MURDER MYSTERY MACHINE – Review

It’s been a good while since I reviewed my last game, but I think it’s time I jumped back on the bandwagon. I have a bit of a niche when it comes to gaming, as more often then not I seem to fall back on the detective genre – so when “Murder Mystery Machine” dropped, I knew I had to give it a go and review it.

You can check out my other review for “Paradise Killer” below, as well as some of my other gaming lists:

Story

I’ll try to split up my review of the story into two sections, one as a spoiler-free zone and the other delving into more of the specific plot points.

NON-SPOILER:

There are multiple chapters, or “cases”, in this game, and each one told its own interesting tale with multiple possible murder weapons, culprits and motives. The deductions really boil down to the classic “Who, What, Where, When, Why, How?”, which may seem surface-level but actually works really well in the context of the investigation.

These aren’t completely separate cases, however – there’s an overarching plot in “Murder Mystery Machine”, and quite a gripping one at that. Even if the case itself wasn’t floating my boat, it still had little clues and moments that hinted towards the grand finale, and that feeling of a dramatic conclusion building to a show-stopping finale was enough to keep me playing.

SPOILERS:

I really liked how truly interconnected each case was; the murder in case one, the chapter about a dead P.I. and a missing child, grand ideas of Government plots and corrupt leaders – every cog felt like it contributed to this well-oiled machine, and I was hooked.

That being said, the climax wasn’t really what I wanted. None of the decisions you make along the way affect the ending at all, and I’m pretty sure even the final climactic decision does nothing in the end – maybe that was the point? That nothing we do will ever change the world? Even so, the resolution didn’t feel as satisfying as I thought it could be, and the final case itself where you confront the politician had hardly anything exciting going on.

Score: 7/10

Gameplay

Unfortunately, you’ll have to scroll down to my “Not-So-Good” section of the review to see the majority of my thoughts on the gameplay. While I did enjoy some aspects of it, for the most part I was a little frustrated by my overall gaming experience.

As for the positives – the isometric aesthetic for the investigations was super fun, and the deduction system was an interesting approach for the genre.

Let’s talk about the crime scene investigations first: I really liked how you could approach the scene from all four angles, it made me feel like I was actually there uncovering all the hard to spot clues (well, if only the clues themselves weren’t so easy to find …). The scenes themselves were also beautifully realised, with lots of little details to keep you searching the screen. Walking around the scenes wasn’t as bad as I originally thought it was going to be either, as the point-and-click gameplay complemented the slow and methodical deduction work.

Also, while I did find some fundamental flaws with the deduction system, the ideas themselves behind it were a fun concept to mess around with. Organising the evidence to form some sort of cohesive logical deductions was extremely satisfying, and slowly watching nodes be added and coupled up made for a fun detective experience.

Score: 5/10

I’ll get to it in a bit, but the gameplay was a real mixed bag for me. You’ll find out a bit more as to why in the next section …

The Not-So-Good

Well, where do I begin?

For starters, in a game about investigations and deductive reasoning, the investigations fall a bit flat and the deductions are forced. Sure, the environments and crime scenes are pretty cool, but each clue is literally flashing on screen, so any sense of accomplishment is immediately diminished.

And as for the deductions system, while it was fun when it worked it hardly ever did exactly what you’d expect it to. All clues and deductions have to be found in the order that the developers programmed, which makes it very frustrating when the deduction you need to progress is a far-fetched and borderline ridiculous assumption. On top of that, you could just cheese it completely by connecting every possible deduction node to one another – I never did it (as I tried to maintain a proper playthrough), but it didn’t really matter in the end as you’ll never reach all the deductions to get an A rank regardless.

You know what else didn’t matter? The dialogue options and character development in general. Any “decisions” that the player had to make were inconsequential in the end as A) they didn’t affect the story whatsoever, and B) I didn’t particularly care for the characters anyway. Their dialogue and interactions were always so flat and cliché, and I found myself just rushing through it all to get back to the investigating part. Whilst I did enjoy the narrative and the directions it went, I never felt like the characters themselves were being affected by my discoveries and choices.

How Much Fun Did I Have?

So, after spewing out all the various highlights and drawbacks, we come to arguably the most important section of all – how much fun did I have with “Murder Mystery Machine”? Would I recommend it to a friend, or replay it again myself?

In short, no. I had a fairly reasonable time with it on the whole, as the narrative (and the fact it was a detective game) was enough to keep me hooked, but from an objective and cynical stand-point, there isn’t much to shout about. I’ve pretty much forgotten all about this game in the days since I’ve played it, and I can almost guarantee that I’ll never visit it again. Still, it certainly did the job as far as mind-numbing entertainment goes.

Score: 6/10

Verdict

With an intriguing premise and a trailer that promised a detective experience like no other, I have to say I was a little underwhelmed in the end. “Murder Mystery Machine” certainly had its moments, and if you’ve nothing else to do it might be worth checking out, but otherwise you’d be better off just finding something else to play.

FINAL SCORE: 5.5/10

PROSCONS
+ An intriguing narrative that kept me somewhat engaged– Characters are all one-dimensional, making dialogue a bore
+ Deduction system is fun when it works– Deduction system isn’t always self-explanatory, and can be exploited
– Investigations are linear / gated, so you have to find each clue and deduction in order to progress
– Exploring crime scenes felt underwhelming

So there you have it – I wasn’t exactly a huge fan of this game in the end by the time the credits rolled. You can check out some of my latest blog posts below:

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