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2nd Place overall; 2nd Place, Miss Congeniality Awards - 13th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2007)
Nominee, Best Game; Nominee, Best Writing; Nominee, Best Story; Nominee, Best Puzzles; Nominee, Best NPCs; Winner, Best Individual Puzzle; Nominee, Best Use of Medium - 2007 XYZZY Awards
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An Act of Murder is a classic country-house mystery: an isolated estate, a small group of suspects, a limited amount of time to solve the crime.
The country-house mystery premise has been done numerous times in interactive fiction... An Act of Murder stands out because it does ask the player to focus on drawing conclusions: what do you know? What do you need to find out next? What do these alibis mean? There are a few objects to discover, a few pieces of evidence that have to be searched for, but for the most part, Act of Murder is about the conclusions you draw, and how you figure out where to look next.
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Rezension zum IF-Comp 2007 (German)
Dein Vorgesetzter überträgt dir als Inspektor die Ermittlungen in einem Mordfall: Frederic Sheppard ist tot am Strand, unterhalb des Fensters seines Arbeitszimmers, aufgefunden worden. Noch in derselben Nacht beginnst du deine Untersuchungen, und mußt dabei die fünf weiteren Anwesenden im Hause des Ermordeten geschickt ausfragen. ...
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Number of Reviews: 10
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Most Helpful Member Reviews
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.
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.
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.
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