Act of Murder is interactive fiction in the style of an Agatha Christie murder mystery: an old manor in the countryside, five suspects and a dead body. You're charged with sorting out this whodunit in two hours or else face the displeasure of the Chief Inspector. Christopher Huang has added an additional layer of mystery to the game by randomizing the "who" in whodunit when the game initializes--the motives, clues and even the interactive hint system all switch to correspond with the randomly chosen culprit. This is a nice touch, and while I suppose it's intended to address replayability, I can't say I was in fact tempted to replay it. But that's not to say that this isn't a very good game; it certainly is. The writing is spare, but universally excellent and there are almost no typographical errors. The descriptions are not so filled with red herrings so that you go off chasing the wrong ideas, but do include just a few irrelevancies to turn you about here and there. The simple deduction puzzle that is at the heart of this game won't overly frustrate one, but still keeps one engaged. Technically speaking, the use of an inspector's notebook is helpful and clever and dispenses with the need for paper notes, but the notebook can inadvertently reveal the names of some objects that one has not yet unveiled through natural game play. Oddly, deducing the killer may not be the hardest part of the game--or at least it wasn't for me. The harder part was laying out the case before the Chief Inspector when he arrives. I don't think it is a spoiler to note here that if one fails to provide him with all of the evidence uncovered, the guilty party may escape prosecution on a not guilty verdict (which is so unsatisfying!). In other words, the prosecution of the case rests entirely on the evidence you relate to the Inspector at the end, so take care there.
The premise of the game is that you have ignored a mandatory evacuation of your home town in order to remain behind and find a woman important to your past. Why she's important and why the town was evacuated are matters one is left to discover by collecting recollections strewn across a rather large map of the town. The game hits just the right tone of mystery in serving up descriptions of the deserted town and the memories that each location prompts. Technically, the game is just excellently crafted, and this was perhaps its strongest selling point for me in the end. Although there are a number of methods the designer employs to keep one from wandering aimlessly, none of these are so obvious that it overly interferes with one's immersion in the game. The story, however, suffers from a minor flaw: perhaps because the designer was unsure how many locations a player would investigate in the course of the game, he left a number of clues as to a certain character's personality that tend to pile up in a suspension-of-disbelief-crushing way if one investigates too thoroughly. That issue aside, this game fully kept my attention for the somewhat more than two hours that I played it.