Blue Toad Murder Files: The Mysteries of Little Riddle Episodes 1 & 2 (PSN Review)

Episode 1: Little Riddle’s Deadly Dilemma
Episode 2: The Mystery of Riddle Manor

It’s about time PSN got some murder mystery puzzles games going. Professor Layton on the DS has had his own way for much too long now. So the creators of the Buzz! quiz games whisk us off to the “Quintessentially quaint” countryside village of Little Riddle.

All the voice over work is done by one man. He’s done a cracking job too, with no two villagers sounding alike and each amusing in their own way. The way he dramatically pronounces ‘murder’ as the narrator raises a smile every time. His dithering barmaid and snooty hotel manager are worth a mention too. The script, music and characters all poke fun at the murder mystery genre and the game feels all the better for it.

You play as one of four detectives (another three people can play along too) from the Blue Toad Agency on holiday after finishing your latest case. It doesn’t matter who you pick as all the puzzles are the same and they’re all mute, but each with some amusing facial expressions. At first it seems the biggest concern of any of the villagers is that of the Station Master who desperately wants a tea shop built at the village’s solitary platform.

You’ve not been there five minutes though before the Mayor is shot right in-front of you. So for Episode 1 of this six part series you must find out who the killer is by working out the motives of your local suspects. Each episode works on its own, but there’ll be an over-arcing story too, linking them together. You have to solve these crimes using skills of maths, logic and memory for various puzzles.

The village looks like a shiny, high-def version of Postman Pat’s world. It’s all vibrant colours, babbling brooks, duck ponds, country manors, twee shops and a small train station (without a tea-room). You don’t wander around the village freely, instead you choose a location from an overhead viewpoint. After listening to the villagers natter on for a bit you help them out with one of their problems which are barely related to investigating the crime, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Word puzzles are made up of anagrams to translate the doctor’s note, rearranging wordsearches and adding missing letters to decipher coded clues. Rearranging cut-up images to get the original picture back is also used, the post-office one being a particular pain. Or you might have to play a bit of spot the difference or link up some pipes to barrels.

There are plenty (too many) maths puzzles to plod through.  At the jewellers you help the American shop-keeper add up her bills with pounds, pence and shillings (not a modern setting then) or you might find yourself pouring specific amounts of water over plants. The really boring ones are the ones with you needing to do various sums to follow a route on a map full of numbers.

One of the most intuitive puzzles has you listening out for footsteps on different surfaces and other audio clues to find out the route somebody took. It’s a shame there aren’t any others like it amongst these two episodes.

Depending on how quick you can beat the puzzle and with as few mistakes as possible you’ll get a gold, silver or bronze medal. There will be a few quiz’s to make sure you been paying attention to the dialogue and your surroundings too. These will help jog your memory for evidence you’ve collected about your suspects. At the end of the episode you are required to choose your perp from a line-out.

There are 12 puzzles in each episode. They’re pretty simple for the first one, but they start to get much more difficult with Episode 2, where they become even less connected with anything going on within the plot and some aren’t given clear instructions. It’s also strange how the big crime at the start of Episode 2 is put to one side for a burglary case. Are they just going to leave it on the floor till they have time!

Depending on how long you take on the puzzles, each episode will probably take between an hour and 90 minutes. While that length isn’t too disappointing, the fact that every time you play it, the puzzles, questions, dialogue and eventual culprit are exactly the same every time. Surely it wouldn’t have been too hard to have a few variations of dialogue, or different numbers for the maths puzzles to keep the experience fresh second time around? Even the guilty villager at the end could have been a variable.

So at £6.99 each (or the pair for £9.99) there’s not a lot of game here. Unless you’re really forgetful. With another four episodes to go, let’s just hope they add a little replay value to them. The next chapter (date TBC) will be ‘The Mystery of the Concealing Flame.’

6/10

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