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Death off the Cuff

by Simon Christiansen profile

Mystery
2010

Web Site

(based on 39 ratings)
7 member reviews

About the Story

They all stare at you expectantly, like children waiting to be told a bedtime story. Who can blame them? You are, after all, Antoine Saint Germain, the great French detective. No criminal has ever been a match for you, and everybody is looking forward to a description of your brilliant deductions.

There is just one small problem. One tiny detail that makes it different this time. A mere trifle, really. This time you have no idea who did it.

Game Details

Language: English (en)
First Publication Date: October 1, 2010
Current Version: 7
License: Freeware
Development System: Inform 7
Forgiveness Rating: Polite
IFID: 01CF0FCD-CEF1-4EE3-B4C4-F4C2556115C3
TUID: hqjjswyesj1gjm7v

Awards

5th Place overall; 1st Place, Miss Congeniality Awards - 16th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2010)

Winner, Best Individual PC - 2010 XYZZY Awards


News

Now available for iOS! January 12, 2014
Release 7 now available September 30, 2013
More news... | Add a news item

Editorial Reviews

JayIsGames
There are secret identities and romances and sordid pasts aplenty, but the plot isn't any more outlandish than the genre demands. Death off the Cuff's main strength, though, is its efficiency. You're going to be typing on a tiny keyboard, and Christiansen accounts for this by adding plenty of shortcuts. The "focus" system, for instance, means that if you're already talking about James, you can just type "motive" instead of "talk about James' motive." You don't have to type "examine" or "talk about" every time you want to examine or talk about something; the game automatically fills in the blanks depending on context.
See the full review

The Guardian
This app has plenty of charm: a text-adventure murder-mystery inspired by Hercule Poirot. Well, Poirot if he didn't know what he was doing, anyway: "You must bluff your way through the traditional revelatory monologue at the end of a crime story," explains developer Simon Christiansen. "Can you make the murderer reveal him- or herself, without letting anyone know that you hadn't already solved the case?" A fun idea.
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Pocket Tactics
Getting a handful of people in a room and explaining the plot resolution must serve some fantastically valuable narrative purpose, given how frequently it occurs in mystery novels. Turning that showcase of genius into intellectual slapstick is an artesian well of humor, continuously providing unforced comedy which doesn’t get old in this admittedly brief game.
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AppAdvice
This is a great text-based puzzle game. It’s an interesting story with twists and turns that hold your attention. You can move along at your own pace as you figure out what questions to ask and whom to examine. You can also speed along by using hints to guide your progress. It’s all up to you. No matter what pace you set, it’s still a great story to interact with.
See the full review

TheAppleGoogle
Death Off The Cuff, available on both App Store and Google Play, is an interactive fiction game inspired by Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot stories. You interact with the game and its characters by typing in your commands. Incredibly intuitive, these commands help you to focus on a person, examine his or her body, clothes, accessories, etc. to gather more clues and have something more to talk about.
See the full review

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Member Reviews

5 star:
(5)
4 star:
(20)
3 star:
(11)
2 star:
(2)
1 star:
(1)
Average Rating:
Number of Reviews: 7
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Most Helpful Member Reviews


11 of 13 people found the following review helpful:
A pastiche, a parody and an entertaining half hour, November 29, 2010
by Peter Pears (Lisbon, Portugal)
It's interesting that so soon after playing Aotearoa, in which I commented genre-writing, I played Death Off the Cuff - not so much genre-writing, as a full-blown pastiche and parody. I daresay parody because it's painfully obvious that the PC is inspired on Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot - the "grey matter", the moustache, the hat. The manner of the expositiion. It screams "Poirot", although there *is* enough to make Mr. Germain stand as his own character. Possibly his belief that bluffing his way through a murder investigation will turn out all right in the end - which is the whole concept for the game.

A very nice concept. A surprising one. Wouldn't work with a more serious game, but this game is anything but serious. It's very light-hearted, and cheerfully throws in a huge number of staples of the genre, most notably the fact that no-one is what they seem. The writing is superbly adapted to the task - it's not meant to read like an Agatha Christie, it's meant to read like a much cheaper whodunnit you can read on your holidays when you don't want to think too much. And because it's also a parody of those very same paperbacks, it allows itself a little humour (such as continously talking about your moustache) which fits in perfectly well. In fact, it's what stops us from groaning *at* the game and start grinning *with* it.

I've seen mentioned, several times, that a potential problem of this game is the fact that the very final clue is, in fact, something that is clearly visible from the very outset *but* which the game doesn't allow you to interacti with until the very end, for no apparent reason. In a game where gameplay consists of carefully examining everything and then thinking about it...

...which I must say, is a superb way of conducting this particular story - every parser message I encountered was tailored to this specific situation, and because interaction was so limited there was a lot of detail to take into account. Which the author did. Often I had to examine things which more than one people had (Spoiler - click to show), such as hair, , and *every single time* the game correctly guessed WHOSE thing I was trying to examing...

...so, in a game where gameplay consists chiefly of that, it's natural to think that keeping the final evidence unmentioned *until the very end* and for no discernible reason is a show-stopper. I will have to disagree on that, and say instead that it provides further characterization for the PC(Spoiler - click to show), in that we realise that the PC was so trusting in his own ego and methods that he managed to overlook something as simple as the detective's uniform.

It's a light-hearted 30 minutes, that pokes fun at the wild twists such stories usually have; at the dramatic exposition in which, it seems, the "great detective" fumbles his way across, practically accusing everyone but the real murderer; at the peculiarities of such detectives, in this particular case some traits of Hercule Poirot with some magnification of his considerably ego; at all sorts of things that are revealed in the end, where relationships are conjured out of the blue.

Also, it constructs a fairly solid mystery, in the end. Not remarkable, but solid and entertaining. It also has some action scenes, in which the PC triumphs by (Spoiler - click to show)bluffing - a perfect conclusion to a whole bluffing game (even though had to "hint" my way through it). It simply didn't occur to me that the PC could be big-headed enough for that to work, but then, one should never underestimate the ego of some detectives...
Note: this review is based on older version of the game.

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
A bit of light fun, November 27, 2010
by Kevin Jackson-Mead (Boston)
Related reviews: IF Comp 2010
I know that there are other murder-mystery IF games out there, but this is the first one I’ve played, and I have to say I really enjoyed myself. I really liked how it excused the fact that you the player don’t know what’s gone on. You are a detective with everyone gathered in the room to make the big-finish accusation, but the detective doesn’t have a clue who the murderer is. So you’re just making random observations about people, hoping that they will confess or in some way slip up.

The first time I was able to accuse someone, I didn’t because I didn’t think he did it. After playing some more and getting somewhere but still not able to accuse someone else (even though I’d started to figure out something of what was going on), I decided to save the game and see what happened if I accused the guy I thought was innocent. And it was a very nice ending. (Spoiler - click to show)The guy is obviously not guilty, but you ruin his life with the accusation, which eventually causes him to commit suicide. The ending part that usually says “You have won” or “You have died” instead says “You have saved your reputation.” Awesome.

One thing I’ve learned is to definitely type “about” or whatever if the author tells you to in the beginning. Some of these games would have been a lot more frustrating without a bit of guidance. In particular, the about text for this game outlines what the interaction is going to be like (mostly just talking about people or objects, with just a little manipulating the environment), which helped me enjoy it more. I certainly would have gotten more frustrated if I went into it expecting to be able to search for clues around the room, move objects, etc. and then finding I wasn’t able to.

The other kind of losing ending I found (Spoiler - click to show)(there are several versions of the “You have saved your reputation” ending, depending on whom you falsely accuse) was particularly great, too. (Spoiler - click to show)I had run out of stuff to do, so I started talking about my own moustache. It lets me keep talking about it, which is usually a sign from the game that there’s something interesting there. But I was saying stupid stuff, and then I was shot from behind while pacing around the room pontificating about facial hair.</spolier>

I highly recommend this game, and it makes me want to go look at some other murder-mystery IF games.


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Interesting, but ultimately frustrating, September 30, 2013
Death off the Cuff has a very original and interesting concept: you are a Poirot-style detective, and all the suspects are in the room, waiting for the final reveal; you must observe and evoke relevants topics to move the case forward and ultimately discover who did it.

The mechanics of the game are quite simple, since it's about focusing on the case and the suspects and find out what is not quite right with the facts. However I found several problems with this in the game. First of all, there are a few topics that weren't implemented, and others that quickly run dry, so when you're stuck you end up trying a lot of different things that get rejected by the parser. Second of all there were a lot of reveals, and maybe a bit too many: every character has several things to hide, but they may not all be relevant to the case, in which case they feel a bit futile. Lastly, some clues were very subtle and involved looking around to detect a very small change in the situation, which was a bit frustrating for me because I didn't always think of it and instead tried to talk about different topics that seemed logical but didn't work. (But I guess you can't expect the case to solve itself either, eh?)

On the other hand, the game's writing is very good, since I found it managed to stay in the style of Agatha Christie but with a touch more humor, which made it a refreshing and genuinely funny exercice in style. All the responses to action furthermore fit very well the setting, in that they all seem like parts of the exposition that the detective is attempting to create, and seam together very well. The responses to the observations you make to stall are almost guaranteed to make you chuckle.

On the implementation side, there was a few typos (missing " for instance), the hints were linear (when you can find the reveals in any order, meaning you can find a few of them and get stuck and the hints will hint at the things you've already discovered, which isn't very good), and, unfortunately, a pretty big bug that meant I had to restart and follow the walkthrough to see the end of the game (Spoiler - click to show)(I think I had looked at the constable a bit too much before getting all the other reveals done, and right after I focused on Jonathan's wounds, there was a picture of someone with a gun, and I barely had time to see that the constable had turned into a German murderer without explanation without dying. I imagine that's the trouble with having several reveals you can find in any order, is that if you didn't think of a particular order it produces a bug.) However, the rest of it was well implemented and well made.

To sum up, I wish I could have liked the game more, for its very nice writing and concept, but there was a few issues that made playing it frustrating.
Note: this review is based on older version of the game.

See All 7 Member Reviews

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Death off the Cuff appears in the following Recommended Lists:

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These are games that captured my attention and made me laugh. All of them are lighthearted, most of them are funny, and one is just plain cute.

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Polls

The following polls include votes for Death off the Cuff:

PC's personality integrated with the story by JasonMel
I would like to be able to recommend to someone many examples of interactive fiction in which the player character is far from a cipher or an everyman or everywoman, but is instead a character with a definite personality within a game...

I'm looking for mysteries. by MCCLUTCH32
I like a game with a good story, good puzzles that aren't too difficult to understand and a good mystery. I was thinking more along the lines of horror, but murder mysteries work as well.

Cool Murder Mystery/Detective Games by Christopher Caesar
Hey everybody. I am looking for a murder mystery text game. I finished An Act of Murder a while ago and want to play more games like that, where to get to solve the murder yourself. If you could tell me some of your recommendations that...

See all polls with votes for this game

Links




This is version 51 of this page, edited by Simon Christiansen on 20 February 2014 at 3:18pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item