As summer comes to an end, you might be thinking about snuggling up with a blanket and tea while you read a good murder mystery. But with Murder Mystery Machine being released on console, why not play one instead?
In Murder Mystery Machine, you play as police rookie Cass who has just graduated and been paired with burnt-out detective Nate. Cass finds Nate slacking off in what looks like the basement of a police station but it's not long before the pair get their first call to investigate a crime scene at the home of a politician.
Season 1 of Murder Mystery Machine is composed of 8 cases; each with 5 or so locations to investigate. After playing through a couple of cases, it becomes clear that you seem to keep bumping into some of the same characters and locations and that there may be something going on behind the scenes that connects it all. Therefore, the overarching story that ties the cases together does a good job at keeping you guessing while gradually piecing together the bigger picture throughout.
Every location in Murder Mystery Machine is presented in an isometric view where you can rotate it 4 different ways to look for clues that may be hidden. When finding a clue, it appears as a node on your working board which you can switch to at any point. Here, you're presented with all of the clues that may be relevant to the current scene. When discovering clues like letters or newspaper articles, Murder Mystery Machine does a noteworthy job of streamlining excerpts from them by extracting only the parts that are relevant. It's your job to then draw a line between clues that are related and if you can connect the right nodes, you'll unlock a new dialogue sequence with a character which often provides more information on the case to help move it along.
It's clear that the developer put a lot of work into presenting all the evidence while making it up to the player to decide what to connect with some clues being easier to connect than others. Thankfully, there's a hint system so with the hold of a button, you'll be shown the next logical step whether it be who to talk to next or which clues have a connection that you might have previously overlooked. Using a hint lowers your score for the scene, though, so it's a good idea to only use one when you're really stuck.
The amount of clues that you gather becomes fairly unruly, especially in the later cases so it's welcome that Murder Mystery Machine allows you to switch to a mode where you can move clues around and clean up the space. Having said that, I didn't enjoy this aspect and it would have been nice to have an option to automatically clean up your space and present it in a more readable way. I can see how some players might prefer to do this manually, though, because it reminded me of watching a murder mystery movie where they have a big board up with red string connecting everything and manually grouping certain nodes together may feel more rewarding.
When you've exhausted everything in a scene, you must pay attention to your goal which is usually something like uncovering the prime suspect, a motive, or the next lead to follow. This can be challenging because it's not always obvious who is the criminal or what the murder weapon is with there often being multiple explanations for something. However, there is only one answer so if you get it wrong, the game will simply tell you to try again. This is where Murder Mystery Machine could have really opened up.
Instead, if it was up to the player to decide where to go next and who to investigate further with many branching paths, it would have made this good detective game a great one. Stakes would have also been higher because you might end up wasting your time investigating someone while the real criminal manages to get away. With it being quite linear, it sometimes feels like trial and error.
Gameplay aside, the graphics in Murder Mystery Machine definitely look like something you'd play on an early iPad. They're not terrible but certainly not impressive either. The fact that locations are often reused across cases also makes the campaign feel smaller. In addition, there's no voice acting which makes the dialogue have less personality. Overall, you won't play Murder Mystery Machine for its presentation but that's okay when the gameplay and story are likely enough to keep you interested.
Murder Mystery Machine is a solid whodunit with an engaging storyline and a campaign that puts you in charge of solving 8 interconnected cases. Having said that, it's ultimately quite linear which makes the gameplay feel a little inconsequential at times.
- + Gathering and linking clues is intuitive, challenging, and rewarding
- + Interesting interconnected storyline
- + Nifty clue-filled isometric locations
- - Gameplay becomes repetitive over time
- - Story is disappointingly linear
- - Overall visuals are generally lacking