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• The review key for Murder was provided by the publisher, Curve Digital.
“Always leave them wanting more.” — P. T. Barnum
That quote is particularly apt when discussing Murder, a Cyberpunk Point & Click Short Story by Peter Moorhead. After completing the game, I contacted the publisher directly to see if we could expect more episodes that would flesh out the story, and the alluring Cyberpunk Tokyo it’s set in. Alas, it would seem that this is not to be. At this time there are no plans to develop additional content, or a sequel. It’s a shame, because I can’t help but feel that there are many more stories to be told in this world we only get a glimpse of. However, I’m not here to talk about what may or may not be, so let’s move on.
Gameplay and Mechanics: 5
I don’t have much to say about this category. In terms of Gameplay and Mechanics, Murder is about as efficient as Point & Click gets. Objects that are mandatory interactions are highlighted with a red arrow. Clicking on them and completing their interactions will advance the story, and often take you to the next scene. However, there are unmarked interactions scattered throughout every scene, allowing you to flesh out the story a bit more before you move on. These interactions are optional, but highly recommended.
Yes, the gameplay is simple and efficient, but one might say too much so. I thoroughly understand the concept of Interactive Fiction, and I appreciate the experimentation of trying to strike a balance between classic Point & Click gameplay, and a more minimalist version of it. However, I feel that Murder strays a little too far towards minimalism, and that removes a bit of agency from the player. In essence, the interactivity of the narrative is practically reduced to the equivalent of page turning.
I’m not saying there isn’t a place for this type of gameplay, but I believe many will agree that more depth would have been appreciated.
Visual Style and Quality: 9
I’m afraid that because of the length of the game, to avoid spoilers, I can’t really show you as much of the outstanding pixel art that Murder contains as I’d like. Suffice to say, the visuals are intricate and beautifully rendered. Characters, despite their small scale, are distinct, detailed, and easily distinguished from one another. The animations are smooth and the environments have a nice dark, almost noir feel to them.
With such high quality visuals, you’ll definitely want to explore the world they depict. Unfortunately you can’t. Are you getting the idea that this will be a running theme in this review? Good, because that’s going to be a running theme in this review.
Sound Quality: 9
I wish the opening theme was a full 3 to 4 minute track. Who do I have to grab by the eyelashes and shake to make this happen? Seriously, even though there is only a small selection of tracks, I want the sound track to be available for download. Gimme.
Aside from the music, the voice acting is well done, and each character sounds like a distinct individual with a personality all their own. The sound effects are of similar quality, with “technology” sounds having that little hint of feedback that gives the world its grit.
Story Elements: 5
The story is the game. That’s about as succinct as I can be in this category. The entire point of Murder is to experience the story, and let it affect you. Let it make you think. In that regard, I believe it achieves it’s goal.
You play Lieutenant Motomeru Minori of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, and must guide her through a particularly troubling homicide investigation. And that is exactly where I have to stop to avoid spoilers. Aside from the main plot, there are many little details to be discovered that reveal more about Lt. Minori and the society she protects. These little tidbits of exposition add substance and flavor to the story, and are a welcome addition.
As for the actual substance of the story, again, without delving into spoiler territory, it raises some interesting questions. However, for fans of the Cyberpunk genre, these questions will seem quite familiar.
Also, I have to question whether or not the length enhances or diminishes the effectiveness of the narrative. Would an additional 20 minutes in this world have made the story’s conclusion resonate all the more? Would 40 minutes have done so? Or would the extra length have made the story feel bloated and padded out? In this case, is less truly more?
Call me a glutton, but my instincts say give me more. I truly wanted more time to get to know Lt. Minori and the world she lives in. Even just typing this makes me feel a bit selfish, because the more I think about it, the delivery of Minori Motomeru’s story may be more akin to jazz than anything else. Maybe it’s all about the notes Peter Moorhead didn’t play.
Fun Factor: 6
There is a duality I’m experiencing while rating many of these categories. One side says that less is more, and adding to what we are given might actually take away from the experience. The other can’t help but feel teased by Lt. Minori’s world, and dissatisfied that for the foreseeable future, I won’t have anything else to sample from it. I’m afraid that my more selfish nature is showing here, and I can’t ignore how blunted everything feels when the story ends so quickly.
I must say that although Murder is very short, I did have fun with it. I like the overall theme, and the questions that it evokes. In fact, it’s the little details that do nothing to advance the main plot that I enjoyed the most. The bits of dialogue and text that are added just for flavor. This is a double edged sword, however, as again the length means that we only get the smallest taste of what’s happening in this world we’ve been introduced to, with no means of exploring further.
Replay Value: 2
As it stands, there is little replay value to be had for the average player. True enough, I played through the game more than once. However, I doubt many will do so very often.
Hey, look over there. It’s a dead horse! Excuse me while I beat it a bit more. I want more of everything Murder has to offer. More of the story, more of the visuals, more of the sound track, more of everything. I loved what Murder presented me just as much as I resent it for being a dark and gritty Cyberpunk tease.
All in all, I do believe that Murder’s pros outweigh the cons. It’s well made, visually and aurally pleasing. It has a smart and efficiently told story, and in just 20 to 30 minutes, it just may excite your imagination as it did mine.
However, I can’t ignore that we are looking at only 20 to 30 minutes of gameplay with little, if any, replay value. This kind of experience won’t be for everyone.
Still, if I were writing this review solely for fans of Cyberpunk Interactive Short Stories, the verdict would probably be right at a 9 out of 10. So, if you are a fan of interactive fiction, the Cyberpunk genre, and think that quality far outweighs quantity, then you just might want to try out Murder for yourself.
MURDER retails for $2.99US and is available on Steam.