There is nothing better than a good murder mystery: the perfect combination of a haunting Stephan King novel, and the intrigue of one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes adventures. Unfortunately, EnsenaSoft's attempt to replicate the claustrophobic atmosphere of Big Fish's Mystery Legends series is more mediocre than mysterious.
Dark. Gloomy. The air, thick with mysterious intrigue. This is what Murder Mystery Adventure should be. But isn't. The first step to a successful murder mystery is a body. Murder Mystery Adventure, however, seems to think this crucial element irrelevant as it throws you head-first into a mansion filled with stereotypical suspects and run-of-the-mill puzzles to solve. You begin the game, told only that there has been a murder, and that you are the only one who can catch the villain before he or she strikes again. Thing is, where the hell am I? More importantly, who the hell am I? Am I just a random interloper who stumbled across some formal gathering? Am I a detective? Am I just a nosy passer-by who happened to hear a blood-curdling scream while crossing the street? EnsenaSoft does not allow you the chance to know your character in this plot – you are as mysterious as the circumstances you have found yourself in.
Murder Mystery Adventure is available for purchase on Steam for $7.99.
The rationale behind the game's premise is the stock-standard for any murder mystery: there has been a murder, and you must solve it. There are various rooms and hidden locations in which you find various characters (with amusingly clichéd names) and search for the truth with the help of your notebook.
The characters you find as you explore the mansion give you alibis for their whereabouts at the time of the murder, and it is clear after meeting a few of the suspects, that somebody is lying about who they were with. It is up to you to find out who the liar is, and in typical murder mystery-style, there will be many lies, twists, and turns that incriminate or vindicate the people you meet.
You will also be looking for certain objects, such as keys, a stethoscope (to open a safe, no less), and possible murder weapons.
The rules are almost identical to those of the popular murder mystery board game, Clue: once you are sure of your murderer, you need to call up the local police using a phone that you need to repair before it can be used with, 1) the murderer, 2) the murder weapon, and 3) the room in which the murder took place. Should you get any of the above wrong, the game will be over and you will need to start from the very beginning.
It sounds great, right? Well, theoretically, it would be. Thing is, we've all seen this before. What's more, we've seen it done better. Big Fish's Mystery Case Files games are short, sweet, and subtle in their simplicity. Murder Mystery Adventure tries far too hard to be creepy and intriguing, that it feels forced, and the characters are superficial and lack any freshness in a genre that has been done to death (mind the pun…). I will admit, however, that I did jump in my seat a few times, mostly due to sudden bursts of noise, and one or twice I was truly creeped out. The twisted jack-in-the-box really frightened me… but again, this is nothing we have not seen before: a gloomy, mysterious mansion hiding various disturbing perversions of children's toys is practically a prerequisite.
Hilariously, the game seems to realise its own inspiration by making the dead guy and owner of the mansion none other than one, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (the creator of the Sherlock Holmes series and father of mystery novels).
Don't let the "hidden objects" genre tag fool you: the only objects that are hidden are the murder weapons, and they are almost unperceivable among the décor. The game relies mostly on walking up and down the mansion while solving the occasional puzzle. I am a veteran puzzle-solver, and even I found a few of the tasks quite difficult.
There is also a very frustrating card game that you need to win 3 times – before your opponent can do the same – in order to win lock-picks to open doors you cannot find keys for. The game itself took me quite some time to figure out, as there were no instructions and I'm not one for card games. The object of the game is to get the highest score while picking out cards from the deck. Should you pick up a suit that is already in your hand, you lose the entire hand and all the points that go with it. The game is based solely on luck, and the only skill involved is guessing when to stop taking cards from the deck, so as to avoid losing your hand. It is frustrating, to say the least, and requires a lot of time and a lot of luck on your side.
Obviously, as a PC game, you will require a mouse and keyboard, and also relatively loud speakers, as there are some puzzles that rely on sound, such as cracking the safe based on how loud the 'clicks' are. Traversing through the mansion requires either using your mouse or your directional keys to look around a room. You need to click on suspects and objects to take a closer look at them. All in all, the controls are simple, and therefore they are quite smooth and easy to master.
Graphics and Sound
Rather comically, the title page holds permanent credits, and thanks various people for the 3D morphing of characters, as well as crediting one individual for "mysterious music".
The artistic design of the mansion really is very well done. If you are a fan of art, you will be entranced by every masterpiece you can imagine, from Botticelli to van Gogh, hanging on every wall of the mansion. The characters are blocky, but the 2D rendering of the mansion itself is very detailed.
As for the sound, the guy who got credited for the "mysterious music" certainly did know what he was doing, as the music is mysterious and rather disquieting, however, it become very tiring, as it is played on a constant loop. Different rooms have different music playing in them, which is rather refreshing. Sound plays a rather important role in some cases, as the 'scary' bits, such as the aforementioned jack-in-the-box, relies on loud speakers to ensure a scare. The problem is, with the annoyingly looped music, one may be temped to turn their speakers off, which results in less of a scare. Also, some puzzles, such as the safe cracking and rewiring of the telephone, require loud speakers as the sound is slightly drowned by music.
Well, you've followed the clues this far, so I assume you would like my candid opinion. To sum up, the graphics is good in places, and the sound can really attribute to a mysterious atmosphere, as long as you don't stay in one room for too long. The controls are easy and smooth, but my, is the story dull. There is no motivation for your actions, never once do you feel any connection to the characters or events, and the game resets itself after every guess, meaning that it is no more than a computer-generated rendition of Clue, but without the fun of friends playing the game alongside you.
This genre of games is convoluted. There are more than a handful of possibilities, should you be in the mood to play the suspicious sleuth. Should such a mood overtake you, and your desire to solve crimes is in need of immediate satisfaction, I would recommend one of the Mystery Legends or Mystery Case Files games to this very bland attempt to replicate the greatest of murder mystery plots. However, it is not terrible, only average. If you simply want to fill an afternoon with some simple sleuthing, then go ahead and play Murder Mystery Adventure, but do not expect it to keep you busy for long.