At first it's fun. The interface is so simple and intuitive as to be nearly overlooked. During the interviewing process, notes are automatically taken for you about each person and then you file the person as an informant or a suspect. You can always look back over your notes for clues about what lead to follow next. Your PDA (Personal Detective Assistant) informs you of any latebreaking news or results from forensics. You easily click from place to place and interview every person associated with Anna Elk Moon who might be able to shed light on why she was killed. And then it starts to get a little annoying. As you talk to people, you find that there are quite a few possible suspects. Everybody is pointing fingers at everybody else. And then new developments occur that further cloud the issue. Each interview takes chunks of your time, each forensics report you file takes time, and before you know it -- you're down to Day Five and have about five different suspects to try arresting.
Now, let me just say that the video quality in this game is excellent, and the acting superb. Each interview is like a little movie. You choose what questions to ask, and then watch the person answer. You can save time by only asking the questions that seem most pertinent to the case, but of course you may risk missing some important bits of information. After each interview, you can ask your partner, Detective John Night Sky, for his thoughts about the interviewee. You can choose which leads to follow, hoping to hit on the right one, but if you waste too much time following the wrong one, then you may not be able to get back on track before time runs out.
The sound quality is also very nice, and there are bits of rockin' tunes along the way. However, I must admit I don't care to be waiting for fifteen seconds just for the "intro to the next day" music to finish. Some of the sound effects for the little PDA unit are quite annoying, too, and you can't turn them off. But that's just a matter of taste.
And really, it's just a matter of taste that I found this game so lacking in the fun department. It's definitely a murder mystery, and if you love murder mysteries, you will probably like this game. I think I was spoiled by other games where I could actually see my character and form an attachment to him/her. In Elk Moon Murder, you are looking out of the eyes of your character, but you never see yourself. I never had a strong sense of my identity. It would be also be nice to have a good motivation for solving the mystery. The only thing that happens if you don't solve it is that you either get taken off the case or you die. Dying sounds back, but it just means you reload and play again. Nobody's grandmother will sleep better at night, nobody's friend will be rescued from kidnapping, no 90-year long government conspiracy will finally be exposed. The only motivation given is a police chief who keeps harping on you to solve the case because he's getting heat from local officials -- that's the kind of motivation that makes me want to say, "Here's my badge, chief. Give it to somebody who cares."
So that's my major gripe -- the storyline does not make for any personal involvement or motivation to solve the case. And because the game seems to be designed to send you off on goosechases to waste your time and keep you away from the answer, well... I'd rather just not know the answer. The replay value is rather limited, too. There's one answer, and once you have it, that's it.
But if you like to pit your brains against a mystery, and you need no more motivation than that the mystery exists, then give this a try. The installation was painless, and the game didn't freeze or have other troubles on my system. I could save my game at any point and as many times as I liked, and I was able to skip video sequences that I'd already seen when replaying parts. The actors are good, the clues are just waiting to be collected and pieced together, and the interface is very simple and intuitive. Just don't expect to feel warm and fuzzy about having done a good deed when it's all over... it's just one more case solved as a Santa Fe detective.
-- Teddi Deppner
|Reporting for duty|