During a book signing, the novelist Cate West is approached by the detective Ben Shepard who carries a photograph. As he lets it fall, Cate picks it up and has a vision while holding it. The vision is somewhat connected to a crime committed in Arcadia city, and that's when the police seeks Cate to help them solve a series of crimes dubbed The Vanishing Files. What Cate doesn't know yet is that those crimes are connected to her father's murder, which happened 17 years ago, and also to the Biblical legend of the 3 Magi.
Cate West: The Vanishing Files is an adventure game heavily focused on puzzle solving. The gameplay consists in five steps:
Finding Clues: from a list of objects, the player has to find a certain number of them for each case in the crime scenes available.
Finding Evidence: each evidence is broken into several pieces and scattered in a crime scene. A pictorial guide will help the player finding each part of the evidence at the crime scenes, while avoiding wrong clicks.
Confirming Hideout: to confirm a criminal's hideout, the player has to find differences between a photography and Cate's vision, clicking either the left or right picture to spot them.
Picking the Criminal: the player has to pick the criminal among the suspects. To do so, he has to search the evidences for more clues which will point characteristics of the criminal. With that data and the hideout, the player can exclude unlikely criminals and point the right one.
Matching the Crime Scene: once in the trial, the player has to match the courtroom testimony with the memory of the crime scene. A collection of objects will be given to the player and he has to place them on either one of the images so they can match.
The player can use hints clicking on a hint button. When the hint is used, a blue ring will show where the clue is hidden or needs to be placed. The more hints used, the less bonus points are received. Bonus points are also given for speed, i.e., finding objects in a quick sequence. Also, picking the right criminal in the first attempt will grant the player bonus points. If the player clicks too many times on incorrect spots the timer will be deducted by 30 seconds.
The game's ending is determined by the amount of points earned throughout the gameplay. Finishing the game in the lesser time, picking the criminals in the first attempt and avoiding random clicking and using hints will grant the player the best ending possible.