Get to ghostly work in Murdered: Soul Suspect

You might not have ever guessed it considering I’ve never really said a word about it, but Murdered: Soul Suspect is a game I’ve been genuinely curious about since its release. Which, um, was way back in 2014. Y’know, when cars began to fly, entire meals were in a pill, and aliens visited us peacefully to share all the knowledge of every galaxy ever. I remember it well. It’s got all the trappings that I often enjoy in my digital entertainment–ghosts, a murder mystery, lots of collectibles, an emphasis on exploration and not combat, and playing detective. It’s kind of like the Blackwell series of point-and-click adventure games on a bigger budget.

Murdered: Soul Suspect is all about once-criminal, now-cop Ronan O’Connor, who is killed off immediately at the start of the game–major spoiler alert!–as he hunts down the elusive serial killer known as “The Bell Killer”. The game takes place in a fictionalized version of the American town Salem, which is famous for its seaport and burning witches. Anyways, for some reason, Ronan returns as a ghost. His long-dead wife, Julia, also in spirit form, says that the only way he can join her on the other side is by solving the Bell Killer mystery. Sure, sweetie. Will do. I mean, that’s what I was trying to do before I died so I might as well keep on keeping on. Also, I might want to see what is up with that creepy ghost girl.

The gameplay in Murdered: Soul Suspect is both simple and linear though there is some room to explore at your leisure, but that’s only if you want to find all the collectibles, which I totally did. You navigate ghost Ronan around town, and since he is physically body-less, you can pass through walls and other solid objects, so long as they aren’t blessed. There’s also some contrived reasons that Ronan can’t enter buildings with doors that are closed, but I don’t remember the exact phrasing. Your search to unravel the Bell Killer mystery will take you to a church, an apartment building, a graveyard, a mental hospital, and so on. More or less, you walk around an environment, looking for clearly identified clues, and Ronan has some ghostly abilities up his see-through sleeve to help in this endeavor, such as teleportation and possession. Each area has a specific number of clues to collect to progress through the level and the story, and they are found and put together in a way similar to L.A. Noire‘s investigation sequences, except you are not trying to catch people in a lie or hopping to and fro various locations.

The story is entertaining enough, but fairly straightforward, and that’s including the twists, which are not difficult to see coming. Ronan befriends a young, troubled girl called Joy, who is a medium and able to interact with ghosts, and she is, without a doubt, the best part of all of Murdered: Soul Suspect. Eventually, you’ll learn about why the Bell Killer is targeting his victims and how Salem’s history fits into everything. Much like an episode of Criminal Minds or Law & Order, the game steers you towards a specific person as your suspect right until the very end.

There’s been some talk recently about playing detective in games and what ways work and what ways don’t. For sure, Murdered: Soul Suspect does not work, but I’m not mad about it. I didn’t come to it for that one aspect. Still, honestly, the game constantly felt worried that I wouldn’t get the answer right, which occasionally lead to me overthinking things. Take for instance one of the earlier optional “Unfinished Business” cases in which Ronan helps a young female ghost figure out how she was killed and what happened to her body. I scoured the apartment of a cranky old couple until I found all the clues I could, but two of the clues needed to be drawn directly from the old man and woman, respectively, and to do that, you needed to select a clue you already found to influence their train of thought. I assumed the “gardening tools” or “newspaper clipping” would have sufficed, but all both needed was the initial inquiry about a missing girl that started this whole thing off. It felt strange and wrong and that all my years of watching police procedures was for naught.

Some other quibbles because I’m me. First, while I can’t resist picking up every single collectible shining on the ground, I do wish many of the item’s descriptions had voice-over work so that I could continue to explore my surroundings while learning about what I picked up. Instead, you have to read a small, somewhat uninteresting paragraph of text for each one, and I eventually stopped doing this altogether. Second, the game gives you a lot of tools, but not the freedom to do much with them, such as using poltergeist to affect tangible objects, but only when needed to distract a guard in one specific sequence. You can also possess a cat, but only when possessing a cat is vital to getting somewhere high up. Lastly, I too suffered from the “Investigate the War Room” bug, which stayed as my current objective until the end of the game, but thankfully I was able to remember where to go next as I basically played through Murdered: Soul Suspect in a few multi-hour bursts and it’s not too difficult to figure out where to go next.

I enjoyed Murdered: Soul Suspect quite a bunch even though it is far from perfect, but it does sadden me to know that Airtight Games is no more and so a sequel, a chance to improve on the lackluster detective work or zero-fun combat scenarios with demons. The only other game from Airtight Games that I’ve played is Quantum Conundrum, though I walked away from it once the puzzles became too complicated. Oh well. Not everything can be as easy as a ghost going into someone’s body, peeking at their computer screen, and then manipulating their thoughts based on this information to have them do exactly what you want to move the case forward.

Advertisements

2017 Game Review Haiku, #92 – Slime Rancher

A plorts adventure
Full of slimes, discovery
Choose between two doors

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #91 – Morphopolis

Bug transformation
Find out what each insect needs
Frustrating puzzles

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

Harvesting gelatinous poop in Slime Rancher is pretty gooreat

I’ve had my eye on Slime Rancher for some slime now. Er, I mean time. Honestly, I will try my hardest to keep the number of puns in this post to a minimum, but there’s no guarantee. I just can’t help myself. Right, I first saw it being played on one of Giant Bomb‘s Unprofessional Fridays many moons ago and thought it looked ultra cute and fun, but knowing that it was in Early Access at the time kept me from actually digging into it. With so many games in my collection that are finished and still unplayed, I prefer to wait for the completed project–well, as completed as anything can be in this digital age of ours with patches and updates and game-changing DLC–before consuming.

Okay, let’s get to it because the sun is rising, the roostros are making noise, and those rock slimes won’t feed themselves. In Slime Rancher, you play as Beatrix LeBeau who has moved a thousand light years away from Earth to the “Far, Far Ranch” to make herself rich by farming…slimes. Her main tool in this endeavor is the vacpack, a vacuum-like/jetpack device that can be used to suck up slimes/other items and eject them. On your farm, you can build pens and corrals to hold slimes and other animals, feeding them their favorite food and collecting valuable plorts from their bodies, which you then sell for a profit, so long as the market prices board shows them up for the day. Also, I think the developer recently said they aren’t poop, but they are totally slime poops.

So, here’s the cycle: you head out into the wild, collect some slimes you want to keep at home, and return to build a housing pen for them. Then you must feed them what they like, whether it be a vegetable, fruit, or meat, taking care to not mix too many different slimes together because you could create a tar slime, which has the ability to demolish your ranch swiftly and unapologetically. Collect the plorts, sell the plorts, buy upgrades to your vacpack or access to new areas, and the cycle repeats anew until you hit a wall, which is usually in the form of lack of money or specific plorts or even where to go next (hint: keys unlock doors). You can totally stay close to your farm and earn decent money by rinsing and repeating certain actions, but the pull to go deeper into the unknown is ultra strong.

Exploration is a key element to Slime Rancher‘s loop, with myself discovering just a wee bit more each time I play. Early on, you’ll come across things you can’t solve, such as numerous treasure pods, and other things that are solvable, such as gigantic slimes that won’t budge, but the solution is left to you to figure out. Which is kind of nice, in this day and age of holding hands. The Slimepedia, the in-game guide full of details about slimes, environments, and other issues, is essential for learning how to get the most out of your day and creatures. Still, navigating to and fro is somewhat tedious, though one will get access to teleporters much later in the game, and your limited amount of inventory space leads to tough calls, knowing you can’t take everything back with you. You also have the option to upgrade your health and how much your jetpack can let you soar, which will open up more previously unreachable areas.

Slime Rancher is a peaceful, calming experience at times, but one without clear direction. I know I previously praised that the game doesn’t hold your hand, but that’s different then general steering. Story bits are sprinkled throughout via e-mails and digital notes scattered out in the wild, but they are not very interesting or give you any reason to care about Beatrix, these strange folk sending her messages, or whoever the heck H is supposed to be. And that’s a shame, especially when it comes to Beatrix, because she turns out to be just a vessel for you to move around inside the game and suck up gooey monsters with and not an interesting character whatsoever, which is a big ol’ bummer, as I really dig her hair color and style. Also, when I first started playing, there was no map, which made exploration far away from your home base somewhat tough, but that has since been added in via a free update, with more changes and features still to come.

At this point, I’ve done a number of milestone thingies, but still don’t feel close at all to calling Slime Rancher complete. For instance, I’ve unlocked the science laboratory area, which really expands your options when it comes to choosing where you put slime plorts and crafting materials and how you spend your resources. Basically, you can purchase item blueprints for machinery or cosmetic dressings for your farm, and then collect the required materials needed for each item to construct it. This is also where you gain access to teleporters. So, the decisions now come down to whether I want money or fun gizmos that can get me rarer ingredients, which is always a tough call. Personally, I just want to fill my farm with tabby slimes and have them bounce around and bomp me on nose repeatedly. I’ve also opened some cryptically locked doors…but to what end, I know not.

I’d write more, but all of my quantum slimes just teleported out of their corral and are quickly making their way to my massive collection of stony hens, eyes wide and hungry. Gotta go!

2017 Game Review Haiku, #90 – Murdered: Soul Suspect

Solve your own murder
Salem is brimming with ghosts
Collectibles too

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #89 – Haven: The Small World, “Episode 1”

Oxygen is low
Reduce the population
Survive through edits

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

Some collectibles are better than others, but these stink

worst collectibles to collect rain gd post

There’s no shame in saying it, but I like collecting things. Both in real life and via my digital, interactive entertainment. That’s not to say I’m a hoarder, but if you give me a list of items existing somewhere out there, I’m most certainly going to try my darnedest to find them all and happily cross each one off. This most likely stems back to my younger days, on family vacations in Avalon, NJ. Besides playing a lot of Yahtzee by the swimming pool, I signed up for every scavenger hunt offered by our hotel that I could, and these often involved finding innocuous items like a specific type of seashell, a pair of sunglasses, and so on. I have fond if fuzzy memories of running around the hotel grounds like a maniac, looking for things and screaming with joy when they were found.

That said, as a player of videogames, sometimes finding items is not fun. Yeah, I know. What a hot take. Personally, I don’t need to be told specifically where each collectible is on the map, like in later Assassin’s Creed titles where you can just purchase these waypoint symbols from a shop. I prefer discovering them myself, but I also like knowing, generally, how many are in an area or which ones I’ve already found. Some record-keeping is vital, that way I don’t need to take mental notes as I pick up each shimmery doodad. The fear of leaving an area for good and suspecting I missed something is enough to lock my feet in the dirt.

Also, while not required, I greatly enjoy when the collectibles contain something else to them other than being a thing you gnab, such as some bit of additional in-game lore. Like in Tomb Raider and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, you find a thing, say a rusty knife, and that’s a collectible for sure, but you also have to interact with it and discover a hidden symbol to bring out story details. The collectible becomes more than just an object to pocket. Heck, at least collecting all those miscellaneous gizmos in Tom Clancy’s The Division got me some sweet, colorful outfits.

Because of recent actions, I’ve decided to put my brain to the task of coming up with a bunch of collectibles that absolutely stink. These are either not fun to find, do nothing for the player in the end, or maybe cover both of these issues. Regardless, boo to them, and boo to me for attempting to collect (some of) ’em. It’s a skill in others that I greatly admire, the ability to walk by these shiny sprites and polygons and not even care. Teach me how.

Gears of War – COG tags

COG tags are a mainstay of the Gears of War series, but they only become easier to track and find starting in Gears of War 2, which introduced the war journal, a sort of in-game notebook for keeping tabs on a number of things. However, for the first Gears of War, all you get is an X out of Y line when you pause the game. That’s it. I beat the game back at the end of 2013, with something like one-third of the COG tags found.

Recently, I glanced at the Achievements list to see if there was anything I could potentially pop before deleting the game from my Xbox One for forever and saw that two were related to finding the rest of the hidden thingamajigs. Alas, I basically had to follow a video guide to find each one, level by level, because I had no memory of the ones I had already picked up. Also, barely nothing happens when you bend down to grab these COG tags save for a less-than-impression sound cue. Obviously, this was early on in both the franchise and console generation, and figuring out how to implement collectibles was still in a nascent stage.

L.A. Noire – golden film reels

I’d have to go back and confirm this, but for some reason I feel really strongly that I only ever came across one of these 50 gold film canisters scattered about L.A. Noire‘s sprawling Los Angeles. They all contain names of films from the 1940s and 1950s. That’s cool. However, the problem is that they are extremely well-hidden. Maybe too well. In my search for hopping into the driver’s seat of every car in the game, 95 in total, another stinker of a collectible of sorts, I thought I explored a good chunk of the map. I guess not. I have no idea if finding all 50 golden film reels does anything for Cole Phelps and his ultimate destiny. It’d be cool if you could take these reels back to the police station and watch a few scenes during your coffee breaks, but I’m sure the licensing around something like that would be nightmarish.

Rain – lost memories

This blog post’s origins began with Rain, a game I completed on the first day of 2016. The collectibles in Rain are in the form of lost memories that the player can find to learn more about the young boy’s past. That’s fine and dandy, and there are 24 in total to collect, but here’s the sick kicker–these only are available to find after beating the game. Also, these only appear once you are in the exact location, which means you can’t spy them off from a distance; you have to know exactly where they are to start.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I burned my lunch hour to collect them all of them in a single go, following an online guide and abusing the checkpoint system so that I did not, in fact, have to play through the entire game again. Sorry, Rain–you have some great things going for you, but you are not that amazing or varied of an experience to go through again simply to now be able to collect floating orbs that give you the slimmest of slim story details to a story fairly slim on details to begin with. Ugh.

LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga – Blue Minikits

Speaking of ugh, LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga. Here’s the thing. I’m totally and 100% completely used to collecting a number of things in all the LEGO videogames, from red bricks to gold bricks to characters to studs and so on. That’s just part of the flow, of going through levels and seeing what you can’t grab just yet, returning with the right characters/powers to pave the way. It’s been like this since day one. However, recently, Melanie and I worked our way through LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga, and it truly was like going back in time.

As part of our climb to hit 100% completion, we had to find 10 blue minikits in every single level. Sounds tedious, but not tough. Except it is because there is a time limit, and sometimes missing one blue minikit means replaying the whole thing over. You are also not able to use any cheats, which means having to deal with enemies while frantically scouring the scene for blue minikits. Most are hidden somewhat in the open, and others are dastardly wedged behind objects in the environment. The hardest level, without a doubt, was “Speeder Showdown,” where you kind of need luck on your side to progress swiftly and the extra five minutes was not enough. Took us multiple attempts, but the job is done, and, as far as I know, this type of gameplay hasn’t shown up in other LEGO titles.

The Last of Us – All of Them

Amazingly, there are four types of collectibles to hoard in The Last of Us. Specifically, 30 Firefly pendants, 14 comic books, 85 artifacts, and 12 training manuals that improve your crafting skills and such. I’m pretty sure only the last set has any impact on gameplay, and the remainder are just things for Joel to bend down, pick up, and pocket away for no other reason than to give you something to do in-between moving from a safe space to an area full of Cordyceps-inspired monsters. A few help flavor the world, for sure.

Okay, I just loaded up the game–evidently, I found 95 of 141 as of when I last played, which is way more than I initially assumed. Not sure why it felt so low in my mind, but maybe I was thinking of Trophies, which the game is stingy with. Oh well. Either way, these are pretty obscurely hidden throughout the game, and the artist in me really wanted to be able to open the comic books and read a few pages instead of just staring at the covers.

I know for a fact there are many more that I’m not touching on, like the flags from the original Assassin’s Creed, score pieces from Eternal Sonata, and kissing 50 women from The Saboteur.

That said, I’d like to know what collectibles gave you the most grief. Join the conversation below in the comments.