Follow TV Tropes

Following

Video Game / Detectives United

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/du.png
Detectives United is a series of Hidden Object Games from Elephant Games. It brings together heroes from three of their biggest mystery game series to fight incredibly complex crimes that they would separately be unable to handle. Anna Gray and her father Richard from the Grim Tales series, James Blackthorne from Haunted Hotel, and Agent Brown from Mystery Trackers become a united front of field agents who delve into the impossible.
Advertisement:

The first game, Origins, explains how the partnership came into existence. The Mystery Trackers organization is contacted by the Queen of the United Kingdom, asking for help, and they soon find themselves working alongside James and Anna to save the world from being completely undone.

The sequel, The Darkest Shrine, brings the team in to stop a mysterious organization called S.H.R.I.N.E., which is using dark magic to summon monsters and destroy significant locations around the world. Their motives are unclear, but they have to be stopped.

The third installment, Timeless Voyage, picks up with the Sequel Hook from the second game's bonus chapter. Anna's dark copy from the alternate dimension breaks up the trio by sending them to different points in history, with directives to acquire certain artifacts. They have no choice but to play along since she's holding all of their futures hostage, even as they search for a way to stop her altogether.

Advertisement:

The fourth game, Phantoms of the Past, splits up the heroes. Agent Brown has not returned from his latest case, and James and Anna must find out what's happened to him. The trail leads them to the placid town of Restville, where a mysterious mayor and streets lined with blue roses seem to be hiding something.

The fifth game, Deadly Debt, takes place not long after the previous case is concluded. Agent Brown has invented a device to help him locate sources of paranormal activity, and stumbles into a new mystery while following its lead. At the same time, James and Anna have separate visions about a soulless man with a violin and a woman begging for assistance in reviving her lost love at any cost. It'll take all of their combined abilities and skill to figure out how everything is connected, and how to stop it.

Advertisement:

    open/close all folders 

    Tropes for the entire series 
  • Ambiguous Time Period/Anachronism Stew: Some of the technology is extremely modern, but Agent Shade uses an old-fashioned landline telephone when speaking to the Queen in the first game. Playing the three origin series manages to make this even more confusing; for example, Haunted Hotel: Personal Nightmare - which has James as a character - is explicitly set in 1958. But the Alphardi twins have a birth year of 1992, which is stated to have been several years before the events of Origins... yet James hasn't aged a day.
  • Animal Motif: The sigil of the Detectives United features an owl in the center. An owl medallion is also needed to unlock the desk in the office, as seen in the third game.
  • Another Side, Another Story: You play as all three of the DU field agents, switching back and forth as the plot requires.
  • Ascended Extra: This applies to James to an extent, as he's not usually the player character in his own series; but it's particularly the case for Agent Brown. He's only ever appeared in one single installment of Mystery Trackers.
  • Befriending the Enemy: At the end of the first and second games, the Big Bad - whose Freudian Excuse has been removed - is reformed and becomes an ally of the detectives.
  • Big Fancy Castle: The Mystery Trackers have been using one of these as their headquarters since medieval times, when they were first founded as an order of knighthood. After the events of the first game, it also becomes home to Detectives United.
  • Call-Back/Continuity Nod: There are a number of references found in the series, such as newspaper clippings about other cases, which are this for the adventures the heroes have in their individual series.
    • Raincliff, Black Isle, and Silent Hollow (from the Mystery Trackers series) are important locations in Origins. Notes found in Raincliff make subtle reference to Agent Brown's family, as that is his hometown. Another important location is the Freedom Hotel, which is the setting of Haunted Hotel: Personal Nightmare. Also, the achievements screen has a newspaper clipping talking about 'the butcher of the Axiom Hotel,' referencing Haunted Hotel: The Axiom Butcher.
    • St. Mary's Orphanage (from Grim Tales), Schneider's Hotel (from Haunted Hotel), and Blackhill (from Mystery Trackers) all appear in Darkest Shrine. The bonus chapter has connections to the plot of the MT game The Secret of Watch Hill.
    • The backstory of the Mystery Trackers organization features prominently in Timeless Voyage, especially in the bonus chapter, and the three artifacts the detectives have to recover are each related to one of their origin series. The One Amulet is from Haunted Hotel: Personal Nightmare, the branch of the Blood-Bred Tree is from Mystery Trackers: Silent Hollow, and the Sand of Time is from Grim Tales: The Heir. Additionally, the 'case cards' which can be found throughout the game provide details about past cases from all four series.
    • Phantoms of the Past is effectively a very late sequel to Mystery Trackers: Raincliff, albeit with some slight discontinuity. The title itself is also a call back to that game, as the Brown siblings were known as "the phantoms of Raincliff."
    • The opening scene of Deadly Debt refers back to the matter of blue roses in Restville, and the scene at James's office includes a note listing the items which were used to create the Time Mighter in Timeless Voyage.
  • Character Portrait: The lower right corner of the game screen shows oval portraits of each of the three field agents. It's particularly notable in the fourth game, in which Agent Brown's portrait is replaced by a question mark to indicate the fact that he has disappeared.
  • Colorful Theme Naming: Anna Gray, Agent Brown, and James Blackthorne. (They already had these names in their origin series, but it still fits.)
  • Comm Links: The "device," as it's simply called, is a portable communicator which looks rather like a television. It allows the field agents to stay in contact with HQ and each other, and it also analyzes data, interprets map coordinates, and does pretty nearly anything the plot requires.
    • As of the third game, the DU members have been given their own specialized version of the device, which is a Mystery Trackers specialty; this new version looks like a miniature laptop computer. It's called the "Connector," and it's intended to allow them to contact one another (and Agent Shade), take photographs, and access their computer database. They're even personalized with their owners' names.
    • The fourth game omits the Connector or any other communications device. However, it's justified as being a plot point - Agent Brown has gone off the grid for his secret investigation, so he doesn't have his with him. After James and Anna are manipulated into crashing their car at the beginning of the adventure, it's very likely that any communications equipment they may have had with them has been stolen, since Restville is a Closed Circle.
  • Cosmetic Award: The unlockable achievements in the collector's editions.
  • Crisis Crossover: The three disparate agents/agencies are initially brought together in Origins by the fact that the Big Bad poses a threat to the whole world.
  • Cut-and-Paste Environments: The games in this series sometimes make use of backgrounds which appeared in the three detectives' origin series.
  • Distress Ball: The three detectives each pick this up on occasion, needing one or both of the other two to rescue them. The first such major incident happens in Origins, when the Collector traps Anna in the past, and James and Agent Brown have to bring her back to the present.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones/Love Makes You Evil: A recurring theme.
    • In the first two games, neither of the villains are really evil; they've just been driven to evil extremes by the deaths of their families. The wife and twin children of the first Big Bad were murdered by criminals, and the wife and son of the second were killed in a terrible car accident. Anna can go back in time to prevent both tragedies, thereby averting the present-day calamities which resulted.
    • Meanwhile, in the third game, Dark Anna doesn't explicitly mention loved ones, but her entire world has been doomed and she's desperate to save it. By extension, this probably includes people who are important to her as well.
  • Famed in Story: The three detectives are all this even prior to meeting each other, as they've all heard of one another and the Queen of the United Kingdom herself has a dossier on each of them. After they form their partnership, they become this as a unit as well as individuals. In Grim Tales: The Generous Gift, Anna finds a newspaper featuring a headline article about the Detectives United, with a color photograph of her and her friends.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: The three field agents (and Agent Shade to an extent) become this by the end of the first game. James muses on it in the second game, noting that while he hasn't known his colleagues for very long, he nevertheless feels attached to them. The way they worry about each other in the third game, particularly the bonus chapter, indicates that it might be starting to overlap with Family of Choice; the fourth game makes this even more explicitly clear, as James and Anna pretty much drop everything to run to Agent Brown's aid when they realize he's in trouble.
  • Functional Magic: Magic, psychic abilities, ghosts, and other supernatural things are all extremely real in the world of these games. It may not always be clear to the player how it works, but the answer to a mystery is more likely to be magical than mundane.
  • Glass-Shattering Sound: Tuning forks are used several times to shatter glass, and once to trigger a minor avalanche.
  • Gotta Catch 'Em All: Throughout the games, players must keep their eyes peeled for morphing objects, figurines of the characters, and puzzle pieces which can be assembled to form pictures of the various scenes, which can then be saved to the player's computer as screen savers. The third game replaces the character figures with 'case cards,' which give details about cases the detectives have solved both together and separately. The fourth game changes the formula somewhat by removing most of the collectibles, keeping only the puzzle pieces and the morphing objects; in this case, the morphs are all hats. Similarly, the fifth game has only the puzzle pieces and morphing timepieces.
  • Hidden Object Game
  • Holding Hands: This is sometimes done to transfer player control from one of the detectives to another; the character who is about to be controlled extends their hand, the currently controlled character takes it as if shaking hands, and the scene spins to switch the point of view. Seen frequently in the first game, only rarely in the sequels. (Humorously, there is no in-universe explanation offered for the gesture, making it appear like a random decision to shake hands in the middle of a crisis.)
  • Home Base: Detectives United have their own set of offices within the Big Fancy Castle which is the ancient home of the Mystery Trackers. It’s of particular significance during the events of the third game.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Agent Brown is occasionally guilty of this, usually when he's giving James a bit of playful grief. For instance, in the bonus chapter of the second game, he hands his colleague a broom and says that he should be able to "clean up" the mystery in no time.
  • Interface Spoiler: Seen in the collector's editions, where a Collection Sidequest has you searching for scraps of photographs throughout the games. Finding these scraps assembles full images, which may be installed as screen savers if desired; but the images can be viewed at any time by going to the correct menu, even if what's depicted in them hasn't been seen in the game yet. Averted in the fourth game, where the photographs are still visible even without the pieces, but don't show anything that could be considered a spoiler.
  • Jump Scare: Expect at least one or two of these in every maze.
  • Last-Name Basis: Subverted. Agent Shade never has her first name revealed in these games. However, playing Mystery Trackers games reveals that this isn't her name at all, but rather her code name within the Mystery Trackers organization.
    • Played straight with Agent Brown, who actually uses his real last name as his code name. His first name, Dorian, is seen a few times in the games, but it's not until near the end of the fourth game that anyone actually calls him that to his face.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang!: Although the three field agents are working together, whichever two are not currently the player character will often go elsewhere for one reason or another - even if it's just to pick up the Distress Ball offscreen. Taken to extremes in the third game (in which they're separated not just by distance, but time) and again in the fourth (in which Agent Brown's disappearance means the team is fragmented for much of the story).
  • The Maze: There are a few of these, which usually can't be navigated until you've first found the map.
  • Membership Token: At the end of the first game, Agent Shade presents the three field agents with official badges identifying them as the members of Detectives United. In the sequels, all three wear the badges prominently, and Agent Shade wears one as well.
  • Mission Control: Agent Shade, from the Mystery Trackers, acts as this for the three field agents.
  • Occult Detective: Each of the three partners is this individually, and then they work together on cases which take the occult Up to Eleven.
  • Point-and-Click Game: The puzzles which are not hidden object scenes fall into this.
  • Sequel Hook:
    • The end of Origins makes it clear that the partnership, which had previously been chiefly circumstantial, has become official and permanent, paving the way for further adventures.
    • The end of the bonus chapter of Darkest Shrine shows that Dark Anna is still a problem for the team. It also has the unanswered question of why Dark James has turned on both her and Dark Brown.
      • Also, the main game mentions connecting energy from three parallel worlds, which means there is at least one other dimension we've not yet seen.
    • The end of Timeless Voyage has the detectives contemplating the Big Bad's next move.
    • Phantoms of the Past ends with Agent Brown asking what will happen to his brother, and Agent Shade saying that they won't know for a few days, leaving The Reveal for the next game.
    • Near the beginning of Deadly Debt, when Agent Brown is in his office, the player can find a note from another agent, Triptych, who warns him that blue roses similar to those in Restville have been spotted growing in Louisiana, and he muses that he needs to investigate. This may be foreshadowing for a future installment of either Detectives United or Mystery Trackers.
  • Shared Universe: It was established in Haunted Hotel: The Phoenix that the Haunted Hotel and Mystery Trackers franchises exist in the same universe; since the dawn of this series, it's confirmed that Grim Tales also shares the same universe with them. It may be that other Elephant Games properties share the universe as well, but this has yet to be confirmed.
    • This series also shares a universe with the Mystery Case Files games. In the bonus chapter of Grim Tales: The White Lady, it's revealed that the GT games exist in the same universe as the MCF games, which means that by extension so do the Detectives United games.
  • Stable Time Loop: Completely averted in this series. Going back to change the past not only works exactly the way they intend, but in the present day, the reformed villains (from the first two games) seem to be aware that the detectives helped them and become their allies.
  • Team Title: The series name is that of the group's identity. Although Agents Brown and Shade are among the Mystery Trackers, and James and Anna are solo investigators, they identify as the Detectives United whenever they join forces.
  • Time Travel: A recurring activity, since it's Anna's particular hat; this factors into resolving the main cases, by going back in time to Set Right What Once Went Wrong. All three heroes are subjected to it in the third game.
  • Token Non-Human: Anna's father, Richard, is this for the team in the first three games. He's dead, but his daughter carries around his enchanted skull (It Makes Sense in Context) and his ghost frequently helps with the investigations. He even gets stolen in the second game. Somewhat overlaps with Spirit Advisor.
  • Two Guys and a Girl: The three field agents. Anna occasionally refers to James and Agent Brown as "the boys."
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: About as justified as possible, given their occupations. They are sometimes taken a bit by surprise when certain things happen, but on the whole, practically nothing seems to be too weird for this team. Probably overlaps with Seen It All.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: James and Agent Brown have this sort of vibe to their interactions. They clearly like and respect each other and are willing to help each other out of trouble, but Agent Brown frequently gives James a hard time. Anna rolls her eyes at them, but she also seems to find the dynamic amusing.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: We know that Detectives United, like the Mystery Trackers, is headquartered in a location called Silent Hollow. However, we have not been told where that is. Here's what we do know:
    • In Origins, a map which appears in one of the puzzles during Anna's investigation in the past indicates that all five of the stones needed to build the Reality Cube are found in locations throughout the United Kingdom. Since one of these is in the keeping of the Mystery Trackers, this suggests that Silent Hollow is actually in the UK.
      • On the other hand, Anna has only traveled back in time to the late 1990s (as indicated by the ages of the Alphardi twins, who have a confirmed birth year of 1992 and who are about six years old in the flashback). Depending on when this happens in relation to Agent Brown's induction into the Mystery Trackers, it could instead be indicating that one of the stones is in Raincliff, his hometown, since he says that before he joined the organization it was the property of his family.
      • The bonus chapter takes place in Louisiana, in the United States, and Brown and Anna are shown driving in a car to rescue James. They could be driving to an airport; however, the steering wheel is on the wrong side for a car in the UK. On the other hand, they could just as easily be driving from an airport.
    • S.H.R.I.N.E., in Darkest Shrine, is explicitly headquartered in England. There's no mention made of time zones or travel time with regards to storming their castle, which could arguably mean that it's not too far from Silent Hollow.
    • In Timeless Voyage, a large part of the plot revolves around the Titan, a ship which sank decades ago and which is clearly an analogue for the Titanic. The real Titanic's last port of call before its fateful voyage was Queenstown (Cobh), in Ireland, which is another possible clue as to Silent Hollow being in that part of the world.

    Origins 
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: In the third act, the Big Bad creates a number of false alarms to lure all the Mystery Trackers field agents away from their headquarters, then storms the premises. Fortunately, what he's looking for is no longer there, and he leaves Agent Shade shaken but unharmed.
  • Continuity Cameo: Elf, the miniature pinscher who accompanies the player character of Mystery Trackers in many installments, has a brief cameo in one of the hidden object scenes at the castle.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Origins feels almost like a Whole Plot Reference to Avengers: Infinity War, what with the Big Bad threatening to unravel the world with a snap of his fingers after first collecting a specific group of Plot Coupons.
  • Enemy Mine: The whole reason the three player characters meet and join forces in the first place is because they are all searching for the Collector. Agent Brown has been asked to take on the investigation by the Queen, while James and Anna have both had personal items stolen by him. They initially mistake one another for the enemy, but quickly move past it once the introductions are made.
  • Film Noir: The menu screen, showing the detectives in what eventually becomes their office, gives off this vibe. The beginning of the game, with Agent Brown narrating to the player just what's going on and who he is, only enhances the feeling; it dials back once the player actually has control of the game.
  • Funny Background Event: At the end of the first act, when Richard is addressing James and Agent Brown for the first time, look past him at the dartboard on the wall. It seems that while Anna's been doing her investigation in the past, "the boys" were passing time by playing darts - and keeping score. Brown is apparently a much better player than James.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Theodore Alphardi's diary names his twin children as Jack and Larry. However, photographs of the twins make it clear that one is a boy and one is a girl.note 
  • I Just Want to Be Loved: This is the motivation of the bonus chapter's villain. Christina was an orphan girl who was taken in by the wealthy family who lived in the Danvers mansion. However, they forced her to live in an attic room and showed her little kindness and no affection. After she died, her desire to be loved turned her into a malevolent spirit prone to kidnapping people to force them to stay with her.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Factors into the Big Bad's backstory, although this can be difficult to fully understand on an initial playthrough; see Rewatch Bonus, below.
  • Invisibility: In the latter third of the game, Agent Brown finally explains to the other two why he's completely covered from head to toe, including a face mask and goggles - it's to conceal the fact that he's invisible.
    • This is also the case for Headless, as players of the Mystery Trackers installment Raincliff's Phantoms know, is a villainous invisible man who essentially runs Raincliff as a small criminal empire; here, he's the one responsible for the murders of Maria Alphardi and her children. His real surname is Brown - the DU games don't give too many details about this fact, but he's actually a distant relative of Agent Brown's. Unlike Brown, however, Headless chose to become invisible.
  • Late to the Tragedy: While investigating the shuttered Black Swan Clinic, James finds a letter written by a girl who was a "patient" there, begging whoever reads it to tell her mother that she's a prisoner and being subjected to some terrible experiments. He is, of course, years too late to help her at all.
  • Legendary Weapon: The five stones which can be assembled to form the Reality Cube are each this.
    • Estra (the stone in James's family signet ring) can create a form of mind control.
    • Nergal can turn back time.
    • Tamus can alter time and space. (The resemblance to her own powers makes it likely that this was the one stolen from Anna.)
    • Valam (the stone which was set into the Queen's earring, whose theft kickstarts the plot) gives wise counsel.
    • Azazel (formerly the property of Agent Brown's family, now in the keeping of the Mystery Trackers) provides unlimited energy.
  • The Lost Lenore: Maria Alphardi is this for her husband Theodore. Her murder, and that of their children, is what pushes him to become the Collector.
  • Malevolent Masked Man: Played straight and subverted.
    • The Big Bad, known as the Collector, plays it straight. He has a gold-colored mask which covers most of his face.
    • Agent Brown subverts it. He has the look, which may prompt some players to expect him to turn out to be The Mole, but he's genuinely a good guy.
  • No Historical Figures Were Harmed: The Queen of the United Kingdom, who calls Agent Shade for help, is not the one currently on the throne. (Her name is never given.) Interestingly, however, the woman depicted in the game during the phone call bears a strong resemblance to Queen Mary, HM's paternal grandmother, which only adds to the game's sense of Anachronism Stew.
  • Plot Coupon: Five of them - stones which are scattered throughout the United Kingdom, each with remarkable power in their own right, but which can be united to form the Reality Cube.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: It eventually turns out that the whole plot was put into motion by the murders of the Alphardi family.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The whole thing gets started by the Queen of the United Kingdom, who quickly recognizes that she's up against something she can barely comprehend and reaches out to the Mystery Trackers for help.
  • Respected by the Respected: The Queen has great respect for the work and skills of the three detectives, as indicated by the dossier Agent Brown finds in the palace. They are also, prior to meeting in person, familiar with each other's work and respect one another's successes.
  • Rewatch Bonus: Playing the game a second time makes it a lot easier to understand just what happened to the Alphardis and how their story is connected to Agent Brown. Theodore Alphardi was a prominent chemist, and some of Agent Brown's relatives approached him for help, asking him to find a cure for the family invisibility. Headless, the local crime boss and a distant relative, threatened the Alphardi family to try to prevent Theodore from doing this; when he persisted, Headless had his wife and children executed.
  • Spanner in the Works: Agent Brown is this to the Big Bad. As he eventually reveals to his partners, he took one of the necessary Plot Coupons with him back at the beginning of the adventure, which prevents the villain from stealing it when he invades Mystery Trackers headquarters.
  • Title Drop: At the end of the main game, Agent Shade proposes the series title as the name for their newly formed group.
  • With a Friend and a Stranger: When they arrive at the Black Swan Clinic, Agent Brown and James find themselves in this arrangement. They've become partners and are on their way to being friends, and now are also teaming up with Anna, who is a stranger (except by reputation).
  • Would Harm A Child: The Big Bad and his mooks fall into this, as they had no problem killing not only Maria Alphardi but also both of her children. They were six.

    Darkest Shrine 
  • Another Dimension: The Big Bad wants to connect to a couple of these. You visit one in the bonus chapter.
  • Big Fancy Castle: S.H.R.I.N.E. uses an ancient castle in England as their headquarters.
  • Boarding School: St. Mary's Orphanage seems to actually be one of these. It's explicitly given that name, but several portraits are seen depicting members of Anna's family, and James remarks that her niece Jackie "studied" there.
  • Body Horror: The Big Bad turns himself into an abomination to fight the field agents.
  • Buried Alive: The fate narrowly avoided by Agent Brown in the Alps, when investigating a mysterious cave. The enemy agent triggers a massive collapse with the intent of doing exactly this to him.
  • Curse Cut Short: Agent Brown, in the bonus chapter, gives one of these. "Holy sh-!"
  • Dark Is Evil: In the bonus chapter, it seems like Anna - who is on vacation, according to James - is responsible for the current crime. It's what Agent Brown calls a "dark doppelganger." He's the first one to figure out that the woman they're seeing is not, in his words, "our Anna."
  • Demonic Possession: James is subjected to something like this while investigating St. Mary's Orphanage, and Anna has to create a "ghost trap" to remove the evil entity which is controlling his body.
  • Enemy Mine: Seen in the bonus chapter. In the alternate dimension, Dark James has been betrayed by Dark Anna and Dark Brown, so he no longer wants to help them. He doesn't really want to help our heroes either, but he does because he wants revenge on his former friends.
  • Evil Twin: In the bonus chapter, the heroes each have one of these. They're almost indistinguishable from the player characters, except for some wardrobe differences and Red Eyes, Take Warning; because of their invisibility, Agent Brown's is completely indistinguishable from him.
  • Fun with Acronyms: We never do learn what the acronym S.H.R.I.N.E. actually means. Agent Brown even wonders about it in some of his internal monologue, but no answer ever appears. It seems to exist purely to create a pun in the game title. This is also true of D.A.R.K. S.H.R.I.N.E. in the bonus chapter.
  • The Lost Lenore: Nathaniel Prior's wife is this for him after her death in a car accident.
  • Medals for Everyone: At the end of the main game, Agent Shade presents the detectives with specially designed medals for their heroics.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: Much like in the first game, it's eventually revealed that the whole plot was jumpstarted by the deaths of Nathaniel Prior's wife and son.
  • Red Filter of Doom:
    • Seen a lot in this game, as an indicator of dark magic at work.
    • In the alternate dimension visited in the bonus chapter, the Alien Sky gives this appearance to everything. It makes the Scenery Gorn that much creepier.
  • Serious Business: In the bonus chapter, Agent Brown is so unnerved by the behavior of the dark Anna copy that he doesn't even tease James.
  • Storming the Castle: Literally, as the enemy organization headquarters are in an ancient castle, and the field agents must break in to stop their plans and rescue Richard.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: This is Agent Brown's solution, in the bonus chapter, to a pile of debris blocking a door. He refers to it as cleaning up the mess "the old-fashioned way."
  • The Unreveal:
    • As noted above, we never learn what either S.H.R.I.N.E. or D.A.R.K. S.H.R.I.N.E. mean.
    • We also have yet to learn what Dark Brown and Dark Anna did to make Dark James turn on them. However, in response to a Facebook comment about it in December 2020, Elephant Games said that they will "drop some hints soon."

    Timeless Voyage 
  • Advancing Wall of Doom: In the bonus chapter. Morpheus, the ancient enemy of the Mystery Trackers, has been released from his entombment and burned the castle's library in order to remove information about how to defeat him. Agent Brown is trapped by the danger, and it’s all he can do to warn Anna to stay away.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Yes, Dark Anna wants revenge on the detectives for interfering with her previous plan. However, she also wants to save her own world from its impending annihilation - which is the result of her having failed in a mission. It's difficult not to feel sorry for her when you see how hard she's taking it.
  • All There in the Manual: An in-game version. The first puzzle of the game has the player (as Anna) combing through files on the Detectives United computer. Among the files which can be read are dossiers of the three detectives.
  • Blood Magic: The name of the Blood-Bred Tree implies that it uses something like this.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: Courtesy of a Hypno Trinket, in the bonus chapter. James is mind-controlled by Morpheus, the ancient Big Bad of the Mystery Trackers, into doing his bidding.
  • Classical Mythology: A statue of Poseidon is found aboard the Titan, and is significant to resolving the adventure.
  • Classified Information: Most of Agent Brown's biography falls into this, according to his dossier on the DU computer.
  • Commanding Coolness: Judging by a letter found in Dark Anna's room, Agent Brown's dark counterpart is the one who actually runs D.A.R.K. S.H.R.I.N.E. (the Alternate Universe version of Detectives United). The letter is signed by "Commander Brown." As Mystery Trackers players know, this is also the rank held by the leader of the Mystery Trackers organization, so it's possible that Dark Brown leads both groups (or that the two groups are united into one) in his dimension.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: Anna faces off with a long-dead Viking as part of her efforts to get the One Amulet. If the player fails the puzzle associated with this fight, a Non-Standard Game Over appears with a message saying, simply, "You have perished." You can then try again as many times as needed.
  • Dismantled MacGuffin: The One Amulet, the Sand of Time, and branches of the Blood-Bred Tree are powerful artifacts in their own right, but they can also be assembled to form an even greater MacGuffin called the Time Mighter.
  • Don't Touch It, You Idiot!: The first puzzle of the game has Anna rifling through files on the group's computer, one of which is labeled with a skull icon and the words DO NOT TOUCH. Clicking on it causes the computer (theirs, not the player's) to briefly become unusable. It's all just for fun, of course.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Most likely. When going through her purse after the ship crashes, Anna opens a wallet which contains a picture of a young girl with braided pigtails. Although Anna doesn't comment on the photo, the child looks very much like her six-year-old daughter Alice as seen in the Grim Tales installment The Generous Gift. (Timeless Voyage was released a few months before Generous Gift.)
  • The Fellowship Has Ended: Agent Brown gets thrown thirty years into the future, where he discovers that it's been three years since Detectives United disbanded. It's not stated why they split - although given how old its members would be at that point, it's entirely possible that they simply retired.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: In the bonus chapter, James's eyes have a creepy golden glow to indicate his hypnotized state.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Dark Anna is the Big Bad of this installment. However, her plot has unintended consequences when James accidentally releases Morpheus, the ancient enemy of the Mystery Trackers, while collecting a branch of the Blood-Bred Tree. If the bonus chapter is any indication, he has been planning this for centuries, and intends to once again seize control of the supernatural agency for his own ends.
  • Hostage for MacGuffin: In this case, there are three MacGuffins, and Dark Anna is essentially holding the detectives' lives hostage.
  • I Lied: Dark Anna tells the detectives that if they bring her the artifacts she wants, she'll let them live. Shockingly, once they do, she goes back on the offer and leaves them tied up next to a ticking bomb.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: At the end of the bonus chapter. Since they're all so rattled by what's just happened, James suggests they go and have a drink at the nearest pub. The final scene shows the heroes clustered around a table at the Good-Guy Bar, enjoying some peace and each other’s company.
  • In the Hood: In some of her appearances in this game, Dark Anna wears a hooded cape, which helps to distinguish her from the regular Anna.
  • Lured into a Trap: The game kicks off with a gift from Anna's cousin Tobias, who sends her and her friends tickets for a "last minute cruise." Since they conveniently all have the weekend off, they decide to go and enjoy themselves. Surprise - their tickets are for passage on the Titan, a ship which sank a long time ago and has been brought to the surface by Dark Anna in order to capture them.
  • No Historical Figures Were Harmed: The cruise ship seen in the game is called the Titan. Anna notes that it sank a long time ago, and it had a captain with the last name of Smith. Hmm...
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: Invoked. Agent Brown amuses himself at one point by thinking that "if James could see me hiding in the bushes, he'd never let me live it down."
  • OOC Is Serious Business: In the bonus chapter, this is how Agent Brown knows something's not right with James - he sees the security footage of James entering parts of the Mystery Trackers HQ where he would normally not try to go.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Anna must contend with the ghost of what looks to be a giant squid near the end of the game. Even though it's a ghost, she's able to capture it with a net.
  • Power Glows: In the bonus chapter, an eerie golden glow indicates Morpheus's control.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Dark Anna's purpose in forcing the detectives to retrieve three powerful artifacts from throughout time is to exact revenge on them for their interference during the previous game's bonus chapter. What isn't revealed until near the end of the game, however, is that this is really her secondary motivation. Her primary concern is saving her world from complete destruction.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: The 'case cards' found throughout the game are rife with spelling errors, such as "dimention" and "confromt." This is a surprising departure from the usual quality of the writing in the games.
  • Schmuck Bait: On one hand, yeah, it seems a bit obvious (to the player) that the cruise ship tickets will lead the team into a trap. On the other hand, however, even Richard admits that he didn't sense anything out of the ordinary about it.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Morpheus, the great villain in the backstory of the Mystery Trackers, is sealed inside a tomb beneath their headquarters, where the Blood-Bred Tree grows.
  • Spoiler Opening/Interface Spoiler: The opening cinematic and, indeed, even the start menu make it very clear to the player that something is not right about the cruise the detectives will be taking.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Much as they are concerned about her long-term plans, the detectives all agree that they can understand Dark Anna's motives regarding saving her world, because of the other people in it. As James puts it, "Innocent people live everywhere."
  • They Clean Up Nicely: On the cruise ship, in anticipation of a formal dinner, the trio get dressed up. Anna comments on her colleagues being sharply dressed, fondly inquiring, "What handsome men do we have here?"

    Phantoms of the Past 
  • After-Action Report: The bonus chapter introduces two new temporary player characters - Andrew Stevens, the new mayor of Restville, and Anastasia Smith, the flower seller from the main game - whose interactions show what happens in Restville following the departure of the Detectives United.
  • The Ageless: Agent Brown's dossier on his partners, as seen in the first hidden object puzzle, notes that Anna either ages very slowly or not at all. This is the first time in this series that anyone has commented on the factnote , though Agent Brown evidently doesn't know why this is the case.
    Anna: (internally) I have my secrets too.
  • Amnesiac Hero: Anna goes through a mild version of this when she wakes up in the flower seller's house. She struggles to remember where she is or how she got there because she has such a pounding headache from the roses. Eventually she can breathe the free air again, and regain her equilibrium.
  • Anonymous Public Phone Call/Wig, Dress, Accent: To avoid being recognized from his picture on the wanted posters, James dons a trenchcoat, a scarf, a white wig, and dark glasses. It's a bit weird-looking, but it serves the purpose. He also adopts a phony voice when calling the sheriff's office with a fake tip about his own whereabouts.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Seen in the collector's edition. After completing both the main game and the bonus chapter, one of the bonus features available is the "Expedition Room." This new addition lets the player go to any scene in the game where they missed any morphing hats or puzzle pieces, so they can complete their collections without having to replay the entire game.
  • Awesome Anachronistic Apparel: Anastasia, the flower seller in Restville, wears costumes which seem more appropriate to a Renaissance faire. Cute gimmick, right? It's a hint that she's really affected by the blue roses, as she's one of the people growing them. The ending of the bonus chapter shows her in more modern clothes, indicating that she's begun to recover.
  • Belated Happy Ending: The bonus chapter provides this for Restville itself, as the ending is stated to be happening "several months later" and shows Andrew and Anastasia hard at work in the town. All the blue roses are gone, replaced with other, harmless varieties, and the place has been spruced up to become the attractive little town that the hallucinogen made it seem.
  • Closed Circle: Restville seems to be this. Outsiders are not encouraged to come in, but those who do are, just like those who live there, all but unable to leave. That's because once they enter Restville, they come under the effects of the blue roses, which make them believe that they're in the happiest place in the world - so why should they want to leave?
  • Creepy Basement: James makes his way into the basement of one of Restville's buildings, where he discovers that someone has set up darkroom equipment and a lot of documentation that seems unsettling. It only gets worse when he hears someone entering the room. Subverted - the person coming in is Agent Brown, and the basement is actually his base of operations while he's on his case. He explains that he specifically chose it because the place is abandoned and he figured no one would look there.
  • Fictional Currency: Restville is such a Closed Circle that it doesn't even accept money from the outside world. As Anna discovers when exploring the tavern, she can't use her own money in the vending machine; it only takes Restville currency. Exactly what the denomination is called is never stated, but a bit later she does acquire a 100-whatever bill to use in the machine.
  • Flower Motif: Roses are all over the place in this game, and players who remember Mystery Trackers: Raincliff may have an idea as to why. There are flower/rose decorations on most of the buildings, and the local tavern is the Blue Rose Inn. Various flowers are also present in many puzzles and as locking mechanisms.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: A blue glow appears briefly in the eyes of someone when they come under the effects of the blue roses.
  • Hypno Pendulum: Andrew, in the bonus chapter, uses one of these to help Anastasia unlock her repressed memories about Mortimer's activities.
  • Identical Stranger: Agent Brown's twin brother Mortimer dresses exactly like him, making it a plot point that James and Anna can't tell them apart.
  • If I Do Not Return: The game begins with Agent Shade presenting James and Anna with Agent Brown's case notes, explaining that he had asked her to give the folder to his friends if he didn't come back from his investigation. After two months with no contact, she decides that it's been long enough and he needs to be found.
  • Immune to Mind Control: For reasons no one understands, James is largely resistant to the effects of the blue rose pollen. This is why the sheriff deems him to be a dangerous criminal - they can't control him, so he needs to be locked up.
  • Innocent Flower Girl: Anastasia Smith has the look of an older version. She's actually helping Mortimer, and documents indicate that they are romantically involved. The bonus chapter reveals that much of their relationship was false, owing to her being affected by the blue roses.
  • Insistent Terminology: The flower seller's name is given in the game as Anastasia Smith; however, the detectives (and even the end credits) persist in identifying her as "Flower Girl."
  • Instant Sedation: James chloroforms the sheriff in order to escape.
  • Interface Spoiler: A much more subtle example than in the previous game. Lingering on the game's main menu, which depicts a tranquil street in Restville, the player can watch as the image becomes fuzzy. It changes into a very different image of the same street, with dead flowers and damaged buildings, suggesting that Restville is not what it appears on the surface. The image shifts back and forth roughly every fifteen seconds, so it can be easy to miss if the player is in a hurry to start the game.
  • It's Personal: Brown's reason for taking on a secret investigation without mentioning it to either of his partners basically amounts to this. James protests this, pointing out that "We've worked together for a long time. We trust each other." Agent Shade, who is apparently the only one who knew what he was doing, gently explains that "He didn't want to drag you into family drama." Later, when they're reunited, he basically says the same thing, albeit apologetically.
  • Long-Lost Relative: Both James and Anna express surprise at learning about Agent Brown's family, as he's never mentioned any of them before. Not only is Mortimer his twin, but one document James locates late in the game indicates that the sheriff is their uncle.
  • Malevolent Masked Man: Mortimer Brown, who is Agent Brown's Evil Twin.
  • Mayor Pain: Mortimer is the mayor of Restville, and keeping everyone else in the community in what basically amounts to a drugged state of complete obedience. Averted by his successor in the bonus chapter, a good and decent man who wants to make things better for everyone.
  • Meaningful Name: Restville sounds very much like the word restful, and it's touted as being exceptionally peaceful and serene. Furthermore, it's basically a law that in Restville, the residents are supposed to rest between the hours of 1:00 and 3:00 every afternoon. Strong emphasis is also placed on literally stopping to smell the roses. The roses are at their strongest during this time of day, so the residents are encouraged to relax and smell them in order to maintain their ongoing tranquility.
  • Mind Control: What the hallucinogenic roses are used to do.
  • Minimalist Cast: No residents of Restville are ever seen except the ones who are relevant to the plot. In the main game, that amounts to four people; the bonus chapter adds two more.note 
  • Nice Hat: The morphing objects in this game all turn into different kinds of hats. There are twenty in all, and clicking on them in the collectible screen shows which member of Agent Brown's family once owned them.
  • Painting the Medium: While James and Anna are exploring Restville, the player may observe that the edges of the screen have something of a Gaussian blur. This is partly due to Dizzy Cam (they have a car accident just as they arrive in the town), but it's also the game's way of showing that Anna, who is the player character, is under the effects of the hallucinogenic roses, and thus not entirely in her right mind. Notably, later in the game, the edges of the screen are as sharp as the rest of the picture.
  • Paper Key-Retrieval Trick: How Anna gets out of her locked room.
  • Pixel Hunt: The final puzzle of the main game falls into this, as the player has to put fragments into a picture in exactly the right spots.
  • Polar Opposite Twins: Dorian and Mortimer don't have much in common besides their secret ability and their tragic backstory. Mortimer is calculating, self-serving, and perfectly willing to use or hurt other people to get what he wants. Dorian is honest, loyal, and strives to do the right thing, and will defend those closest to him to the death if need be.
  • Predators Are Mean: Anna encounters a fierce circus tiger when she heads into the past. Unlike the other living things she encounters when traveling in time, the tiger isn't frozen, and scares her half to death when she emerges from the time stream in its cage to find it growling at her. No explanation is offered for the tiger's animation, either.
  • Present Absence: Agent Brown being missing is what kickstarts the plot, though it comes as a shock to his friends when they realize he's been missing for two months.
  • Protectorate: Agent Brown will do just about anything to protect his partners, including go into a dangerous investigation alone so that they aren't threatened by his "family drama". When they follow him anyway, he doesn't hesitate to tackle his own brother to the floor to keep Mortimer from harming James.
  • Red Herring: A minor one can be seen in the first hidden object puzzle of the game, when Anna discovers that Agent Brown has his own dossiers about her and James. She wonders, briefly, why he's maintaining this information and whether it means he doesn't really trust them. On the contrary, he trusts them deeply. He's just an extremely thorough agent.
  • Retcon: The plot of this game mildly retcons a few facts from Mystery Trackers: Raincliff, making Agent Brown and his brother Mortimer twins who are younger than their sister Arabella; in Raincliff, Mortimer was the eldest and Dorian the youngest, with "Belle" in the middle. It also changes a specific detail from the bonus chapter, making it that Mortimer was never killed by their father.
  • Sesquipedalian Smith: Anastasia Smith, the flower seller, as well as the Brown twins Mortimer and Dorian.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Both of the Brown twins wear very nice suits while in Restville. They are slightly different colors, making it easier for the player to tell which one is which.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: Averted. When James and Anna meet the flower seller, she encourages him to buy some roses "for your lady." James doesn't trouble himself to correct her on the subject, mostly because he's diverted by Anna's behavior, although the sudden arrival of the sheriff doesn't help either.
  • Something About a Rose: There are blue roses all over the town of Restville. Their pollen is a powerful hallucinogenic.
  • Spot the Impostor: As might be expected, there comes a point where Agent Brown's friends have to figure out which twin is which. The fact that both Mortimer and Dorian are invisible and have almost identical voices does not help. Dorian eventually proves his identity when he finally becomes the player character and answers a short battery of questions.
  • Take Your Time: Seen in the bonus chapter. A fire threatens the tiger at the circus, but you don't need to rush to get the water; it won't get any closer no matter how long you wait.
  • Tap on the Head: James is arrested for "conducting an unauthorized investigation in Restville" and promptly punched in the face, which knocks him out cold.
  • "Wanted!" Poster: After James escapes from jail, he discovers the sheriff is putting up wanted posters with his picture on them, identifying him as a dangerous criminal.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The ending of the game gives no indication of the ultimate fates of Mortimer Brown or the Sheriff of Restville.
  • The X of Y: Phantoms of the Past is the first game in the series to have a subtitle of this type.
  • You Meddling Kids: He's too old to be a meddling kid now, but Mortimer makes a comment which indicates that Dorian has always tried to stop him from doing the wrong thing.
  • You Wake Up in a Room:
    • This is what happens the first time James becomes the player character. After being knocked out by the arresting sheriff, he wakes up in jail.
    • This also happens to Anna around the same time, but rather than having been knocked out, she's been under the effects of the roses.

    Deadly Debt 
  • Alliterative Title: The first of these in the series.
  • The "Be Careful!" Speech: Shade gives Brown a short one of these when he checks in from the back alley near the start of the game. Her tone is one of genuine concern, since they have absolutely no idea what he's about to confront.
  • Deal with the Devil: Henry's beloved Matilda is so desperate to see him restored that she enters one of these with Agatha. The agreement requires Matilda and the resurrected Henry to murder people for Agatha, as she relies on life force to sustain her powers.
  • Demonic Possession: In the bonus chapter, Alan Growley is a decent man possessed and driven to madness by the Vengeful Ghost of Agatha, who wants revenge on the detectives for her defeat.
  • Distress Call: When Anna finds herself in trouble during her investigation into the first murder, she hits the panic button on her keychain, which sends one of these to James's cell phone. He immediately rushes to her aid.
  • Elegant Classical Musician: Henry, the 'maestro' seen in the opening cinematic, is a violin master.
  • Evil Wears Black: The first NPC encountered is a strange woman in a black dress who tries to drive Brown away from the back alley. She's Obviously Evil, although he's not sure what her game is.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Brown is searching for an address labeled 67 Back Alley. It's situated in a... back alley.
  • Forced into Evil: This is part and parcel of the "agreements" that Agatha makes with her clients. In return for her services, they have to do whatever she tells them, up to and including murder.
  • In the Hood: The mysterious figure who gives Henry the violin which steals his soul is concealed by a hooded jacket.
  • Lady of Black Magic: Agatha, who offers "magic services" which explicitly include black magic.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: At the start of the bonus chapter, all three detectives have almost completely forgotten the details of the main game's case, and are struggling to understand why. It's because there was a minor error in the ritual which removed Agatha's powers; they were absorbed by the violin, which then turned on the detectives to try to rob them of their memories.
  • Malevolent Masked Man: A pair of these capture Anna while she's on her investigation into one of the murders, locking her in a closet where a stone inscribed with a rune manages to undo the ritual which restored her youth.
  • No Indoor Voice: Professor Rodgers, an acquaintance of Agent Brown's who helps the team in the bonus chapter, is rather loudly enthusiastic about almost everything.
  • Precious Photo: During her investigation of the first murder scene, Anna finds a picture of a group, including Henry and Matilda, inscribed with the words "Friends and partners forever!" The other men in the photo are the ones who sent Henry the cursed violin.
  • Seers: Although neither is normally given to such things, both James and Anna are struck by chilling psychic visions in the early part of the game.
  • Significant Green-Eyed Redhead: Agatha, who is this game's Big Bad.
  • String Theory: When Agent Brown investigates the site of the second murder, he finds one of these and fiddles with the points for a moment. What he deduces from it enables him to figure out who the next probable murder victim is, and send James to prevent it.
  • Tranquil Fury: After James cures Anna of her advanced aging, Brown displays something like this once both of his partners are safe, because he tends to take it very personally when they're in danger.
  • Unbroken Vigil: After Anna is rescued and the three partners compare notes, Brown directs James to stay at the weakened Anna's bedside while he continues the investigation.
  • The Unreveal: The main game doesn't make it entirely clear exactly why Henry's friends thought it was necessary to deprive him of his soul. However, examining the clues plus seeing the way the game ends does suggest that Henry's friends, who were all millionaires, were also business partners of some kind and Henry had information about their unscrupulous practices, so they may have sought to eliminate him before he could go to the police.
  • Voice with an Internet Connection: Agent Shade is still Mission Control in this installment, but unlike the previous games, she's never shown as being in the same room with any of the three detectives. They only speak to her on the phone, either on a traditional landline or video chatting on a more high-tech device.
  • With Friends Like These... Who Needs Enemies?: The ones responsible for Henry's predicament turn out to be some of his own closest friends.
  • You Will Be Spared: Of the "I'll kill you last" variant. In the bonus chapter, the Agatha-possessed Growley tells the detectives that she's going to kill them. "And James, I'll save you for last." (Since James is the one who actively killed her, she wants to make sure his torture is extensive, including watching his friends die.)

Top