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Not Much of a Mystery, But Fun, March 7, 2014
by forgepoetI really wanted to like this game. The set-up is breezy and to the point, hitting a lot of the high points you'd expect in a certain type of mystery (I love it when a game straight out tells me I'm good-looking, brilliant, rich, and have good taste in clothes).
The problem, for this mystery buff, is that the actual mystery wasn't much of one. This is actually a treasure hunt where collecting all the treasures ("evidence") earns you the ending. The motives and their reveals just aren't tied that well into the environment or the story (on my first play through, the first evidence I found was a signed notebook detailing the villain's plans), which is understandable given the multiple potential story lines, but really took away from the game itself.
There's also no emotional involvement from the protagonist; when you unmask the killer, you're given the opportunity to read some of the why as an author's afterword, but it's sketchy and leaves out little things like "what happens to the person I just arrested" and "how does the protagonist feel about this". Even endings where the hero could be expected to have emotional involvement never discuss it or the ramifications of the hero's success.
I think, in large part, that the professionalism and just plain inviting writing -- these are authors who know their stuff -- really set up narrative expectations that that games of that era weren't usually designed to meet. It's not fair to ding a game based on my expectations, but damn, this was fun and could have been so much more so if there had just been a little more story and a little more resolution.
The puzzles unfold easily and smoothly, with most being clued so boldly even I couldn't miss them. I did find it a little tedious to wander around the castle looking for rooms that fit the clues. I'll admit it; I'm spoiled by modern convenience and whenever I get a "go to" command I use it excessively and often have no mental layout of the game. I liked that if I ran into someone along the way the command would stop so I could chat with them.
As a treasure hunt, and as a bit of history, and even as a fun game for someone who isn't expecting much of a mystery (or who is new to the IF format), this is one to play. Just be aware that you'll have to fill in the blanks on the emotional aspects yourself.
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