Murder Mystery Machine has some great ideas, making use of point n click adventure ideas and mixing it up with a detective game. This brings you to the big core gameplay element of the game – its deduction boards. With so much hanging off of one gameplay mechanic – does this work well enough to tempt you in? If I’m honest, its a mixed bag.
Across 8 episodes (the game was originally released episodically on Apple Arcade), you’ll be playing as one half of a detective duo solving local murders in an ever escalating crime and deceit ring. Each episode involves 5 or 6 separate scenes which are a single square location you can rotate around to spot people to talk to or evidence to collect. This follows most point n click adventures but the idea here is to click on everything you can and ask every question. You can’t really go wrong, which lessens the challenge somewhat but means you can enjoy the story more than the challenge.
Where the challenge does come into play is using your deduction board. Every topic and evidence piece will be added to your board for you to draw lines between. This then sparks new dialogue choices or lets you confirm the who, what, when, where or why you are trying to uncover for the scene. Murder Mystery Machine is strange because often you know what the actual end goal is but you have to connect the dots, spot inconsistencies or relationships between things on the deduction board to trigger the game to let you confirm things. You can arrange the board around a bit to help you organise things into clusters which is helpful. It seems strange that the PS4 version doesn’t use the touchpad as a control option though as its clearly designed for touchscreen controls.
My main criticism of Murder Mystery Machine isn’t so much the bland graphics and the jarring silence of most of the game, its the logic by which some things are connected. When you pick things up, it adds info to your board but some of the context around this is tricky to decipher. You might have two things on the board mentioning similar things and only one is deemed correct to trigger the story progression. As a result, the game forces you to play through the logic of the puzzle designer and its as much guessing what version of things they want you to correctly align rather than aligning things that prove a theory. In some boards linking the murder weapon to its origins works, others it doesn’t care. Some boards want you to join up characters who know each other in the context of that scene, sometimes not. It just feels a bit inconsistent.
All that criticism to one side, the deduction board mechanic is good fun and I hope the developers work with it to make it more dynamic and flexible. Solving a case without hints is rewarding. The overall story isn’t too bad albeit quite predictable, but it gives you a few twists and turns on its way. I feel like this will be a good buy for really dedicated adventure point n clickers or those that enjoy a good mystery that’s not too tricky to solve. You’ve got a good 5-8 hours of content here if you don’t cheat with hint spamming. Hopefully this will grow into a more beautiful and engrossing series over time. As it stands, its a bit flawed but has a unique feel that I’ve not really come across since perhaps Knee Deep – just without choices.
Review copy provided by publisher.
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