Courtroom dramas have always been a rare genre for gaming, even more so when you are playing the guilty party, and it's understandable why. Aside from the legal banter that feels often times superfluous, it is a cold and cerebral look at some of the worst parts of human nature. However, as history would often show, those are exactly the stories we are most enamored by; trying to comprehend the incomprehensible. Indie developer The Moonwalls takes on the challenge with their Paris-based first person drama Bohemian Killing.
Bohemian Killing is available on Amazon for 12.99!
The crime drama genre is one of the most popular, especially on TV. There is something about stories of the worst atrocities humans can commit that brings us in. However, the genre has generally had trouble finding its footing in the market of gaming. While there have been successes like the Ace Attorney franchise, many have had trouble finding where to draw the line between exciting drama and boring legal monotony. Bohemian Killing not only takes the challenge of the genre but add a twist: it makes you the killer.
Set in 1894 Paris you are put into the mind of murderer and inventor Alfred Ethon as he is put on trial for a murder he, or rather you, did in fact commit. You see the game kicks off with you very much intentionally committing the crime of murdering a young woman in a rented apartment. From that point, you are thrown into the court room where you learn of the charges made against you and your testimony begins. From that point, the story is entirely up to you and the decisions you make as you recreate the events of the fateful night to help your case across nine possible endings. The game's story is an interesting and deeply engrossing one as you will have to keep in mind the fact you are not experiencing true history but re-writing it. This counter-truth narrative is well implemented as it requires you to not only think of what is true but what can be made otherwise. The endings you can find throughout Bohemian Killing are varied ranging from escaping from prison, to faking insanity, to simply failing and being executed. This range of endings and the rather interesting twist of perspective, being the criminal instead of the falsely accused, make for a story that will have you hooked from beginning to end.
Bohemian Killing is, simply put, a first-person walking simulator. You move around the setting of which the crime occurred interacting with people and things in the area. However, it is the purpose of which you do those things that matter. The core gameplay of Bohemian Killing is about essentially re-writing history to fit your case. Once you are set to give your testimony you have access to the timeline of events and the evidence from both the prosecution and your defense. From that point forward it is up to you to figure out how to get away with murder.
Across the game, you will do your best to find your way out of your predicament however that may be. Maybe you look to convince the judge by negating all the evidence against you. How do you explain why you were spotted covered in blood, and why were you developing a torture device? Sequences that are considered very important to your case add a helpful moment where you will speak to the judge to explain them. This is only one of the many plans you can try to implement across your defense. Maybe you wait till you're in prison to attempt an escape? Maybe you simply try to look insane by developing a story so preposterous and incoherent you couldn't possibly be in your right mind. The choice truly is yours as you work against the system.
If you want to challenge yourself you may even choose to go without a lawyer to support you in your case which may hinder or help you whatever your plan of getting out of trouble may be. The variety found within the game and the importance of choice are all welcome and add to the challenge of the game. Your entire defense may sink or swim based on one piece of evidence you found or simply missed. Whether it be why you were bleeding, or where you were at a specific time make for a challenging and thought provoking experience. There truly is a mathematical element to the game as you test whether having an item or trying to go against the timeline may affect the verdict, all trying to find the right equation. The only real complaint to be made is that the map is rather small (being contained to mostly a street and two buildings) and that each playthrough is rather short once you really start to get into a flow with the
game and its evidence.
On the nitty gritty technical side of things, it's a little hit and miss. While the basic functions of the game work well enough there are a few technical issues that are persistent. Things like the sheer amount of load screen you will have to deal with in the game especially if you try to really mess with the timeline or are simply looking to explore. It doesn't help either that the load screen wait times are inconsistent, with some lasting only a few second while some have lasted entire minutes. Other than that it is not too uncommon for your character to begin drifting even if you aren't moving pressing the buttons to do so. There are also a few issues with environment interaction and invisible walls. However, other than the loading screens, these are rarely an issue and the experience is usually smooth.
Art And Music
The great theologian Brett Michaels once sang "Every Rose Has It's Thorn" and this still rings as true as it did back in 1988. The thorn that sticks in the rose Bohemian Killing is, unfortunately, is its artistic side. Favoring a more cartoonish art style it fails to stand out when you really begin to look closely at the seems. Character models are lifeless ( and not just the dead ones) and seem to move in a very rigid and unnatural manner. The few major character animations you'll see are awkward and cartoonish often doing more damage than good. Environments, while interesting at first, are often made with very clearly copy and pasted resources making the game's already small feeling even more noticeable. This is compounded by the fact that anything that is not in your intended vicinity is rather poorly rendered and stands out as so.
One of the clearest examples of the lack of attention to detail is the fact the crows that scatter across the main street drop WHITE feathers. This isn't to say the game is ugly by any means because luckily it is something you only notice when you look closely, and there are a few notable things within the game that are quite beautiful. Light in the game is done extremely well and really helps set the mood for each location. Also, places like the hotel lobby, the prison, and your apartment are noticeably more detailed than anywhere else in the game.
From a sound perspective it, unfortunately, doesn't get much better. While the music is very fitting at first, by the time you've heard it the tenth time it becomes quite the annoyance. Which is unfortunate given the quality of the music in the game, if it had been used more sparingly it would have been much better and much more enjoyable. However, the biggest problem within the game is, unfortunately, its voice acting. The dialogue in the game is either flat or mostly unbelievable. Your character rarely sounds convincing, and often more incriminating than not. The other major voice throughout the game is the judge who often sounds like he is on the verge of sleep every time he speaks. These issues both damage the tone and feeling of the game as it makes it feel more comical than intense. It's made worse by the accents in the game which either were poor English attempts to sound French or were poor French attempts to sound English. Words often slur and become hard to understand or they simply sound unnatural and choked out.
It would seem as if the game would have done better to go for full french dialogue with an accurate translation. What compounds these issues, even more, is the repetitive dialogue found throughout the game. You will likely hear lines about opening doors and the use of elevators more times than you will hear actually important lines in the game. It becomes somewhat annoying by the fifteenth time you've heard your character say "I opened the door." These shortfallings are extremely unfortunate as they undercut the well-written story and style found in the rest of the game.
Bohemian Killing is a game that succeeds where it needs to to be good, but not where it should be to be truly great. With an excellently written story with multiple winding story paths full of choice, alongside its twist on the genre, it succeeds in enveloping you in the twisted twisting narrative of crime and deception. Unfortunately, its art side falls short, in a repetitive nature that the core game successfully avoids while its voice acting, unfortunately, undercuts what it's meant to support. However, at the end of the day, Bohemian Killing is a great narrative experience that will have your mind twisting and conniving as you try to plan how to get away with murder and for only 12.99 it's a deal to die (or maybe kill) for.
|+ Interesting and compelling story||– Lack of graphical detail|
|+ Well Written||– Forgettable voice acting|
|+ Choices Matter||– Repetitive lines|
|+ Replayability||– Too many loading screens|