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Complex and puzzly one-room murder mystery, November 23, 2023
This game is an Inform murder mystery by thesleuthacademy, who has written numerous reviews for mysteries on IFDB in the last year or so. It’s nice to see a game by them!
Mysteries are one of my favorite genres of game, so I was interested to see how it plays out here. There are several standard ways to run a mystery in interactive fiction:
1-Have a standard puzzle game that happens to be about murder mystery, with solving the puzzles leading to solving the mystery. This is like Ballyhoo.
2-Modelling evidence and clues in-game, which have to be combined to form a solution. This is how Erstwhile works, and most of my mysteries.
3-Collecting evidence through puzzles and conversation and then having a quiz at the end (where you have to accuse the right person). This is how Toby’s Nose works.
4-Collecting physical evidence and showing it to someone, being able to make an arrest when you have enough evidence.
This game is a mix of 3 and 4. You have to collect enough physical evidence to proceed to a quiz, and then pass the quiz to beat the game.
The storyline is simple. A man was found alone in his room in a pool of blood with no visible wounds. You must examine this single room to discover the clues.
This game boasts a large number of beta testers, which is nice. I struggled with some of the setup, however. Many of the ‘standard responses’ for Inform were not helpful. For instance, there were some ear plugs that I tried to take and it said ‘That is not portable’. Some commands that might have had useful responses didn’t work; for instance, TALK TO didn’t have any message like ‘Conversation in this game is handled by ASKING’ (although that was mentioned in the help system!) and PLAY PIANO had no response.
There are some very helpful responses, though, like SEARCH and LOOK UNDER saying you only need to ‘examine’.
At the quiz at the end, I really struggled with the third question. I guessed it but then decompiled the game to see how I could have gotten there. It seems that the conversation system is a lot larger than I had expected. I had gotten stuck since SHOW (something) TO (someone) often didn’t have a response, so I assumed asking about those things wouldn’t be helpful.
There is one puzzle of a type I haven’t seen before in a parser mystery, involving a grid. I thought that was pretty clever.
Overall, I felt like tightening up some of the standard responses and adding more synonyms and actions like TALK TO and PLAY PIANO would make this an excellent short mystery adventure.