Tag Archives: murder mystery

In 2000:1: A Space Felony, no one can hear you detective

Until February 2, the Humble Monthly Trove is giving out a couple of free gems, some of which are Humble Originals, meaning they were created solely for the program. Neat-o. You can grab the following DRM-free named games, and I do suggest you jump on it before you forget or our country is vaporized in the forthcoming nuclear winter-war, as well as consider subscribing if you end up liking these types of smaller, hand-crafted experiences:

  • 2000:1: A Space Felony
  • Hitchhiker
  • Cat Girl Without Salad
  • Uurnog
  • THOR.N
  • Crescent Bay

That’s six free games, and all you have to do is click a button or two. Naturally, I grabbed all of them lickety fast, and I even played through and beat one already–2000:1: A Space Felony. Now, before I dig into details of the game, I need to do as I always do and come clean about a piece of pop culture that I have shockingly never seen. Yup, my blue eyes have still never gazed upon Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey or read Arthur C. Clarke’s short story “The Sentinel” that inspired it. Nor have I read the full novel written concurrently with Kubrick’s film. Or 2010: Odyssey Two. Or 2061: Odyssey Three and 3001: The Final Odyssey. Phew. That said, because it’s hard to live life these days and not have these mega-popular behemoths seep into every single thing we see and consume, I somewhat get the main gist: an artificial intelligence goes rogue.

2000:1: A Space Felony takes place on the USS Endowment, an interplanetary spacecraft, which has unfortunately lost communication with Earth. Using your flashy camera skills and natural detective intuition, you must explore this damaged space, document your findings, and figure out what went down during the crew’s final hours alive. You basically do this by taking photos of key areas, people, and items, and then you confront MAL, the ship’s on-board AI system, about what happened, countering its talking points with confidence based on what you already know. Cross-examination in zero G should most definitely be the theme for the next season of Law & Order. Naturally, going into this, given what it is based off and just the fact that the melting pot-universe of books, movies, and videogames over the last several decades has been inundated with stories of corrupt AIs–hello, supercomputer AM from Harlan Ellison’s “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream”, AMEE from Red Planet, and GLaDOS from Portal, just to name a few–you know that MAL is up to no good. The fun is proving it wrong and then deactivating it.

2000:1: A Space Felony‘s look is *chef’s kiss* top-notch. The colors are bright, punchy, magically brought to life through surprisingly simple geometry. It’s not going to win any realism awards, but I lean more often towards games with a unique take on life as we know it. The USS Endowment is not a huge station to explore, a small fraction when compared to Prey, but the spaces are easy to recognize and do come across as lived in. Moving around in no gravity is not complicated, using the WASD keys to thrust in any direction, and there’s even one spinning section that you can land on the floor and walk around in a more traditional sense, which makes the detective work a bit easier. I will forever be intrigued by the design of spaceships, space stations, and so on, and even one as small as this is a joy to explore, both inside and out, eventually feeling homely. Also, MAL’s main room is gorgeous, like the inside of a trippy golf ball or an even more fantastical take on Spaceship Earth.

I found the game’s narration to be especially strong, with ground control more or less narrating every action you take and how you present your case. Represented by a dark silhouette with white glasses and a tie, ground control is extremely straightforward when it comes to this case, with only a smidgen of humor here and there. Often, the juxtaposition between ground control and what MAL says is where Lucy Green’s writing is the most funny and captivating. MAL, voiced by Max McLaughlin, rides the line carefully between innocent, unaware AI and ice-cold, systematic murderer. Nothing really new for the genre in terms of AIs gone bad, but a good performance still. If there was a soundtrack, I don’t remember much from it other than the big, swelling orchestra right at the game’s courtroom-esque conclusion, but you do make a super pleasing donk sound when banging into a wall, and that counts for a lot.

Unfortunately, the part where you compare pieces of evidence against each other is the weakest link in 2000:1: A Space Felony. For a while there, I was missing one piece and had to do another loop of the environment, snapping shots of everything, listening to repeated lines of dialogue while growing frustrated. I also had a hard time seeing what pieces I was connecting, and I’d have personally liked for some screens to have faded out after they were no longer relevant, but that’s just me. I finished this murder-mystery in the silence of space in about an hour and change, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I wonder which next freebie I’ll try (spoiler: it’s probably Hitchhiker).

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2017 Game Review Haiku, #37 – Crime Secrets: Crimson Lily

Detective on break
Must solve murder mystery
Melt that eerie ice

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.

What an idyllic English town full of murder and timed puzzles

blue-toad-murder-files-episode-1-final-thoughts

I downloaded Blue Toad Murder Files back in January 2013, which is fortuitously when I got my PlayStation 3 and began filling it up with PlayStation Plus downloads, as well as whatever freebies I found in the online store. Nearly four years later, I launched the game to discover it is technically only the first episode of an episodic murder mystery set in a quaint if quirky British countryside with puzzles blocking your progress to fingering the culprit. There are things to like, and things to not like. Allow me to dig deeper and put my thoughts into perfectly sectioned-off paragraphs.

First, the story. Because when it comes to a murder mystery, story is key. Don’t believe me? Check out some Midsomer Murders or whatever Professor Layton is up to these days. Episode one “Little Riddle’s Deadly Dilemma” begins with the narrator explaining how you, which is one of four possible detectives, ended up on vacation. Mother, the head of The Blue Toad Agency, sent you to Little Riddle, a village described to you as peaceful and comfortable, perfect for some rest and recuperation. Shortly after arriving, you head off to the town hall to meet the Mayor and introduce yourself. Unfortunately, halfway through the conversation, the Mayor is shot dead, leaving you with no time for R&R. Alas, with only one episode to go on, the story is fairly predictable and uninteresting, following a linear path to find out who did it with no shortcuts allowed even if you know who did it long before the time comes around for the big reveal. It ends on a cliffhanger, which is fine for an episodic thing, but I’m probably only playing this first one, and so everything feels unresolved and wasted.

Over the years, I’ve played a number of foreign murder mystery games heavy on obscure puzzles and strange accents. Want me to name a few? What, and not just default to the Professor Layton series? Okay, I’ll play. There’s the recent nightmare of myself going through Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments, the lackluster caper in The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief, the better-but-not-great Detective Grimoire, and while I can’t remember exactly if anyone bites the big one in those Puzzle Agent adventures we’ll count them here because they contain the necessary attributes: colorful, kooky, and full of conundrums. I’m sure I could come up with more, but that should satisfy y’all for now. Point is, this is surprisingly familiar stomping ground.

With that said, Blue Toad Murder Files is extremely straightforward, resulting in a yawn of an adventure. There’s one point where you can start interviewing the four suspects and can do them in any order, but the end result is the same, so the illusion of choice is just that. The flow of the game is this: meet a character, listen to some upbeat, alliteration-heavy dialogue, solve a timed puzzle, move on to the next person of interest. Our cheerful and inquisitive narrator steps into the mix three times during the first episode to see if you’ve been paying attention with a number of inane questions. No, really. They remind me of the ones from Scene It? Seinfeld, where you’d watch a three- to four-minute scene and then they’d ask you how many boxes of cereal are on Jerry’s back shelf. By the way, I got the very first one wrong here asking about the color of the train (hint: it’s green).

It is both commendable that all the voicework in Blue Toad Murder Files is done by one single person, specifically Tom Dussek–but it is also exhausting. Dussek’s range is…okay, but much like all the games from MouseCity (looking directly at you, Smells Like Art), every woman’s voice sounds terribly forced, and it just becomes more of a distraction than a novelty. I understand that, for a smaller game, a cast full of different voices would probably be a bit pricey and a major effort to undertake. In this instance, I’d have prefer some Simlish and subtitles. In my head, I can make anyone’s voice sound amazing.

The actual puzzles range from deciphering a doctor’s scribbly handwriting to doing some math in relation to currency exchange to listening for audio clues, such as an old woman describing her luggage or how somebody entered a building. None are terribly difficult, but all are timed, which just ups the ante for making silly mistakes and rushing your thinking. You are rated in gold, silver, or bronze medals after each puzzle, and to get gold you must answer within a certain amount of time. You can make a mistake and try again, but this will naturally affect what medal you get. I got mostly gold medals for episode one, but did flub a question or two, settling for bronzes. A small part of me thought about replaying the game, since the questions and answers don’t change, to run through it perfectly and get those “play it perfectly” Trophies, but I stomped that thought flat surprisingly quickly. Maybe I’m beginning to outgrow my completionist tendencies (editor’s note: unlikely).

Still, as a place, Little Riddle seems neat. Cozy and full of character (not to be confused with full of characters). From the camera zooming over it and bouncing to and fro, I get the sense it is a bit like wherever the place is that Wallace and Gromit live in Wallace & Gromit’s Grand Adventures. I’m sure it has a name, but I can’t seem to recall it. Anyways, in that one, you moved from hotspot to hotspot, like Wallace’s home to the local market, waving and wondering at the range of charming people you’d pass by along the way. I do wish I could have taken a stroll through Blue Toad Murder Files‘s Little Riddle, to at least appreciate the green hills, blue skies, and thatched cottages as I moved from one murder suspect’s home to another. Shame, as I won’t be returning for a long while.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #79 – Blue Toad Murder Files, Episode 1 “Little Riddle’s Deadly Dilemma”

2016-gd-games-completed-blue-toad-murder-files-episode-1

Little Riddle, home
To a murder, mystery
Solve puzzles, not crime

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.