Reviews

Women's Murder Club: Games of Passion

The game is clearly written by someone who thinks that they’re producing a TV episode or book.


Women's Murder Club: Games of Passion

Publisher: THQ
Players: 1-2
Price: $29.99
Platform: Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: Teen
Developer: THQ
Release Date: 2009-09-22
URL

As games begin to come into their own, people who specialize in producing dialogue and narrative that works well for the medium are becoming more prevalent. There are certain tropes, such as the story progressing in different ways based on player input, that you just need practice and experience before you can really write well. Expectations vary for this, a linear sequence of cutscenes mixed up with gameplay is still a fun way to play, but there should never be a point where the player wants to do something within the confines of the design that the plot won’t allow. Women’s Murder Club: Games of Passion is a massive exercise in plot conflicting with gameplay, resulting in an unpleasant mess to click through rather than play through.

The gameplay is object hunting in pictures. By the genre’s standards (you can find a lot of these sorts of games for Flash) most of the puzzles are pretty easy because they have to organize the picture that you are hunting around a real world image. Normally that’s not an issue, a high-resolution picture lets a developer make the hidden objects much smaller and more carefully tucked away within that image. In this game, because the DS isn’t capable of high-res images, things have to be left a bit more obviously around the crime scene. To make things challenging, the game features symbol hunting sessions, which are hidden around the objects and made to blend in. Every crime scene starts with the symbol hunting clean-up, followed by a linear series of evidence questions. An example would be to collect all the items from the victim’s purse or to answer the question, “How did the suspect break in?” There’s a map that you click around to move from location to location, but these experiences are all linear and you can’t leave a scene until you solve all the puzzles. The game is broken into chapters, which are rounded out with a dinner club session with your lady friends. Each will ask you a question about that chapter’s murder and require you to remember the bits of evidence that you found.

The problem with all of this is that the game is clearly written by someone who thinks that they’re producing a TV episode or book. You can spot this a mile away. After clearing up clutter from a crime scene, the game will ask you to find the suspect’s wallet. At the same time, there are guns and knives lying all over the crime scene. It seems a lot more rationale to pick up the murder weapon first. These irrational situations start off being relatively innocuous but get worse as certain clues, like a perfume bottle, become key to the case. You want to go and pick-up the obvious piece of evidence lying right in front of you, but instead, you can only pick things up as the game asks you to do so. This becomes worse when you leave a crime scene that you can clearly see has not been solved yet. A bit of plot and jabber goes by, your avatar realizes she should go back, and then you can unlock the remaining details. The game will also fob a bunch of relationships on to you that assumes an intimacy that doesn’t yet exist. Your friend, the coroner, will be cracking jokes about corpses before you know anything about her. Your partner, who is supposed to be a sort of loveable asshole, mostly comes across as annoying because the game presumes the loveable part. Obviously the game is based on a series of books and a short-lived TV show, so fans are going to engage easily, but there’s not much exposition here for newcomers.

Occasionally puzzles get broken up with other puzzles like a Mahjong game that can played at any time along with some other spins on familiar flash titles. None of it makes sense in terms of the story (you have to do a Mahjong session to see what’s underneath some tiles?) and often they’re a pain to play on the DS. The Mahjong tiles are small and it’s difficult to tell how they are stacked up. It only happens once, but it’s one of the game’s features, so it bears mentioning.

In terms of the story, I’m not really sure what Patterson’s books were like, but I hope this isn’t indicative of their quality. A series of murders related to a few artists spiral into a case concerning a much larger black market operation, which all has something to do with a private school for girls and brainwashing. Since the game won’t let you deduce things on your own, there isn’t much point in thinking about anything until the final reveal that the murderer was -- wait for it -- the last person you’d suspect. Characters are all shown via pixilated photos, which doesn’t work out well because they all have a specific look on their face. Detective Boxer spends the whole game with this bizarre “I really need to pee” expression while the Chief is constantly looking at you quizzically even when he’s ranting. I understand wanting to liven up the blank expressions that make up most avatars’ faces but people didn’t put these kinds of images into games because they lack imagination. If you can only have one or two pics to show the character’s face, then it needs to be one that can read in a variety of different ways.

It’s just the little things that grind about this game: a caucasian pimp in a purple gigolo suit, the inability to pick up the murder weapon while everyone wonders where it could be, and the changing rules of the game’s photo mechanic. Sometimes everything in an image is plausible and life-size; other times you have massive scavenger hunts because the objects in said images are out of proportion to one another. By the end, it’s easier to just click on everything and know that you’ll eventually hit it. If you’re a fan of the Women’s Murder Club books or show, keep it that way by avoiding this game.

4

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image