UK REVIEW--A sordid love affair, arson, and a puppy named Sparkles are just some of the elements of the new mysteries found in the third episode of puzzle-solving party game Blue Toad Murder Files. Though the core gameplay mechanics remain the same, a slightly longer length, a great set of characters, and an intriguing storyline make it the best entry in the series so far. Plus, owners of the first or second episode are able to pick up Episode Three for free, making it a no-brainer for fans. This also means there's absolutely no reason for newcomers to purchase Episode Three, because purchasing one of the first two episodes individually, or in a bundle, will net you the third for free.
Though it has the idyllic looks of a quintessentially English country village, Little Riddle is hardly the place you'd want spend your summer vacation. Crime runs rampant on its cobblestone streets, with the murder of the mayor and the burglary of Riddle Manor having already shaken its eccentric inhabitants. Episode Three adds arson to the list of crimes, and it's your job to investigate a mystery blaze at the village hall. In Episode Three, which has the most entertaining story in the series so far, you journey around Little Riddle investigating love affairs, descendants of Henry VII, and the theft of a mysterious antique necklace. More is revealed of the underlying conspiracy behind the crimes, but the game leaves just enough questions unanswered to spur you onto the next episode.
As in the previous episodes, up to four players take turns visiting various locations around the village of Little Riddle, questioning suspects and solving puzzles--the aim being to correctly identify the perpetrator. Different locations are shown via an animated overhead map, and a suspect is available to question at each location, along with a puzzle to solve. You're awarded gold, silver, or bronze rosettes for solving puzzles quickly and in as few attempts as possible. You must also complete quick-fire rounds at numerous points throughout the game. These require you to recall some of the recent facts you have learned on the case and answer a multiple-choice question. For more on the gameplay, check out our Episode One review.
The quality of the puzzles remains high, with the familiar riddles, counting games, and memory tests all making an appearance. However, that familiarity sometimes makes the puzzles feel repetitive; particularly when some setups, such as the Colonel's strange duck obsession, are reused. There is also one spectacularly bad puzzle, which requires you to follow an incomprehensible scribble of lines from one end to another and identify which lines lead to the correct path. The small size of the lines, coupled with the lack of definition between them, means you have to get up close and squint at the screen to solve it. Good luck with that one if you have poor eyesight or a standard definition television. Sadly, there's still no hint system, so if you get stuck on a puzzle your only options are to struggle or to skip it entirely.
Two new characters have been added to the already-excellent cast: Mrs. Bothersome and The Librarian. While Mrs. Bothersome closely follows the template set by Mrs. Gossip--her incessantly talkative sister--it's the sultry librarian that steals the show. Her softly spoken voice and flirtatious demeanour constantly have you questioning her motives, so it's a shame that her appearance in the episode is all too brief. The Wodehousian narration and often sarcastic dialogue remains a strong point. A great deal of credit must also go to the voice acting, which remains top-notch.
As in previous episodes, the most fun you can have playing the game is with friends as you try to figure out who the guilty party is and land the highest score. There's still no incentive to play through the episode again because the answers to the puzzles, the quick-fire questions, and the guilty suspect never change. While there are still just 12 puzzles to complete, the overall play time has been increased slightly to just over an hour and a half, thanks to some extended cutscenes, though this will vary depending on how long it takes you to solve the puzzles. The price of Episode Three remains the same at £6.99, but it's also available free for owners of episodes one or two. While this is good news for fans, newcomers purchasing the first two episodes in a bundle at £9.99 will also receive the third for free, making it much better value.
If you're not a fan of the Blue Toad series, then Episode Three is unlikely to convert you. Despite the best cast of characters and voice acting in the series so far, the underlying problems with its lack of replayability, as well as the hints system, haven't changed. However, if you're willing to overlook these issues, then you'll find Blue Toad to be an enjoyable distraction with friends or family, plus the offer to pick up this installment for free makes it an essential download for fans, and a much more attractive proposition for newcomers.