The Blue Toad Murder Files from Relentless Software is a serial who-dunnit puzzler, challenging the most sophisticated of Sherlock Holmes gamers to work out the devious deeds and other naughty going-ons in the sleepy village of Little Riddle. With a story that evolves over six-chapters, this is CSI Las Vegas, but without the glitz, glamour and seriously over-the-top CGI.
Every single chapter in the Blue Toad Murder files plays out in exactly the same way and lasts about an hour each; there’s an introduction to the story followed by a number of scenes during which the player has to solve a puzzle. These vary on themes relating to the story at hand, but most involved logical observation or mathematics to some degree. The player gets to watch a load of cut scenes, solve a conundrum to get information about the crime, over and over until then finally it’s time to choose the culprit responsible for the dastardly crime.
The story of each chapter is pretty much linear, although the player can opt to visit at least some of various locales in Little Riddle in any order – this really makes little difference to the task at hand though. The look of the village is pleasant enough, taking the Trumpton feel in the visuals (if you’re old enough to remember that particular television programme). It’s all very colourful and cheerful, as are the sonics, mostly subtle but highlighting the dramatics at right time. The different chapters can be played in any order, but really it makes sense to do things in order, given that the story continues throughout the journey.
The characters involved are rather a caricature of themselves, with over the top facial features and really quite irritating voices. The Hotel Manager in particular seems to be lacking in originality, and if the player didn’t know better, would think that he was watching Fawlty Towers – that’s how much of a rip-off it is.
The puzzles along the way are fairly decent affairs, some being easier than others. Many of them will have the player scratching their heads, and should you get the answer wrong, you will be mocked mercilessly by the narrator. At times these puzzles can be pad-throwingly irritating, but this matters not – if you do give up, the game simply moves the story on without any penalty at all.
If you’re masterful enough to solve a puzzle then you’ll be graded on the length of time it took to complete and the number of retry attempts you took to win. Fail to hit the mark and it’s silver and bronze medals for you, but beat the time limit and solve things first time will offer a delightful gold mark.
Every few sections a pop-quiz is given about events and people encountered through the story. There are no prizes or rewards here, except perhaps pride, and in order not to be smacked down by the narrator, all four multiple choice questions have to be answered correctly. Getting things right or wrong here should give a good indication of how well you’re getting through the game.
After playing the first couple of chapters, you’ve pretty much seen all the game has to offer. Whether you’ll want to continue through the rest of adventure will be determined by how much you’ve enjoyed solving the puzzles, and whether you’re able to stand listening to the non-skipable narration (which actually gets quite annoying after the first hour).
The overall experience seems a little bit on the slow side; things do feel like they drag-on a bit too much, and not being able to skip some of the pre-amble is a little irritating. Solving the final mystery also isn’t greatly linked to all the rigmarole that comes before it. Often the solution is reliant on one or two insignificant facts and foibles that can be easily missed. Replaying the game also seems pretty limited given the story is straighter than a Roman road.
There’s a little bit too much repetition here to highly recommend a purchase, it’s also fairly steep price-wise for all six episodes, especially when it’s a case of seen one, seen them all. For those Miss Marples amongst us, the puzzles will fulfill the desire of being a clued up detective, and it’s clear that the developers have had fun with this Poirot like creation, however I doubt that Agatha Christie, were she still with us, would be losing any sleep over the story and characters. One to consider, but take a careful look before you leap.