Area 51: Conspiracy Theory
Developer:GOSUB 60 (mobile deluxe)
Release Date:March 10, 2010
Summary:Search for clues in a setting like I-SPY with a backstory as Agent McDermott, highly decorated officer of the Metro Police. A clever story, but the gameplay leaves something to be desired.
When I hear the phrase Area 51, my mind instantly conjures up those little green men, fallen spacecraft, military jurisdiction, and Agents Mulder and Scully – mostly Mulder. It’s an exciting phrase, more exciting, probably, than the actual military base, itself. Whatever conspiracy theories may or may not have actually happened, when viewing satellite images of the base from above, the place looks as barren and dusty as the surrounding New Mexico desert, and it’s hard to think anything exciting ever happened there. Unless, of course, you want to think that’s exactly what the military wants you to think.
Area 51: Conspiracy Theory by Mobile Deluxe is a new gaming app that plays heavily on the idea of government cover-ups, placing you at the head of an FBI force investigating the disappearance of one prominent, Nicolai Savin – a businessman, no less. In the same vein as the recent Sherlock Holmes app I reviewed a few weeks back, Area 51: Conspiracy Theory involves you in a storyline that you must read along – this time, in the form of your
character’s personal journal – and then plough through different images that feign as “investigating” for clues. The images you must rummage through, again, are riddled with rubbish of an inconsequential nature – rather than having cleverly set up spaces for you to open cabinets, or root through filing cabinets, the game instead takes the easy route, of setting of a random room with a motley assortment of birds, bugs, medical equipment, skeletons, soccer balls, and a host of other things that you must zoom in upon to correctly identify. The high-pitched bells praise you whenever you select an item correctly (the items you must search for are included in a list at the bottom), and a sharp vibrating buzz disciplines you whenever you tap an incorrect item. Despite the good reviews many users gave the game on iTunes I just found it disappointing. I suppose, when you have to search for matches and bunnies when the storyline proves to be fairly entertaining.
Taking a more interactive approach than the Sherlock Holmes game, in this game you play as Agent Audrey McDermott, a highly decorated officer hailing from the Metro Police in Washington D.C. who, to the chagrin of her new partner Rockwell, has been assigned as the leading detective in the case of a person missing under suspicious circumstances. The characters are played by live actors, in unanimated snapshots, who are dressed appropriately for the parts. McDermott carries with her a chip on her shoulder, her face permanently lined in seriousness and a furrowed brow, her mouth puckered forward in action mode. Her straight brunette locks are flat-ironed, slicked back and shiny – the minimalist approach to her feminism. But, as with all female detective roles, her sexuality is played up subtly in her choice of the open white collar, a low hanging necklace drawing attention to some hopeful decolletage, and matching earrings. Then, of course, there are her undeniable good looks. Her partner, meanwhile, is riddled with the insecurity of senior FBI experience and a threatened male ego. He continually chides and jokes, demurring to her authority and strong-willed presence. Like any woman FBI Agent (cue Agent Skully from The X-Files and Agent Dunham from Fringe), McDermott stands firm and shoots down his comical tangents, preferring instead to focus on the case at hand.
The way the interaction between the two characters is set up, along with the back story of McDermott’s father – a conspiracy theorist – I actually became engrossed enough in the story to put up with all the silly clue-hunting. If the game instead posed puzzles to solve, or – as I described before – a more lifelike investigation process, say with file cabinet searching, unlocking of doors, searching through computers, then the game would be much more enjoyable. As of now, it feels like I’ve been sold short of what the game could really offer. The game, at least, is updated periodically in its missions, so at least there are fresh storylines down the road to captivate what small audience this app may have. If in the next updates the developers choose to improve the clue-hunting experience, then I would happily download new mission after new mission, following the story in the manhunt to truth.
I always did like a good government coverup.