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Mon 9th Jan 2006
By David Whyld - See all my reviews
Mel S’ first full size game since The Lost Mines is the story of a series of brutal murders at the SynTex corporation headquarters during an office party. And "series" is the right word because by the time you catch the killer, there’s hardly a soul left alive.
I’ve always been a sucker for murder mysteries because they allow you the opportunity of seeing if you can figure out who the killer is before reaching the conclusion of the game. Disappointingly, The Merry Murders (what the "merry" in the title refers to I’ve no idea) doesn’t allow for any real detective work. Solving a series of puzzles - some logical, some not - leads you to the inevitable conclusion with the killer, but there are no prizes along the way for figuring out the identity of the killer beforehand, and no way to stop the killer from committing further murders if you do happen to stumble upon his/her identity. The ending, involving a fight to the death with the killer, occurs whether you’ve guessed the killer’s identity or not.
There are a number of things that bring the game down overall, the most common being the way the game sometimes refers to the player as "you" and other times as "I". This, on top of it being written partly in past tense and partly in present tense, makes for confusing reading.
Locations are nicely written and the way some of them change from time to time - items appearing, a computer suddenly becoming useable, and so on - is a nice touch. Various lapses in logic mar the game somewhat, though; the other characters seem happy to stand around doing nothing while a brutal killer stalks the building picking them off with remarkable ease. And why the killer didn’t just try to bump the player off despite the progress you’re making towards finding out his/her identity is never really explained.
Not a bad game, but not a great game either, The Merry Murders would have been better handled with a little more detective work by the player. But it’s an interesting way to pass an hour or two and the difficulty factor is set so that you shouldn’t have too many problems reaching the final conclusion (although saving your game beforehand is a very good idea because you only get one chance to win the final fight).
Logic: 7 out of 10
A few lapses in the way the killer(s) actually help you out during the game if you ask them the right things but nothing disastrously illogical.
Problems: 5 out of 10 (10 = no problems)
The main problems involved the character alternatively being referred to as "you" and "I" and the game’s frustrating habit of switching from past to present tense at seemingly random intervals. If it had happened just a few times it could have been overlooked, but the sheer number of times it happened made playing the game quite painful at times.
Story: 6 out of 10
There’s nothing new about murder mysteries but it was well handled and having a few seriously dodgy characters (Trey in particular being especially vile) kept you guessing who the killer really was.
Characters: 6 out of 10
There were both good and bad points in relation to the characters. On the plus side they were quite believable and had a fair set of things you could question them about; on the down side they seemed quite willing to hang around in a building with a killer on the loose who was busy massacring them.
Writing: 5 out of 10
Fairly decent although the game switching between calling the player "you" and "I" did leave a lot to be desired.
Game: 5 out of 10
A bit of a letdown after The Lost Mines but interesting enough to keep you occupied through to the conclusion.
Overall: 34 out of 60