky Manor" for the Wii, players will hunt the halls of Spooky Manor for hidden objects, return the items to their rightful places and solve a series of brain-bending puzzles to get to the bottom of this eerie mystery.[AMAZON]
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.