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What is it about mansion murder mysteries?, November 9, 2014
When you do a mansion murder mystery wrong, it's just another cliche. But when you do one right, you see why mansion murder mysteries are a thing in the first place. The medley of characters, the capacity for both realism and theatricality, the layered motivations, the rooms upon rooms each opening into more scenarios, expansive and yet bounded like a prison, and the wonder and horror and greed and lust and ego that naturally bubble up from the mixture.
And death. There's always death.
This game is two games in one. The first game is about the mansion itself. The second game is about the characters who inhabit it. In both games, you're initially presented with various obscure elements, but as you play along they click together to reveal totally logical underpinnings.
The mansion is mechanized. Its doors open and close, its floors raise and lower, and its tower bridge turns depending on which rooms you've entered in which order. It's not exactly a maze. You can't get lost. Rather, you have to explore your environment until you understand the principles behind its clockwork. After you've unlocked the mansion, then the second game begins.
The cast has arrived, suspended in tableaux in every room, stuck in time (which does not exist here in the usual sense). Now you aren't exploring the rooms but the characters by reading and rearranging their "intentions," which can be taken and moved like physical objects through the mansion. The intentions interact differently with different characters in different rooms. As you piece together who is really doing what to whom, and why, you're rewarded with humorous and grisly couplets describing each death that takes place. The couplets will rewrite themselves depending on how you organize everyone's motivations. It's a murder mystery in reverse, where the player doesn't solve whodunnit, but actually lays the psychological groundwork for "it" to be done.
My only disappointments with this game were that there was not a bedroom (what missed potential) and that one tower is ultimately irrelevant to both the puzzles and the story. It also would've been nice if the mansion had a plot-related purpose behind its mechanization.
It's true that the game is disjointed due to its distinctive halves, but each half is entertaining and I wouldn't sacrifice either. Although I do think the second half is where it really shines. The whole thing is a little like an interactive Edward Gorey book, which also makes "Delightful Wallpaper" about the best title I could imagine for it.