Inspector Parker

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Inspector Parker on Shockwave

MSRP: $6.99 (or play free in browser)

Platform: Windows, Browser-based

Release: 2003

I think the biggest problem with casual games is that there are so many that are just variations on the same theme, and some of those themes are pretty well used and abused at this point.  Then there’s the fact that if you have 100 clones of the same game, one must be the best, and therefore the other 99 you could pick up and play are going to be in some way inferior.

Inspector Parker is definitely a casual game, but it’s also a smart one, and although I have stumbled across other similar games, I think that this was the original as far as mechanics are concerned.

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Using the relational cues on the right side of the screen, it’s your job to figure out what people and/or items are in each room in order to help solve the mystery.  Of course, you don’t actually solve the mystery – the whodunit aspect seems to be nearly completely irrelevant to the puzzle.  But the puzzle is fantastic.

If you choose to play through the campaign mode, you will see puzzles first increase in difficulty, and then in complexity several times one the way up.  By the end, the puzzles are super complex, with multiple items per room and with some rooms also lacking one or more items.  At that point, there may be as many as five pages of clues.

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The downloadable game has more levels and options than the browser-based one, so it’s probably best to look at the browser version as a demo.  The other great thing about the download version is that you can right click objects if you are sure they don’t belong in a given room. Since the screen can get quite cluttered, as you can see, this is invaluable.

In addition to the campaign mode, you can also choose any level to play independently. There are two modes – puzzle and timed – and three difficulty levels.  And since clues are always randomized, there is endless replay value here, provided you enjoy the style of play.

And just a hint – timed mode is fairly serious even on medium difficulty.

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