Blue Toad Murder Files: The Mysteries of Little Riddle Preview
We got some hands-on time with Relentless' latest family-friendly murder mystery game.
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Before the days of the Internet and video games, board games were considered an entertainment staple for the family. They provided not only innocent fun, but also a way for the members of a household to get together and engage in some old-fashioned family bonding. It's in this spirit that developer Relentless Software has created Blue Toad Murder Files: The Mysteries of Little Riddle; a downloadable six-part episodic murder mystery game for the PlayStation 3. We were invited down to Relentless' studios in Brighton for a hands-on where we discovered that Blue Toad Murder Files may have just what it takes to get the whole family playing.
The premise of the game is simple: You play as one of four detectives who finds him or herself caught in the middle of a murder in the village of Little Riddle. By observing the village's inhabitants and solving puzzles, you gain clues to identify the murderer. It plays like an interactive TV show; in each area, you watch a scene with a villager and then solve a self-contained puzzle. The only interaction you have with your character's movement is selecting which area to visit next.
We played the first episode of the series, which introduces you to the inhabitants of Little Riddle. The story is told very much like an adventure book, referring to you in the first person. The Brian-Blessed-style narrator announces your arrival and introduces you to the inhabitants of the village. Key characters in the game get a special introduction, complete with dramatic music to indicate they will be suspects later in the story. Conversations are linear, and there aren't options about what questions to ask; you simply read what the characters are telling you to take in as clues.
As the story progresses and you encounter more villagers, you're given the option to visit different places via an overhead map. One villager may mention a grudge the pub landlady holds, which opens up the pub as a place to gather clues. Most of the time, you'll have to solve a puzzle to get information out of a villager. These range from solving simple riddles to more complex math problems. One puzzle required us to fix the pub's plumbing system, which involved identifying the correct pieces of pipe to reconnect the beer to the taps. Each puzzle rewards you with gold, silver, or bronze medals depending on how long it takes to solve the puzzle and how many attempts you took. You get an unlimited number of attempts to solve a puzzle, so if it proves too difficult, you can skip the puzzle entirely and continue the story.
The game can be played by up to four people cooperatively, with each player taking turns to solve a puzzle and continue the investigation. Because everyone is working toward the same goal, we found our co-detectives would shout out hints and solutions to puzzles when we were stuck. However, if your friends are less then helpful, the game totals up each player's puzzle scores over the course of the game, so it can be played competitively. After you've quizzed all the villagers and the clues have been gathered, the game asks you to indentify the murderer. Your vote is masked from the other players before the game announces which one is the killer. Points for guessing correctly are added to your puzzle score, giving you a grand total at the end of the game.
Gathering clues and puzzle-solving is made all the more enjoyable by the unique art style of the game. It's like a cross between a Pixar movie and a Playmobile set, with detailed character faces mixed in with simple toylike backgrounds. Of particular note is the voice acting, which is brilliantly done--and by just one person. The narration is always engaging because each of the villagers has a distinctive accent, ranging from the cockney station master to a Fawlty Towers-style hotel manager. The game never takes itself too seriously, and there are plenty of tongue-in-cheek moments in the dialogue.
The accessibility of the game, coupled with the unique art style and humour, should be a great incentive for families to gather around the PlayStation 3 to play detective. The first two episodes of Blue Toad Murder Files will be available on the PlayStation Network just in time for Christmas on December 17, with the price of £6.49 an episode or £9.99 for both.