A scream pierces the night air, penetrating every room of Ghastley Manor. The maid has discovered something rather chilling on the dining room floor, the crumpled (i.e. dead) body of Sir Stuart Wynne. Was it just an accident or suicide? Well not unless he battered himself to death and hid the weapon afterwards! It's just as well there's a supersleuth such as yourself on hand to investigate - Scotland Yard won't arrive for another two hours.
First thing to do is question a few of the many people staying at the mansion. you can ask about any of the other occupants, the many rooms and various household objects (including give types of pistol and four knives!). In addition you can ask more specific questions about the relationship between two people (murder motives include inheritance, blackmail and lust) or about a particular person in a particular place with a particular object etc. Of course the person may not know anything, or even lie. Any useful answers can be entered in your notebook by clicking on an icon. The notebook is divided into four sections: peoples, places, clues and motives.
The maid tells you she saw a certain Lord score near the scene of the crime just before it happened and also that he stood to inherit the editorship of a popular magazine from Sir Stuart. You decide to explore the Manor's four floors in search of more clues.
Movement is achieved by clicking the cursor over an exit. A map screen comes in useful for navigation - and knowledge of the house layout is also essential for working out if a suspect could have reached the scene of crime in time.
Ah, here comes Lord Score. Now if only you can get his fingerprints. A pity he's not carrying anything at he moment. The best thing for you to do is grab an innocuous item - the bottle of Vim will do -, wipe it clean and wait for him to pick it up and drop it again. There, that didn't take long. Now let's examine those grubby prints... Well, well. They perfectly match those on the candlesticks. Now all that's left to do is to pick up the candlestick for evidence and arrest Lord Score... Whoops, what's that laser sword doing stuck between your shoulderblades? Looks like another murder!
Never mind, by varying the date and the name of the mansion at the start of the game you can investigate approximately three million uniquely generated murders! You can even change your sleuth's appearance (and name) by altering his facial features, hair and glasses. There are four skill levels ranging from novice to supersleuth.
Murder casts you as an amateur sleuth who "just happens" to be in the right place at the right time - at the scene of a murder. You know that Scotland Yard are due on the scene, but you also know that they won't arrive for another two hours (telepathic as well as a sleuth?) and you decide that you will solve all before they arrive.
The thing that makes this icon-driven graphic adventure different from your run of the mill icon-driven graphic adventure is that there are over three million (yes folks, three million) possible murders to choose from. Your particular homicide is randomly generated from inputs you make before the game starts.
On loading you are greeted with a picture of a newspaper story announcing the murder and that you are in the vicinity.
There is a slight logical problem here, as the headline says you are called to investigate while the manual insists that you just happen to be in the area. Journalistic license, I suspect. Anyway, back to the plot. So, you are greeted with a picture of a newspaper story announcing the murder.
Using the mouse that is an essential part of the game, you can change the date of the murder, its location, and your own physiognomy (facial appearance to you). Unfortunately, you are stuck with being a male sleuth, so there is no opportunity to emulate Miss Marple (tush and fie programmers).
You can also select the difficulty level by calling yourself novice, average, experienced or super-sleuth. Once you have played with the newspaper to your heart's content, click the right mouse button to generate the murder and start the game.
After an intro screen featuring an alarmingly lifelike scream, you find yourself in a room of Ghastly Grange, or Ghastly Manor, or Ghastly Court or whatever you selected, face to face with a body. The action takes place in the left hand side of the screen where there is a large graphic of the room you are in. Animated characters come and go, and you have to be quick if you want to question them.
The game is set in 30s style so all the characters wander around in dinner jackets and flapper costume (except the servants, of course). The whole adventure is controlled by pointing and clicking. A bar of icons lies down the right down the right head edge of the screen and these control actions like questioning characters, entering information into your sleuth's notebook, looking for fingerprints, comparing them, and arresting suspects.
Choosing to question a character brings up another menu bar across the top of the screen. You can ask any character about objects, places or other characters. Selecting an icon representing one of these three themes brings up a scrolling list from which to choose exactly what you want to ask about.
You can build quite complex questions in this way, like 'Tell me about Lady Carina Charles and the revolver in the guest bedroom'. Characters' responses and other information appear in a dialogue box across the bottom of the screen, and you can write clues and other information into your notebook.
The idea behind the game is a good and novel one. Unfortunately, each of the three million murders is very similar, and I predict that one or two will be enough for most of us. Graphically, the game is excellent, the part of the screen where the action takes place is reminiscent of those old Speccy Ultimate games and the spot effects add to the atmosphere enormously.
Characters light cigarettes, bats and frogs can be heard in the outdoors locations, whispering sounds are heard when you go to question a character, and in one room a stuck gramophone player whirs round.
Despite the minute attention to detail and atmosphere creation, the gameplay is sorely lacking. Actually using the icon environment takes a bit of getting used to. Still, the idea of a game with a two hour limit will appeal to many players with not overmuch time to spare, and this could be where Murder scores over others in the genre.
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