At first look, Murdered: Soul Suspect sets itself up to be a Supernatural-meets-noir-meets-Ace Attorney sort of game. Developed by Airtight Games and published by Square Enix, Murdered follows Detective Ronan, who’s killed while on a case, and has resurrected as a ghost to solve the mystery and figure out exactly who the murderer was. Talk about working overtime.
Murdered is a little bit less Point-And-Click than Ace Attorney is. The player controls Ronan as he runs around Salem, the town in which the game is set in, and interacts with objects and people through various methods. For example, Ronan can possess people to read their minds and influence their thoughts, or even animals like cats to control them. Ronan can also do a little bit of supernatural mojo on electronics to send them haywire, in order to manipulate his surroundings.
At the same time, though, these investigation portions feel a bit like pixel hunts. The game does let you know how many remaining clues there are to be found in a place, and it’s not entirely necessary that you collect every clue to proceed, but it gets a bit tedious because sometimes nothing gets flagged up until you’re standing at that very precise spot where the clue is.
Once that’s done, you’re asked to do a little bit of induction work by looking through the clues you have to answer questions. These bits usually aren’t too difficult, and generally speaking, they’re mostly quite easy. For example, the question asks for a location where a subject could have gone too, and in all the clues that you’ve got there’s only one that’s pointing towards a location. You probably don’t even need to understand the story much to be able to solve these.
On top of that, there seems to be a “life bar” in these scenes, where Ronan is given a penalty for guessing wrongly. I have no idea if it was intentional or not, but I once tried every single clue (around seven of them), but the life bar just remained at that very last bit, refusing to drop to zero, until I eventually clicked the right one. I guess unlike games like Ace Attorney, which generally takes place in a courtroom, there’s no real penalty for Ronan if he were to guess incorrectly. Which raises a question – why then, is there a need for this life bar mechanism if no penalties would be, or could be imposed?
There’s also a little bit of combat offered as a side-dish here. Demons roam Salem, and Ronan, with his ghostliness, has the ability to exorcise them. Actually, it’s less of fighting demons and more of sneaking-up-on-them-and-pressing-a-couple-of-action-buttons-in-quick-time. As it is, these demons serve to add a little bit more edge and challenge to the game, as opposed to allowing Ronan to roam the town freely. The “stealth” element of the game also comes in here. Ronan can hide in ghost imprints to avoid the attention of these demons, or manipulate animals with his ghostly mojo to cast attention away from him. The premise itself is fine, I suppose, but in practice, it came out a bit mundane and bordered more on annoying than engaging. On a side note, there’s also the fact that there’s a bunch of demon holes and demons roaming the church. This could be either very surprising, or not surprising at all, considering the “witch-hunt” theme of the game.
Salem itself is pretty well set up too. As opposed to the idea that ghosts are free to travel wherever they want, there are certain limitations placed on them as well. For example, they can only enter and exit a building through openings like doors or windows, which need to actually be open.
Graphically, the game doesn’t seem to plan on scoring any points here. Not only is there nothing attractive about it, but the environment is unmemorable and nondescript. Salem may not be some tourist hotspot in real life, but the least the developers could have done was to make it seem like they actually put in effort for the game.
The protagonist, Ronan O’Connor, is a character that is designed to make the audience empathise with, perhaps even pity. Some of the first few scenes included Ronan mourning over his deceased wife, Sophia, and it’s made to look very tragic and sad. That said, I couldn’t relate to him at all. It was exactly that – everything about his character and his story felt very artificial and just screamed “Beloved Woman Killed to Provide Male Protagonist with Manpain”. Thanks, but no thanks.
Given that this game is a mystery, the plot of Murdered comes surprisingly disappointing as well. Arguably, most mysteries try to make their story engaging to the audience by presenting it in a way that makes one think that the crime was impossible to commit. For Murdered, the mystery is simply presented as a serial murder case. There’s nothing compelling about the story that draws the player in, and sure, while it is a given that a gamer playing a mystery game is there to solve the case, it would have been far better if they were able to actually make the audience want to solve it.
Murdered is a game that I really want to like. On paper, it has all the elements that I would be interested in, and yet the final product was something that felt way short of expectations. For one, the overall gameplay felt clumsy and awkward, the characters weren’t likeable, and the story came across as poorly presented. Ultimately, there’s really no need to bother with this game, unless it’s Steam Summer Sale 2015, and you have way too much free time on your hands. Even so, I’d really suggest playing something else.
Ratings : 2 out of 5 stars
by Chua Yuxuan
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