There are moments when Murder Files: Enigma Express feels like a real step forward for the hidden object genre. It mixes new ideas with the old tap-to-spot mechanics, and drizzles everything in rich, quintessentially British humour.
But then there are times when it tells you you can't move on for two hours because your engineer is building some train tracks. Or you need to wait for an age while your energy bar refills before you can go look for more clues.
It's a prime example of a game squashed by its free-to-play system. What should be bright and breezy is weighed down by the ever-present bark of the IAP.
Ele-monetary my dear Watson
The game is a sort-of sequel to Murder Files: A Touch of Mystery, a twee point-and-click adventure that saw you solving puzzles and crimes. Here though you're just trying to find specific objects, unlocking clues with each screen you complete.
It's a departure for the series, but it starts off well enough. The puzzles are never too tricky, but the addition of a ticking clock, a combo meter, and bonuses for speed make for some pretty frantic scrambles.
You can get occasional hints from your dog Watson who, when you tap on him, wanders into the screen and shows you where one of the objects you're looking for is. There's a recharge time for these hints, but it's not too long.
Everything flows quite nicely. The reshuffled puzzles never feel too grindy, and everything is well presented. From the backgrounds to the music and voice acting, everything is polished to a mirror sheen.
The game is off
And then the energy system bites down and things start to fall apart. You're forced to repeat old stages and wait for bars to fill and tracks to be built. And within a few minutes the game loses all the momentum it's built up.
It's a shame, because there are real sparks of ingenuity here, and, to begin with at least, the game feels warm and welcoming.
But when it's pushing you to spend, wait, or stop playing, that good will is all but lost. With a few tweaks, Murder Files: Enigma Express could be an essential hidden object game. As it stands, it's too frustrating to recommend.