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Mystery Case Files is a series of Casual Video Games from Big Fish Studios. Despite its title and slogan, no actual sleuthing occurs; it's actually a Hidden Object Game, a genre which became popular with this series.

There are currently eleven games in the series. Eight of them are for home computer (Huntsville, Prime Suspects, Ravenhearst, Madame Fate, Return To Ravenhearst, Dire Grove, 13th Skull, and Escape From Ravenhearst) and can be downloaded at the "Official Fan Site" (isn't that an oxymoron?) or the Big Fish Games site. Millionheir is a DS release, Agent X is for mobile phones, and The Malgrave Incident is a Wii game.

The Ravenhearst Story Arc subseries is arguably the most famous line of titles to come from the Big Fish developers. Although the plots of all of the games in the arc are not related to the events at Ravenhearst Manor, you play the same Master Detective in all of them and there is a tangential connection in each one.

  • In the original Ravenhearst, you are requested by the Queen of England to investigate the history of Ravenhearst Manor, situated in Blackpool. You must assemble the pages of a young woman's lost diary to find out about the terrible things which happened there.
  • In Madame Fate, the title character summons you to her carnival because she has had a vision of her own death, and she wants you to figure out who her murderer will be and stop them.
  • In Return to Ravenhearst, you return to the ruined manor when you realize that although you solved the mystery connected to Emma's diary, the house was the site of several other grisly events that need to be brought to light.
  • In Dire Grove, you leave the Ravenhearst incidents behind you and travel to a community built on top of an ancient Celtic settlement, where four graduate students have gone missing in an unseasonal blizzard.
  • In 13th Skull, you're asked to leave your native England and travel to the United States to aid a woman whose husband is missing, and whose young daughter insists he was abducted by a ghost.
  • In Escape From Ravenhearst, you must return to the remains of the manor one more time, to find out why people have been disappearing in the area.

These games provide examples of: Edit

  • Accidental Marriage: Solving one of the puzzle sets in Escape From Ravenhearst is interpreted by Charles as accepting his proposal of marriage. The Master Detective's reaction is "Oh, HELL no!"
  • AFGNCAAP: The Player Character, although as noted below, the character's gender is revealed after the events of Madame Fate.
  • Abandoned Hospital: Not exactly, but the Blackpool Temperance Hospital and the asylum - or at least, Charles's re-creations of them - in Escape From Ravenhearst have many of the aspects of this trope.
  • Adventure Game: Return to Ravenhearst changes the format to this, though there are still areas for item hunting.
  • Amusement Park of Doom/Circus of Fear: The setting of Madame Fate.
  • Ax Crazy: A sketch in Emma's diary in Ravenhearst strongly suggests that Charles murdered her with a hatchet.
  • Back From the Dead: At the end of Escape From Ravenhearst, the efforts of the Master Detective have restored the murdered Emma, Rose, Gwendolyn and Charlotte to life. Charles had apparently already restored himself to full life, but dies again in the final explosion.
  • The Bartender: There's one in 13th Skull at the local dive bar, a young woman who is easily the friendliest person you meet in the course of the game.
  • Big Fancy House/Haunted Castle: The setting of Ravenhearst, which, while certainly haunted, is more of a mansion than a castle.
    • The setting of Dire Grove may also qualify. It's actually a bed and breakfast, but it's a centuries-old structure that may well have been a castle or manor at one time.
    • Also, the southern mansion in 13th Skull.
  • Call Back: The menu screen for Dire Grove is the dashboard of the detective's car, which features a bobble-head doll of Madame Fate.
    • The bobble-head is still there in Escape.
  • Celtic Mythology: Features prominently in Dire Grove.
  • Child by Rape: A reference in Return to Ravenhearst has been interpreted by many fans (and The Other Wiki) as evidence that Charles forced himself on Emma's nursemaid Rose, resulting in his equally deranged son Victor. However, this interpretation has not been officially confirmed in any of the games to date.
  • Cliff Hanger: Madame Fate ends with a murderous spirit on the loose wanting revenge on you due to the events of Ravenhearst and the words "To Be Continued."
  • Closed Circle: The town of Dire Grove becomes a form of this every winter, according to the brochures the detective reads in that game. Because it's a remote settlement that experiences very harsh conditions, the residents shut everything down in the late fall and stay elsewhere until spring.
  • Clueless Mystery: Madame Fate, from the game of the same name, thinks one of her 15 employees will kill her at midnight. It turns out that none of them is the real killer -- heck, almost all of them are dead when midnight comes -- and the one who does off Fate turns out to be a character from an earlier game who was never mentioned at all in this one!
  • Content Warnings: Escape From Ravenhearst has a bold, underlined red warning on its download page to advise players that it is a "deep psychological thriller" that "may reveal deep-seated fears." This is the only game Big Fish has ever released for which they felt the need to make such a warning.
  • Contest Winner Cameo: Finding Felix the Fish (the mascot of Big Fish Games) in one of the hidden object scenes in Ravenhearst gave the player a chance to enter a contest. The winner had their picture included in a later MCF game.
  • Continuity Nod: Minor characters from previous games will sometimes pop up in later ones, although they'll look completely different for some reason.
    • Also, the sequels in the Ravenhearst arc will usually provide some sort of nod to the fact that they are part of the same arc, even if they focus on a totally different story. For instance, Dire Grove has nothing to do with the events at the Ravenhearst estate, but the in-game diary opens with a mention of the events of Return to Ravenhearst. Similarly, the diary in 13th Skull references Dire Grove.
    • It is eventually revealed that all of the games in the Ravenhearst arc are in fact connected to that plot, even the ones that don't appear to have anything to do with it. The collector's edition of Dire Grove shows that Victor Dalimar is hiding out in the basement of the grocery store in Dire Grove, plotting revenge against you, and in Escape From Ravenhearst you discover that Charles Dalimar's mother, Abigail, was the daughter of Grace O'Malley and Phineas Crown, the Ghost Pirate from 13th Skull and that Charles used to be part of the Fate Carnival!
  • Creative Closing Credits
  • Creepy Twins: In Return to Ravenhearst.
  • Daddy's Girl: Magnolia comes across like this in 13th Skull.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Dear lord, Charles' life was ten types of crazy. No wonder he went insane.
    • It almost makes you feel sorry for Charles.
  • Deep South: The setting for 13th Skull - Louisiana, specifically.
  • Dialogue Tree: In 13th Skull, when conversing with any of the other characters.
  • Diary: In addition to Emma's in Ravenhearst (see Secret Diary, below), the Player Character keeps one in each game to provide hints and clues for the player.
  • Dig Your Own Grave: Literally in Escape From Ravenhearst, although the grave isn't quite what it appears.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: You may be the Master Detective, but almost nobody in 13th Skull is willing to give you any information (or the time of day) until you complete some sort of annoying Fetch Quest for them. The only exception is the librarian in the bar, who becomes very helpful once you beat him in Checkers.
  • Element Number Five: Items representing the five elements are needed to defeat the Big Bad in Dire Grove. According to the context of the game, the fifth element is represented by mercury.
  • Eye Scream: One of the lock-puzzles in Escape From Ravenhearst requires you to click a series of realistic, moving eyes. Each time you do so, there's an audible yelp of pain, as if you've genuinely poked someone in the eye.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: Everybody -- except you, of course -- is dead and/or "doomed" in some way at midnight in Madame Fate, including Madame Fate herself!
  • Fictional Document: Emma's diary in Ravenhearst. Most if not all of the books in the library in Dire Grove.
  • Fish Out of Temporal Water: Implied for the end of Escape From Ravenhearst. Emma, Rose and her daughters have been dead for more than a hundred years, and now they've been brought back to life. It's unclear whether a future game will show how well they adapt to the 21st century.
  • Fortune Teller: The titular Madame Fate.
  • Four Is Death: Four graduate students get themselves trapped in Dire Grove. All four are stuck in frozen stasis and brainwashed to unleash an ancient ritual to free the banshee.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Huntsville had a case involving someone pulling fire alarms around town. It turns out to be a guy who wanted to slide down the firehouse pole. This would be harmless fun, except he's in a fursuit. This troper found himself guffawing out loud at work.
    • After the Cat Scare (or rather, Mannequin Scare) in Return To Ravenhearst, a caption in the same room reads, "No thanks, I just went." This line is stated when you click on the toilet, with obvious implications.
    • In Escape From Ravenhearst, the newspaper article beneath one about Blackpool's missing residents is about a horse running away with a farmer's wife, apparently not in the out-of-control-steed sense.
  • Ghost Pirate: Suspected to be behind the disappearance in 13th Skull. He's got a Ghost Ship too.
  • Hidden Object Game
  • Human Popsicle: When you find the four missing graduate students in Dire Grove, they've each been turned into one of these. Remarkably, they all survive.
  • The Igor: Victor, in Return to Ravenhearst, crosses this with Overlord, Jr..
  • Ill Girl: Emma, in Ravenhearst, although it turns out she was actually being poisoned.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted twice, though we don't actually see the deaths.
    • Return To Ravenhearst, Charles kills Rose's two daughters and locks their souls into his unlife support machine. The girls are definitely pre-pubescent, and look to be younger than 10.
    • 13th Skull, after the final puzzle, there's a cutscene in which the ghost of Captain Crown drowns the criminals who have been playing the Master Detective for a sucker throughout the game ... including their pre-pubescent daughter.
  • It's Personal: Why Madame Fate was killed; because the Master Detective freed Emma from Ravenhearst Manor and also because Charles wanted vengeance for being labeled a freak while he was in her circus.
  • Limited Special Collectors Ultimate Edition: The Dire Grove Collector's Edition was a "let's see if there's interest in special releases" for Big Fish. From the number of subsequent CEs, it apparently works for them.
  • Lock and Key Puzzle: Near the end of Ravenhearst, you have to search the entire manor for keys scattered throughout.
    • Same deal in Return, except this time it's jeweled hearts you need to collect.
    • In 13th Skull, you need to collect thirteen skulls. In a change, you can collect them earlier in the game and thereby not have to put up with the Big Bad yelling at you to hurry up.
  • Locked Door: Several are found in Ravenhearst, though instead of traditional locks, there's a bunch of freaky, nonsensical puzzles in its place. The in-game diary makes the locks plot-relevant.
    • Lampshaded in Return to Ravenhearst, in which a document about Charles Dalimar being sent to an insane asylum comments on his "strange lock obsession".
    • In Escape from Ravenhearst it's explained that somehow Charles gained the ability to put locks on people's souls.
  • Love Makes You Crazy/Love Makes You Evil: Charles's Start of Darkness in Ravenhearst seems to have been caused by Emma rejecting his marriage proposal.
    • Subverted in Escape From Ravenhearst, where it's clear he was six kinds of Ax Crazy before he even met her.
  • Magical Computer: In the first three games, your computer can quickly determine who caused a crime, where someone was during a crime, and even recreate long-lost diary entries! Well, after you find some random objects, of course...
    • In Dire Grove, this happens literally when supernatural forces cause your computer to spontaneously display the unlocking-code for a portal.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: While Charles Dalimar himself is clearly supernatural, it's unclear in Escape From Ravenhearst whether he was actually communing with his father's ghost at the insane asylum, or just imagined it while listening to a raven croaking.
  • Multiple Endings: In Prime Suspects, the main culprit will change with each new game you'll play.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: You have to literally smash through the bathroom floor in Dire Grove in order to reach the locked office.
    • A non-literal example occurs in Escape From Ravenhearst, where your determination to keep poking around in the ruins gets Emma and the Somersets re-captured, at least for a while.
  • Pixel Hunt: Some of those items can be pretty teensy...
  • Rube Goldberg Device: The Other Wiki compares the door puzzles in Ravenhearst to these.
  • Samus Is a Girl: The detective you play as is revealed to be female at the end of Madame Fate. It makes the Accidental Marriage scene in Escape from Ravenhearst very unsettling.
  • Secret Diary: The entire plot of Ravenhearst depends on you recovering missing diary entries.
  • Sequel Hook: The end of Return to Ravenhearst, which leaves a plot thread dangling in the form of Victor's escape.
    • The Bonus Material in the collector's edition of Escape From Ravenhearst provides the detective with a 'souvenir' of the events in the form of two mysterious sketches of an unknown man. Their existence may suggest that the Ravenhearst arc has one more story to tell.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The whole point of Madame Fate is for you to prevent her murder at midnight, and find out who her would-be killer is. Although you find out who did it, The Reveal occurs only after she dies!
    • Also, the missing man you search for in 13th Skull turns out to be a villain, whose equally-villainous family knew where he was all along. Finding him gets you threatened, then him and his family killed by a vengeful ghost.
  • Shout-Out: It seems the designers are huge fans of Rachael Ray, and include at least one reference to her in each game from Return to Ravenhearst onward.
  • Significant Anagram: In 13th Skull, a key to discovering the truth about the old mansion lies in the fact that the original owner's name, Ashwin Poncer, is an anagram of Phineas Crown, the pirate - they're the same person.
  • Snark Knight: An option in Dire Grove. On the main menu, you can determine whether the detective's inner monologuing will be Normal, Motivational, or Snarky.
    • The options for 13th Skull are Normal, Southern, and Snarky.
  • Snow Means Death: Implied for Dire Grove, where an ancient curse threatens to freeze the entire world.
  • Solve the Soup Cans: Many of the weirder puzzles in the later games.
  • Speak in Unison: Rose's twin daughters.
  • Stupidity Is the Only Option: The Master Detective usually avoids this trope, but in 13th Skull, she runs into it headlong. The librarian looks up the names on the fake IDs she found while exploring the swamp and calls to tell her that the husband and wife she's supposed to be helping are really con artists and murderers. He urges her to get out of there before they kill her. Nope, she's off to the swamp to confront them...where she finds that they have a gun and she doesn't. Surprise.
  • Timed Mission: All of the levels, in most of the games. Fortunately, they usually take place between twenty and forty minutes, so you can still Take Your Time.
    • Averted in Return to Ravenhearst, where a clock is running but only for high-score purposes.
    • Also averted in Dire Grove and 13th Skull, though if you're playing the Collector's Editions you can gain an Achievement for finishing within a time limit (6 hours for Dire Grove, 10 for 13th Skull).
  • Time Travel: Factors into Escape From Ravenhearst. When Victor escapes at the end of Return, he actually goes back in time and sets up just about everything that happens in Escape.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Arguably, the graduate students in Dire Grove, who persist in entering the closed-off titular community and breaking into the locked-up bed and breakfast (which has no electricity or heat) in order to solve their mystery. It's like they were begging for the plot to happen to them.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: After you're done looking for stuff, you'll have to solve a puzzle that usually has nothing to do with looking for objects! These started out as simple tile-switching jigsaws, but became weirder and more abstract with each successive game... much like this series as a whole, come to think of it...
  • Unfinished Business: The ghosts of Charles's victims have a form of this; they're trapped in the house until the Master Detective steps in to make things right.
    • Charles himself has this throughout the series, since the end of Escape From Ravenhearst explicitly states that he will never stop hunting the Master Detective.
      • It also reveals that Charles' unexpected appearance in Madame Fate was also this trope.
  • Vanity License Plate: Your car has one in Escape.
  • The Voice: The Queen, at the end of Madame Fate, via telephone.
  • Welcome to Corneria: Try to talk to any of the NPCs in 13th Skull when they don't have the yellow exclamation point above their heads, and this is the sort of result you can expect.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The missing Blackpool folks in Escape From Ravenhearst are seen tethered to the final house, but you don't actually see if they got loose after it blows up and you meet the ex-ghosts in the garden.
    • If you open your casebook after that scene, they all died.
  • Witch Doctor: Momma Aimee in 13th Skull.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: At the end of 13th Skull, the young girl says mockingly, "Stupid detective, there's no such thing as ghosts." ...right before being killed by a ghost.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Madame Fate calls in the Master Detective to prevent her murder. It turns out the killer is at Fate's Carnival because the Master Detective is there.
    • Shouldn't that be You Can't Save Fate?
  • You Look Like You've Seen a Ghost: Invoked verbatim at the end of 13th Skull.

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