Dead by Murder!

I was hoping that Dead by Murder! would be a sleek, simple, yet witty murder mystery game, but unfortunately it's little more than a simplistic "strategy"/guessing game.

In Dead by Murder! you play as a police detective trying to solve murder cases. The entire case is contained within one screen. You have a basic description of the case, up to four suspects, up to four witnesses, and three helpers. You can question each witness and each suspect. In addition, you can investigate a suspect, trail a suspect, or interrogate them to try to obtain a confession. Finally, you can ask your helpers if they have any useful information. It is also possible to discover new suspects or witnesses over the course of your investigation.

All of this is constrained by time: you only have seven days to solve each case, and each action takes up a certain number of hours. You need to solve cases correctly to do well in your job (or else you get a game over), you need to solve them with enough time left over to spend with your family to keep them happy (or else you get a game over), and then there is a "secret admirer" you need to keep happy (or else you get a game over). (The "secret admirer" bit becomes clearer when you get to the parts of the game where they actually matter.)

As mentioned, these cases are so simplistic that all the information fits onto one screen. You aren't getting fleshed out tales or descriptions of anything; each piece of information is one or two sentences long. Because everything is so short and simple, there's no real way to deduce what you need to do to find the right evidence. The only way to win is to elicit a confession, which can only be obtained from the culprit and only when you have collected sufficient evidence. On top of that, interrogating the criminal only has a chance of obtaining a confession. So in the end, there's little more you can do but randomly guess which actions you need to find the proper evidence, hope you got enough evidence, make a semi-educated guess as to the killer, and then pray you get lucky enough to get a confession. In other words, there is no deduction and only the barest trace of strategy; it is little more than a guessing game.

The mystery plots themselves are not terrible as hard-boiled or noir stories. They're varied, with all sorts of set-ups, motives, suspects, and witnesses. Every single character is taken from the image of a 50's Hollywood star, cementing the film noir atmosphere. Looking through the cases feels a lot like reading Wikipedia summaries of hard-boiled detective novels or watching Quick Mysteries.

Each case only takes a few minutes, and while there's a fair number of them, they're so short, the game is too. And as nothing more than a guessing game, it's not that fun. The game features the same cases every time, although in a different order, so to do the best there's not much you can do but memorize the answers and solve each case by knowing the solution. There's a bit of a story, and it's probably the most interesting thing they could do with such a simplistic system, but... it's really not much.

Dead by Murder! is nothing more than a boring waste of time. The best thing I can say about it is that it's cheap and short, so if you do play it you won't end up wasting much of your time or money.

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