Murder by Numbers: Overview

Indie developers love to combine the incongruous, and Murder by Numbers is an ideal example: its creators came up with the idea to combine a visual novel and ... Japanese crosswords. It just so happened that I was a big fan of both of them, so right after the announcement the friv game took first place in my list of expected releases. The final version, fortunately, did not become a disappointment, but still some of its elements aroused my questions.

The presentation of this game was on the site Murder by Numbers strongly resembles the first Ace Attorney, in which lawyer Phoenix Wright tried by all possible means to obtain an acquittal for his clients. There are no lawyers here, and you don’t need to play half of the game in court, but the influence of Ace Attorney is still felt. There, the protagonist had the surname Wright, consonant with the English word “right”, “fair”, and here the heroine is called Onor - the name, obviously, translates as “honor”.

But the main similarity is that the authors of the novelty invited to write music by Masakazu Sugimori, the composer of the debut Ace Attorney. Of the entire trilogy, reissued not so long ago on PC and consoles, it was in the first part that I liked the music the most - it was eaten into memory, it was great for situations in which it sounded. All this happened somewhere in the sequel, where the arrangement was changed, and the tracks did not produce the proper effect.

In Murder by Numberswith sound design, everything is wonderful: the compositions are pleasant, the tunes continue to hum after several hours of passing, even effects like slaps and bells that convey the emotions of the heroes in unannounced dialogs make you recall Wright's adventures. The conversations themselves, by the way, also cause nostalgia: you are transported between locations, almost everyone has the opportunity to chat with someone, choosing topics from the list, and sometimes the player is invited to draw conclusions and give three answers, two of which are comic and do not affect the plot .

The friv game takes place in Los Angeles, where the shooting of the detective series takes place, one of the main roles in which Honor plays. At one not the most beautiful moment, she learns from the director that she was fired, and after a few minutes the same director is killed in her own office. You might think that he was dealt with by an insulted actress, but at that moment she was in the parking lot, where she met with the flying and talking robot SCOUT. She and her new comrade need to prove that she is innocent, and after that a detective’s vein wakes up in Onor - looking for evidence, talking with witnesses and identifying the perpetrators is exciting not only on the set.

The plot is divided into four chapters, in each of which there is a murder. It seems that this is not enough, but I spent more than 13 hours on the passage of the plot, which is quite enough for this kind of friv game. Each new business is longer, and most importantly, more complicated than the previous one. The first two are quite predictable - sometimes you are surprised how heroes are not aware of simple things. The latter are not as simple as you think at first. But even the first things you go through with great pleasure - you don’t get tired of reading the dialogues, the characters are well-drawn, and the humor is good. Plus there is a basic story related to a robot that has lost its memory and its desire to find out who created it and why.

The only pity is that in Murder by Numbers there are no such spectacular episodes in court as in Ace Attorney. It is probably not entirely fair to compare them - after all, this is not a new part of the famous series, and there are practically no lawyers here. But still, Wright's skirmishes with the prosecution, the cries of Objection! and the tense atmosphere made such moments emotional attractions during which you sat on the edge of the chair and admired the inventiveness of the scriptwriters.

Everything looks much more casual here - even when the situation is heating up and someone is threatened with death, you don’t feel strong emotions. Perhaps this is due to slightly higher expectations, but if you hope that this game can replace the new Ace Attorney , then it will not be able to fulfill the desire in full.

Another (not the biggest) flaw is related to the search for evidence. When you are in a new location, you can either talk with a person standing there, or do research, that is, scan the environment using a robot. Near the important objects, a red circle will start flashing, and when it stops flickering, you can click on the interaction button. However, you are not looking for objects and are not trying to examine a suspicious object, but simply move the cursor on the screen and wait for a circle to appear, which can be called detective work only with a stretch.

Each time you interact with the object, a Japanese crossword appears, but you will have to solve such puzzles in other situations. Even when a minor character gives you his business card or the detective offers to look at the evidence he found, you must first solve the puzzle, get a “pixel” image of the subject, and only after that the dialogue will continue. So there are a lot of crosswords here - from 13 hours about half of this time I spent on solving. If this scares you, playing Murder by Numbers is certainly not worth it.

An explanation of what the Japanese crossword is, Wikipedia will do perfectlybut briefly worth explaining. This is not a crossword puzzle in the usual sense, where letters fit into the cells, but a large field with numbers on the left and top, on which a picture will appear after the decision. If the width of the field is 10 cells, and the number 10 is written to the left of a row, then all cells must be painted over. If the numbers 4 and 3 are written with a space, then four filled cells first go to this line, and then three more (with a space between the blocks).

Since Japanese crosswords of various sizes I solved in my childhood almost every day (and even invented them), they did not cause any problems here. There is only one way to spoil such a puzzle when compiling - to leave the “guessing” element when you have to choose any of the two possible solutions and the conditions will be met. In Murder by Numberssuch a situation does not arise even once for the entire passage. Crosswords are excellent and become harder to finish - large numbers are getting smaller, so you have to cling to every opportunity to paint at least one cell in a row. Several times I even had to use “advanced” techniques - I imagined that the filled cells were in some place, and in my mind I calculated whether it was possible to complete the task in this case.

If it’s difficult to understand such riddles, it doesn’t matter - there are several options that simplify the process. When hints are turned on, the numbers in the lines and columns that you need to pay attention to first of all are painted in blue. With a separate button, you can paint over or cross out five random cells on the field, and there is also a check for errors. In addition, before starting the friv game, they ask you to choose the level of difficulty - on a light, correctly filled rows and columns are automatically crossed out, but on a normal one there isn’t, although there are hints like fading numbers when conditions are met.

The amount of points received for each solved crossword depends on whether you used the help and on what difficulty you played. The more points, the higher the rank for a chapter, and upon reaching each new mark (from F to S) bonus puzzles are unlocked in a special menu - there are already 69 of them. Four robot memories will open for completing all blocks - a small but pleasant bonus. Apparently, some crosswords in the plot can be involuntarily missed - in one chapter I did not get the maximum score, although I did not use any options that simplified the game, which could lower the score. And in order to try to improve the result, you need to go through the entire chapter from the very beginning, solving crosswords and talking to everyone in a new way - there are no other options.

There is no logical explanation for why we are not just interacting with objects, but solving crosswords, in the game. They just exist, and they just need to be addressed. But it doesn’t matter if such puzzles are to your liking, such questions will not arise. In addition, they do not take too much time - the fields here are a maximum of 15 by 15 cells (with the exception of one crossword puzzle), and even these appear mostly towards the end.

Murder by Numbers failed to reach the heights of Ace Attorney - and the murders here are not so sophisticated, and there are almost no spectacular verbal skirmishes. But the story is good, the characters are cute, and there is no desire to miss the dialogues as soon as possible. In addition, the game has many Japanese crosswords - those who are familiar with this entertainment will be able to “shake the old days” if they have not touched it for a long time. Well, for beginners, tips and simplifying options are available. All of these ingredients blended into a good game that deserves attention, despite the flaws. By the way, do not forget about the scene after the credits - there is something interesting.

Pros: good storyline; sound humor; cool drawn characters; excellent sound design and a great soundtrack from the composer of the first Ace Attorney; many Japanese crosswords, none of which have a "guessing game"; the presence of tips for those who have not encountered similar riddles before; bonus crosswords for the successful passage of the plot.

Cons: there are no exciting fights in the spirit of the Ace Attorney series , although the friv game imitates it in many ways; in the search for evidence there is no actual search; to improve the assessment you need to go through the entire chapter again.