Blue Toad Murder Files is charming and quintissentially English.
Quaint English villages are well known for their lovely gardens, never ending supplies of tea, eccentric residents, and, of course, high crime rates. At least that’s the case with Little Riddle. In Blue Toad Murder Files: The Mystery of Little Riddle you play as a detective investigating a string of mysterious crimes that take place in the village. It’s a beautiful game with challenging puzzles, a well written story, and a wonderful sense of charm. It makes for a great multi-player experience, though sadly playing it by yourself can feel a bit empty.
The game is divided into six different episodes, each of which tackles a different crime. But while each episode stands well on its own, there’s still an overarching narrative that will pull you along from one episode to the next. Little Riddle is a seemingly quiet place, but it’s full of all sorts of bizarre people, from a rambling old gossip to an angry butcher. And everyone has a secret to hid. Or, at least that’s the way it seems. But it’s up to you to figure out who the real culprit is, with crimes ranging from theft and arson all the way up to murder.
You can play with up to four players, and at the beginning of each episode you can pick from one of four different characters to play as. This is a purely a cosmetic choice, though, as the different playable characters don’t have any particular skills, nor do they change how the story plays out. The real star of the show is the narrator, who will guide you through the experience, both by telling the story and by handing out useful tidbits of advice.
The game itself is essentially divided into two main parts: story and puzzles. You’ll spend much of your time going to different locations and listening to the various residents of Little Riddle tell you their stories. But at each location you’ll be presented with a puzzle to solve. These take the form of head scratching logic puzzles. You’ll have to plot out routes, decipher codes, do some light math, and even try and read a doctor’s handwriting. Now that’s hard. All of these puzzles are timed and you’ll be awarded a medal depending on your performance. Generally the time limits are pretty generous, so unless you make a lot of mistakes expect to get plenty of golds. You can also choose to give up on the puzzles all together if you want, though this will lower your overall score.
A few times per episode your observation skills will also be put to the test as the narrator will ask you four questions about what’s happened so far to ensure that you’re paying close attention. And at the end of the chapter you’ll have to take all of the clues into account in order to pick the guilty party from a list of suspects.
Now when you’re playing with other people, the rather limited interaction you actually have with the game is easy to ignore, because things can get pretty competitive. At the end of each episode your performance will be rated, with a gold medal going to whoever did the best. This makes each puzzle an intense experience, as you’re all trying to not only figure out the right answer, but to figure it out first. But this aspect of the game is lost when you go it alone. It’s still enjoyable, but as a single-player experience Blue Toad Murder Files feels a little empty. This was clearly designed as a multiplayer game, as evidenced by the fact that the narrator will often refer to you as “player one” even when you’re the only one playing.
But the game sure does look great. Blue Toad features stylized 3D graphics that gives the whole world a unique sense of charm. Everything is just so quintessentially English. Each character, of which there are many, has a unique look and a great voice actor to match. The excellent acting just makes the witty dialog that much funnier, though none of the characters can match the brilliant narrator, who is simply hilarious. He’ll shower you with praise one moment, only to scold you for an incorrect answer the next.
It may be a little lacking as a single-player game, but Blue Toad Murder Files is an experience that’s pretty rare and worth rounding up a couple of friends to play with. The story is well written, the dialog is hilarious and coupled with some great acting, and the puzzles are challenging. It’s a whodunnit that will keep you guessing until the end. Just make sure you figure it out first.