“I say, shall we play an episodic Whodunnit?”
Reviewed on the PlayStation 3 by Mark Dicks
“I say tally-ho old chap… hmm what, what?!” Aww pompous English clichés, I can’t help but just love them. It seems also that Relentless Software the group behind the Buzz! series joins me on this notion. Because what they’ve produced this time isn’t another notch in their BAFTA award winning game show quiz-off. No folks, step away from those buzzers it’s time to go get your thinking pipe and magnifying glass…
Enter Blue Toad Murder Files: The Mysterious of Little Riddle. Title mouthful aside what we have here is essentially a six episodic trivial party game under a Sherlock Holmes overcoat. Are you ready to solve Little Riddle’s Deadly Dilemma? Or crack the case of The Riddles of the Past? Best go grab your family and friends then, because believe me you’ll need them!
Playing both on my lonesome and with a gaggle of friends, I’ve come to the conclusion that experiencing Little Riddle with company is the only way to go. Passing around the controller may hark back to the sluggish, but it’s worth it for the much needed boost in the fun factor department.
You are part of the Blue Toad Murder detective team – a public school swat, a US junior detective, a moustache-sporting moleskin wearing Belgian and as for my favourite a ‘sweet’ little old lady. The choice is yours, well or whomever you’re left with after your fellow companions have performed the ‘dibs ritual’. Detective avatar chosen it’s off to Little Riddle a quaint stereotypical countryside village. With instructions from ‘Mother’ you arrive. But before you know it murder strikes and this in turn is where the puzzling begins! Cue Midsomer Murders and Johathan Creek comparisons. For those of you who don’t know, think ‘murder mystery lite’ out in the detached British country daylight.
Each of the six episodes is made up of twelve puzzles broken up by narrative segments and the odd case review section. Not forgetting the culprit-identifying finale.
The puzzles themselves are quite frankly hit and miss, ‘To Bee or not to Bee’ and ‘Mister Fluffykins’ to name a few. Some even have nothing to do with the underlying plot. Take ‘Duck and Colour’ for example involving you to spot which rotating duck family has the least members! But puzzles like ‘The Manor’s Maze’ where you’ll be arranging six maze route pieces in a jigsaw puzzle fashion do seem to serve a purpose. Well you have to reach your interrogation destination somehow, don’t you?
So whether your adding together figures from a jeweller’s ledger, deciphering furniture anagrams or plumbing a public house your always under a time constraint. The only sense of competition Blue Toad Murder Files enforces is in its gold, silver and bronze rosette badges. In other words how well do you perform under pressure? Solve it fast and under par with no mistakes you’ll earn those bragging rights! But due to the plodding gaming pace apparent, this competiveness seemed almost non-existent. In fact it was quite the opposite. Everyone seemed to team up and pitch in. Could this of been due to the boredom of waiting for their turn? Or that the game doesn’t invoke competitive behaviour? I’ll let you decide…
So as for the narrative, here’s a game that’s very aware of it’s self. What I believe to be the saving grace is the work of the voice actor Tom Dussek as he brings the script to life. A classic cast of jabbering old ladies, an uptight inspector “sharpish!”, an aloof vicar, a rude and pedantic hotel manager (hello there Faulty Towers reference), a snobbish manor resident, a nice but dim barmaid “no, no, yes… no” (couldn’t help but think The Vicar of Dibley), and of course my favourite The Colonel –insert poshe jollyisms-. All twenty-two characters are brimming with acceptable cliché personality. You’re bound to find at least one Little Riddle resident that will cause the odd smirk or chortle. So not only does Mr. Dussek narrate the journey he also voices the entire ensemble. Bravo sir, bravo!
The visual presentation is fun but a touch buggy. The bogglely characters pronounce and animate happily. But I did notice quite a few vanishing vehicles on the map selection screen. The puzzle screens are quite straightforward and served their purpose, some unfortunately caused hints of confusion. When there’s a time limit it feels unfair, especially when a re-run is basically pointless. The music and sound FX didn’t stick with me but yet again they weren’t garish either. All in all as mentioned above it’s the voice work that’s the winning charm in this department.
Separate from the puzzles and littered throughout each of the episode’s cinematics are ‘hints’ to who the culprit is. Through the use of the case review sections the game attempts to make sure your paying attention. Technically it’s the only
proper detective work you’ll partake in. Otherwise it’s back to solving inconsistent NCP set problems. As for the finale well… basically it’s a one in four chance that you’ll guess right anyway.
If I was to be blunt about this… basically your paying for 72 puzzles with honestly no replay value. Think of it like playing a quiz orientated board game but with only 72 question cards. It wouldn’t be long before that game’s repetitiveness seals its cupboard coffin. Plus once the ‘Whodunnit’ is cracked, where’s the fun in solving an already solved mystery? I can’t help but feeling deflated after my time spent with Blue Toad Murder Files. I wish it could have been an interactive Cluedo. Just think, what about one episode that alters on each consecutive playthrough. How great would that have been to never actually know who the culprit was EVERY time you play? Ah but a mere pipe dream.
Overall I felt some of the Blue Toad Murder Files: The Mysteries of Little Riddle’s puzzles had fun dynamics, but more often than not I did feel like I was in some sort of multiple choice general knowledge quiz. Thinking of an entertaining diversion for a dinner party? Or possibly having an upcoming murderously English themed gathering? Well then I’d go ahead and recommend this game of maths, logic and observation. Puzzles aside the story is a well-acted overly British comical caper enough to give it a go. The first episode is free, so why not eh? Hey I’d even say it could be a good edition to your Christmas party game bout, it’s not one that would scare the children for sure. Otherwise if daytime murder mystery isn’t your cup of tea or your more of a gaming singleton, I wouldn’t worry about skipping this particular interactive fiction!