Normally in video games death is merely an inconvenience, necessitating a trip to the nearest checkpoint or vita-chamber (also amusingly the name of a naff Canadian singer) and a bit of back tracking. Not so for Murdered: Soul Suspect, which takes death as its starting point, dispatching its lead protagonist in the opening moments as though the script supervisor was George RR Martin.
Somewhat lost amidst the new console buzz, Square Enix’s Murdered was one of the more interesting new IPs to appear at E3. Developed by Airtight Games, previously responsible for Quantum Conundrum as well as the nonsensical but thoroughly underrated Dark Void, the game is set in a creepy vision of Salem, a location full of moody New England architecture and well acquainted with the supernatural, and tasks the player with unravelling the mystery of their own murder.
The game requires a bit of thinking outside of the coffin (sorry)
Ronan O’Connor is (or rather, was) a detective with a chequered past and a heavy-handed approach to justice. Heavy-handed is no longer an issue given that he is now an non-corporeal spirit whose interactions with the world are limited to say the least. The game requires a bit of thinking outside of the coffin (sorry), and using a combination of possession, mind reading, and other spectral tricks will help you to piece together clues in the LA Noire-esque crime scene
It seems Airtight are keeping menus to a minimum, putting any pertinent information in the scene using ethereal text. Meanwhile the game also has a stealth aspect as you must sneak past demonic spirits also trapped in ‘dusk’ with you. On an interview with IGN at E3 the game’s producer and lead designer Eric Studer commented that “the combat’s almost like a different kind of investigation”. The ability to walk through walls to get out of the way and sneak up on your foes looks like a nice touch, as well as a nightmare for QA teams.
But if you can’t wait until early 2014 for this intriguing looking adventure game, and you don’t mind going a bit indie then you’ll find plenty of point and click adventures that have already treated this very theme. First off the bat there is Shu Takami’s Ghost Trick, which has been covered by our very own Susan in her Cute Chronicles, but to summarise the game sees you averting the deaths of various characters by possessing and manipulating objects in a scene. There’s also Ghost Pirates of Voojoo Island, in which you control three separate ghosts attempting to regain their body’s after being afflicted by a voodoo curse. But the best example of the very small subgenre of dead investigator games is the Blackwell series.
A series of four games independently created by Dave Gilbert of Wadjet Eye Games, available as a very reasonably priced bundle from GOG, that follow the trials of reluctant medium Rosangela Blackwell and her family’s resident spirit, Joey Mallone, a 1940’s, trilby clad gumshoe. Like the classic series Randall and Hopkirk: Deceased, only Rosa can see and speak to Joey, who is given a wonderfully dry personality by voice actor Abe Goldfarb. Joey is able to drift through walls and eavesdrop on suspects, but relies on Rosa to actually pick things up (which, as any adventure gamer knows, is essential). Rosa can then put two and two together (literally), by selecting two items in her notebook to deduce a connection – if there is one.
With its retro aesthetic and simple gameplay choices, Blackwell doesn’t have any of the triple A stopping power that Murdered is going for, but it does have an incredible story full of twists and surprisingly emotive and tragic characters that weave through the episodes with great subtlety. The fifth game, Blackwell Epiphany, is due out in Autumn of this year and will serve as a good appetiser for anyone waiting for Murdered.