An Act of Murder

by Christopher Huang


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Number of Reviews: 10
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Random Acts of Violence, December 1, 2020
by Gayla (Ann Arbor, MI)

There is a lot to like here -- I am a sucker for a good drawing room mystery in the style of Agatha Christie or Dorothy L. Sayers, and the opening of this game feels like a classic set up: a small group of people who know each other well, a few secrets, a body. Huang's writing is on point, and the NPCs are interesting. And the way that you solve this game -- not just by figuring out the murder, but by laying out the evidence -- is very smart and prevents you from stumbling into a correction solution.

Unfortunately, I think the randomized aspect of the game -- the killer and method of death vary from one play to another -- detracts from its impact. It's clever and no doubt it was fun to code up, but I think it ultimately detracts from the development of the NPCs. I found a lot of actions and topics that weren't implemented -- showing a potential murder weapon to a suspect should elicit some reaction! -- and asking an NPC about a subject more than once got the same response each time. I would have preferred, personally, a game with one solution and deeper development of the NPCs.

But that isn't the goal Huang set for himself, and he did what he set out to do well.

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A randomized murder mystery with good implementation and weak story, February 3, 2016

This is one of the best murder mystery games; you interview a variety of very vocal NPC's with different personalities, you pick up clues, look through a house, then deduce a murderer and then arrest them.

The NPC's are vibrant and active, moving about the house, talking about each other and their actions. It must have been an enormous amount of effort to implement these NPC's.

The story itself is necessarily somewhat weak. As the murderer can change every time, everyone's backstory and alibi have to be flexible enough to account for the changes, and there is no sense of urgency in the game.

A must-play for murder mystery fans.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Infocom Mystery At Its Best, January 13, 2013
by Christopher Caesar
Related reviews: An, Act, of, Murder, Mystery, Infocom

This game was one of the games that caught my attention, and both detective and examination skills are required to solve this one.The interactions are relatively open-world, but you can't ask everyone about everything, after all.

The game starts off on a low note, it is late at night, and you are reluctantly driving to the house where the crime was committed. The amount you can interact with suspects is amazing, and asking people about the same thing will always end up with you getting different opinions, and one person will give you a clue or two. It kept me going for hours and I loved playing Inspector. But be careful, the game is harder than it looks!

The game takes a few playing sessions, and if you are stuck there is a built in >HELP command, and this gives you hints. It's suitable for first-time gamers, as well! The only way to win is by focusing on statements of all suspects. Enjoy! I did.

0 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
My favorite mystery game, January 9, 2012
by blindncool
Related reviews: If Comp 2007

Well, I was searching the archive, looking through the entries for the if comps, and come across this one. You can find out details of the game. Click on this link. An Act of Murder
I seriously recommend this game for hard core if players. The randomness and amazing storyline make this a good find for those who want a game with good replay value and a challenge.

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful:
Hercule Poirot I presume?, November 28, 2010
by Aintelligence (Canada)
Related reviews: Mystery, murder

Let me start off by saying that I am a detective story buff. I read everything from agatha Christie to dorthy l. Sayers, so I was rather impressed by this adventure in a number of ways. The setting itself is very remminisciant of many mystery novels; taking place in a large mansion, looking over a cliff into the ocean, and of course a body has been found at the bottom of the cliff. The story is short and not too difficult, but the story changes each time you restart making it very re-playable at least the first few times. The story itself feels rather like an Agatha Christie short story, with five suspect in the house, and the musical adds a bit of originality. Don't expect a " Roger Acroyd" ending though.

I'll first start with the one thing I especially disliked. I felt that the characters had no feeling at all that the murder happened. They sat around playing pool like usual or reading the newest mystery novel, and not once did anybody show the slightest remorse that there had been a murder. I mean sure, some of them should have been uncaring, but a story should also have some who are Teary eyed. This in my opinion really took away from the characters.

Of course I thought most everything else was well done. I've played mystery adventures before which are brutally tough because of time constraints and obscure evidence, but both in this case were good. An adequate amount of time was given, and evidence took some thought, but was not too difficult. It is a game about your next move, meaning that you have to think 'what next' after everything you do.

I also loved the notebook. It made my life so much easier.

Note: this rating is not included in the game's average.

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
Fun, short murder mystery, June 21, 2010
by ZUrlocker (Santa Cruz, CA)
Related reviews: mystery, infocom, inform7, short, hints, easy

This is a great, short piece of mystery. It's the classic "locked house, dead body, 5 suspects" genre of murder mystery done in an infocom style --complete with Sgt Duffy.

For me, just coming back to the genre after many years, this was a great intro. It's got a simple map with around 10 location, not too many objects, some modest red herrings and a good *logical* story.

Not to mention that, if you do get stuck, there are built-in clues. All this makes for a good easy game for newcomers also.

The actual who/how/motives are randomized, so there's some replay value, though some of the fun is really in the first time.

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful:
Violins isn't the answer to this one., November 30, 2008
by mazirian (Yarmouth, Maine)
Related reviews: If Comp 2007, mystery, deduction, randomized elements

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.

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful:
Impressive, March 29, 2008
by jingold (UK)

I admire the concept of this enormously (I remember that game Sleuth, it was brilliant!) The implementation is also deeply good, and the NPCs are good examples of interesting characters with rich conversation but without the need for too many bells-and-dongles. I also liked the system for making an accusation; it felt natural and smooth. But I found some of the details of the puzzles frustrating and thin and all to quickly I was just prodding and poking my way forward blindly. There are so few IF mysteries that it's almost a shame the author didn't just write one great one! But a deserving award-winner and a neat bit of coding.

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful:
A satisfying whodunnit, February 29, 2008
by cklepac (Seattle, WA)


An Act of Murder is like a minature, music-box version of a classic Infocom mysteries like Deadline or Witness. If (like me) you found the originals ponderous and unforgiving, this game might be just the thing. It offers enough detective work to get you scratching your head, but confines itself to a small set of locations and a few key NPCs. The game world is excellently fleshed out. Objects are given just enough examinable detail to make them seem real, but at the same time its easy to tell which objects are likely to be important and which are window dressing. The characters have some interesting dialog, but they are a bit static and lifeless for a game (and a genre) that is heavily driven by NPC interactions.

The author has also gone to some effort to make the game easy to play, for which I'm always grateful. Simple touches (like listing where the exits of each room go) free up brainpower for use on solving the mystery rather than fighting with the game. A nice many-layered hint system ensures that you won't be stuck for long.

AAOM is not an epic or elaborate game by any means, but as a quick, engrossing whodunnit with no obvious bugs or holes, it does a fine job.

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful:
Murder, Theft, And A Musical, January 23, 2008
by Rose (New Zealand)

Late at night, two men at a house party find their host lying dead on the beach below the study window. The police are treating it as a murder unless they find reason to believe otherwise. Five suspects, two hours until Inspector Duffy comes back to ask for your verdict. Time to go to work.

I realise, reading back on that paragraph I just wrote, that it sounds rather like one of Infocom's old murder mysteries. But that's the point -- it is. Just, as it's an IF Comp game, a lot shorter and easier. It also manages to avoid one of the main problems of the Infocom murders: you don't have to rely on being in the right place at the right time. Characters stay put and obligingly give their alibis on demand as many times as you ask them, and time passes slowly enough to give you plenty of time to finish your assignment. There's even an automatic notebook that records what you've found out so far. The in-game hints are very helpful, although I did find myself relying on them too much.

An interesting element of the game is the randomisation. There are five suspects; each time you restart the game a new suspect is chosen. The timing, murder method and motives also change to reflect this, making for five games in one ... except it isn't. Once you've played through it two or three times, you'll be able to guess what the motives of the other suspects would be in the other scenarios, and you won't really need to play them. (Plus even the best writing can get stilted on the fifth reading.) The basics stay the same in each variation: names of suspects and the main facts like the musical, (Spoiler - click to show)Cedric's theft from the Trust, and the secret passage.

Overall, I had more fun playing this game then I've had with IF in a long time. Highly recommended. Oh, and don't forget to type XYZZY.

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