Casebook III: Snake in the Grass

Genre:   Adventure - casual

Developer:   Areo Cinematic Games

Publisher:   Areo Cinematic Games  

Released:  November 2009

Evidence List

Additional Screenshots





by Becky


In Casebook Episode III: Snake in the Grass, Detective James Burton calls on you, his partner, to help him in a quixotic quest. Marlon Hapman, a rogue suspect from Casebook Episode II, has disappeared. (For the GameBoomers reviews of the first two episodes, click here.) Burton is certain that Hapman is dangerous and is determined to track him down.

So when a brutal murder occurs in the town where Hapman has gone to ground, Burton decides that it's time to take a vacation. At least, that's what he tells his boss. Instead, he visits the quaint country village of Garden, where Hapman has assumed the job of head gardener of the local public park. (The former head gardener is taking a long dirt nap – coincidentally, he died shortly after Burton's nemesis arrived.)

You drive into Garden in the Crime Van and begin investigating the murder of a handyman who was bludgeoned to death. Burton is certain that Hapman is the murderer, even when the evidence points directly to a local youth. As Burton's partner, you are responsible for investigating the murder and for keeping tabs on Burton, who is letting his obsession with Hapman run amok.

Setting the Scene

The Casebook series is an unusually polished presentation of a Full Motion Video (FMV) adventure. Snake in the Grass contains more video sequences than the previous episodes, and does an even better job of building up the mystery and dramatic tension. Dialogs are clever and convincing (you can click through them if you like, and also skip the cut scenes, but you'll miss a significant chunk of the plot if you do).

Short video sequences provide a glimpse of Garden as Burton visits the jail, the local coffee shop, and rugged environments outside of town. The camera explores these places from unusual angles and dwells on Burton as he grows exasperated with the "blindness" of the locals, who seem to think that Hapman is a model citizen.

Burton interviews the sheriff, the youthful murder suspect, and a local artist who is the only person suspicious of Hapman (she doesn't like his aura). The actors are all believable; the standouts are Julian Temple as Burton and Nick Duval-Smith, who is wickedly persuasive as a misunderstood innocent.

Contemplative instrumentals with piano and strings add atmosphere during the cut scenes of scenic landscapes. The music evokes Spaghetti Westerns as you stand outside the sheriff's office, and swells with mechanical echoes as the mystery nears its solution.

The Investigation

The potential crime scenes are a small chapel, a combination garden shed/greenhouse, and a hidden space found late in the game. For these, you point-and-click to move in first person perspective around the areas, with 360 degree panning.

Graphical resolution is pretty sharp, even while you are moving, and movement itself is fluid. Right-clicking brings up the camera to photograph items of interest. (Looking through the camera causes items to be somewhat blurry, so it's important to walk around the room first to get a good look.) With the mouse's scroll button you may zoom in on subjects for closer scrutiny. Certain evidence can only be discovered if you are standing in a specific location/angle at the crime scene. Pressing the "I" key provides direction to missing items.

At the Crime Van, you analyze evidence and consult with the new police lab technician via webcam. The lab tech, Anja Nilsson, is personable and briskly competent. Unlike Burton, who has a pit-bull-like attitude toward crime, Anja (from the safety of her lab) is impressed (despite herself) with the creativity of the murderer. Near the end of the game there's a surprise twist, and an ethical decision that affects the penultimate cut scene.


Snake in the Grass has an autosave function similar to that in Episode II; it does not allow you to save the game where you would like. If you want to re-examine a scene as it first appeared or replay the game to see a different ending, you must start at the beginning and log in under a different name.

I encountered an installation glitch -- the setup file wasn't named correctly because somehow the filename extension was dropped. After I renamed the file by adding “.exe” to the end of the filename, double-clicking on the setup icon caused the installation to proceed smoothly.

The Main Menu screen and the Crime Lab computer screen each crashed once.

On the Trail of the Evidence

Gameplay, in addition to searching for evidence, consists of the same procedures used in the previous Casebook games. You use the mouse to tease apart DNA strands, hold a test tube over a flame, dust for fingerprints, etc. You also need to associate photos in the Evidence Folder so that linkages are made between suspects, witnesses and the gathered evidence. None of these procedures is particularly difficult. Persistence, as well as reading the objectives in the casebook and replaying interviews, will help if you are stuck.

Three self-contained challenges are new to the game -- a matching conundrum, a construction puzzle and a pattern puzzle. The latter two will try the little grey cells a bit, though trial and error combined with an observant eye should bring success. I found Snake in the Grass to be easier than the previous two episodes. It contains between three and four hours of gameplay.

Final Assessment

Playing Snake in the Grass is like being inside a professionally produced television crime drama. Though it weighs in at "Easy" on the gameplay challenge scale, it’s is an improvement over the Law & Order games I've played. It fully immerses the player in an idyllic setting and introduces well drawn characters, including an unforgettable detective and a charming, cunning villain. It allows the gamer to discover and test the evidence, and brings the story climax along at a spanking pace.

Quick List for Casebook Episode III: Snake in the Grass

This is the third episode in the FMV Casebook mystery series. It contains an introductory "Previously on Casebook" sequence, plus an optional tutorial. First person perspective, point-and-click interface, frequent video interviews and cut scenes. Optional subtitles are available. Excellent acting, a compelling, well-paced plot.

One minor installation glitch, two gameplay glitches. The autosave feature is restrictive. The intensity of the murder scene and some of the cut scenes make this game inappropriate for young children.

Crime scene exploration, evidence analysis via computer, fairly challenging pattern and construction puzzles. No sliders, no mazes, no sound based puzzles, one color based puzzle, no timed puzzles. The optional hint system helps locate evidence. Difficulty level: easy.

Casebook Episode III: Snake in the Grass can be purchased via download at the developer’s site here.

Aimed at gamers who enjoy well plotted murder mysteries and prefer to interact with realistic characters. Conclusion: Detective Burton IS the real deal. Bring him back for more.

Final Grade: B+

What I played it on:

Dell Studio XPS 8000

Windows 7 Home Premium

Intel Core i5-750 processor


1024MB NVIDIA GeForce GT 220

Soundblaster X-Fi

November, 2009

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