I'll admit that the first missions are a bit simple and long-winded. The very first mission you must complete is a seemingly endless round of musical guests, where you lead Mata Hari from government official, to reporter, to spy recruiter, to the waiter in an attempt to curry enough favor amongst those in the room to convince an eminent talent agent to represent you. It's assuredly a mechanic to allow casual gamers to get the feel of the controls, but to the more experienced crowd it may become monotonous.
Every time Mata Hari interacts with another person, there is a cutscene. It certainly helps to draw the player into the scene, but it can get a bit stale when your sixth interaction with the embassy guard elicits the same, unvaried response of "Invitation, please" any time you want to snoop around (though I guess that's just realistic. What embassy guard worth their chops would let a person in repeatedly and without explanation? Hm...being a spy is hard). Clicking anywhere on the screen allows you to skip the small talk, though there's a chance that doing so will cause you to miss hints and clues hidden in the conversation. I only clicked past the repetitious conversations; all others I listened to with rapt attention. The voice acting is so realistic that you feel like you're having an actual conversation with the characters. Each character has a believable demeanor, distinctive manners of speaking and an emotive cadence.
Oh, and there's sex in the game. No, there's not a "use sex as a weapon" button, nor is there a sex mini-game where you must hit buttons in the right combination a la God of War. There are, however, cutscenes which show Mata Hari and her latest suitor/victim in bed, presumably after a wild night of fornication. These scenes typically segue into an opportunity for you to search the unwitting suspect's home and dig up any goodies that you can. This presents even more challenging ways of combining items since, let's be honest, if a lady ran off with your only copy of "Giant-Frickin'-Cannon" schematics, you're going to track her down with vigor, hottie or not.
Historically, the real Mata Hari was accused of espionage and was executed by the French military. The player has the chance to avoid this horrific fate, but it rests entirely on making the right connections and avoiding detection. I also hear that there's a love interest and a subsequent betrayal, which is the exact kind of soap-opera plot I can really sink my teeth into.
Bottom Line: Mata Hari is a perfect example of a point and click adventure game done right. As you progress through the game, it becomes more and more clear that Mata Hari's life is in your hands. What you choose to do with it is up to you.
Recommendation: Buy it. It's a great way to while away a lazy afternoon. Don't forget the martini - shaken, not stirred.
Lauren Admire kept thinking of Clone High whenever she saw Marie Curie.