Adventure Corner: Murder by Numbers
Welcome to Adventure Corner, a column where members of the RPGamer staff can give their thoughts, impressions, and pseudo-reviews for various adventure titles that don’t come under our usual coverage. Adventure Corner is aimed at delivering opinions on a wide range of titles including visual novels, point-and-click adventures, investigative mysteries, and so forth.
In this edition of the column we take a look at Murder by Numbers, available now on multiple platforms.
Murder by Numbers
Murder by Numbers can be succinctly defined as “Phoenix Wright combined with Picross and a scenario by the Hatoful Boyfriend writer,” but just winnowing it down to a brief description doesn’t give credit to the game’s unique mesh of witty writing, perplexing puzzles, and an amusing cast of characters. Set in 1996 Los Angeles, Murder‘s story hits the ground running and while it may slow down to take a breath on occasion, it’s a fabulously paced tale. The main character Honor Mizrahi is a sidekick detective in a corny murder-mystery TV show when she’s unexpectedly fired — only for her former boss and longtime friend to be murdered within minutes of her storming out of the office, leaving her as a prime suspect. Honor soon meets the quirky SCOUT, a floating robot with a mind of his own but very few memories, who helps her not just prove her innocence, but also find the real killer.
Along the way, Honor interacts with a very colourful cast of characters, including actors and actresses, a police detective with an unexpected connection to Honor, the woman who created SCOUT, and a pair of drag queens, and many potential murder suspects. The writing in the game is what buoys along what could be a dull mix of puzzles and conversation sections; each character feels dynamic and unique, part of a colourful cast that fills out the story’s narrative into a fun and engaging tale.
Across four separate murder cases, the unlikely duo will need to discover clues that lead to possible suspects along with means and motives. As SCOUT is damaged, with only some of his former memories, he must identify each item he comes across, and this is where the game’s Picross puzzles come into play. Each Picross puzzle forms a picture of these items, ranging from crucial clues for the murders to the hilariously banal — the game’s opening puzzle is a tampon, which SCOUT mistakes for car keys. For those unfamiliar with Picross, an easier mode is available, with several types of hints. Veterans can eschew these aids and go for the maximum score on each case, which will unlock additional puzzles to complete that will, in turn, reveal more of SCOUT’s time before he and Honor met.
While Picross wouldn’t normally be a terribly exciting adventure, completing each puzzle brings a satisfaction that more of Murder by Number‘s wild story will be revealed. Anyone interested in crime dramas, puzzlers, or a smartly written, well-paced drama should find plenty to love in this late 90s throwback story.
Disclosure: This article is based on a free copy of the game provided by the publisher.