The Brutal Murder of Jenny Lee

by Daniel Gao

Mystery
2020

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Number of Reviews: 5
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Atmospheric Murder Mystery, December 6, 2020
by Joey Acrimonious
Related reviews: IFComp 2020

The Brutal Murder of Jenny Lee is a murder mystery which, in many ways, feels like it takes cues from the walking simulator genre.

It consists mostly of exploring various locations and examining items to glean information. But itís not all business. As you go through the game, youíll learn as much about the victimís life as you do about her death. Notes, letters, artifacts, and the comments of your ďemployerĒ who is deeply connected to the case all help you to gradually piece together an impression of a moment in a young womanís life. Itís compelling, well-written stuff. Little things like a pencil case or a sketch are described with enough care, enough attention to detail, to show rather than tell a story that felt very authentic and human to me.

Thereís a couple nice puzzles here which call for the player to gather information, make a deduction, and act upon that deduction. But thereís also quite a good chunk of the game that consists solely of examining things until some answer is spoon-fed to you. The whole experience hews to a more-or-less linear path: you go where the narrator takes you, and do things step-by-step according to his whims. It works, but I think I would have gotten even more enjoyment out of a more varied and less linear set of problems to solve.

I wasnít fond of the way the game occasionally hides the parser for a predetermined amount of time when important text shows up. I get that the author is trying to emphasize important moments, but still, I donít want to have to wait around counting the seconds until Iím allowed to keep playing after Iíve finished reading whatever I was supposed to read.

Thereís a secondary aspect to the story: (Spoiler - click to show)the twist that youíre an AI being exploited by someone who is wrongfully imprisoned for the murder, and you ultimately seek to escape. Itís an interesting concept, but doesn't feel fully woven into the main story, and isn't developed in enough detail to satisfy questions about how exactly the character is able to accomplish what it does. Maybe this aspect is a prelude to a sequel which explores it in greater detail? That would be neat.

Even though I wasnít totally on board with every design choice here, The Brutal Murder of Jenny Lee brings a great atmosphere and strong writing to the table. Overall, I enjoyed my time with it, and would gladly try more of the authorís work in the future.