It seems like a match made in heaven: a hidden-object game ("HOG") that has you scouring for clues and solving puzzles to unravel a murder mystery, all based on the coveted Murder, She Wrote television series that ran from 1984 to 1996.
Now available for the PC and Mac, Legacy Interactive’s Murder, She Wrote does stay truthful to the long-running show – thanks to excellent writing, plot twists and good voice-acting (led by a convincing Angela Lansbury sound-a-like) – but the fun object-finding puzzles and mini-games also hold their own, even without the MSW association.
In this interactive whodunit, players can play five unique cases, each one starring novelist Jessica Fletcher as well as other familiar characters from the show, including Seth Hazlitt and Sheriff Mort Metzger. Each case can be played with a timer or in a relaxed mode, but you have so much time to complete each level in the timed mode both options more or less feel the same.
In the first adventure, called "A Deadly Catch," the tale surrounds a murdered fisherman in Maine. After the somewhat animated intro sets up the yarn, you’ll begin hunting for clues and talking with witnesses and suspects. Like most HOGs, the core game-play involves a busy indoor or outdoor scene – be it on the deck of a boat, inside a restaurant, at a storefront, in laboratory or on a dining room table.
A number of items to find will be listed on the left-hand side of the screen and you’ve got to search the screen and click them with your mouse to strike them off the list. But you must first find all the vowels, represented by typewriter keys, to fill in the missing letters in the item list (such as "c_mp_ss" or "h_mm_r" instead of "compass" and "hammer").
You can also find a black typewriter ribbon per level which helps your Hint button replenish faster if you need the game to pinpoint hard-to-find objects for you. Clicking incorrectly too many times causes the mouse cursor to be disabled temporarily.
Most of the objects you’re searching for are related to the environment or relevant to the story (such as a blood-stained letter, cigar, 25 jewels or aligning buoys in a minigame) but some are just filler (pizza, penny, guitar pick, etc.) and have no relevance to the game at all. There are some minor adventure game-like puzzles per level, too, such as wetting a sponge in soapy water and then cleaning a glass cabinet to see what’s inside or giving a seagull as many fish you can find so that it gets full and then flies away (revealing something underneath).
In total, the game features more than 80 levels, spread out between about two-dozen locations (about 5 per case). Therefore, expect to revisit the same locations a few times during one case, but even if you’re asked to find similar items they’re in a different place and might look different (three different flashlights or four different kinds of rope). Plus, it stays true to the story and gives you a reason for returning to the scene. Each case should take between 60 and 90 minutes to complete.
In order to push the story along, between many of these levels will be drawn characters who exchange dialogue (all text is accompanied by voice-over talent), as well as some mini-games, be it Concentration-like memory games, spot the difference exercises, jigsaw puzzles, word games, logic/deduction tests, and more. Great stuff.
Murder, She Wrote does a great job fusing the TV fiction with HOG puzzles. Even though it doesn’t exactly break new ground in the hidden object genre, its enthusiastic presentation and faithfulness to the source material make it well worth a download.
Whether or not you’re a fan of Murder, She Wrote, Legacy Interactive has done a good job with this game. It offers a rich hidden object game experience that also folds in clever minigames, great writing, and of course, head-scratching whodunits that has you questioning all the suspects and their motives.