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