Cyberpunk thrillers have been a favorite of mine for as long as I can remember so when I heard about Peter Moorhead and his new game Murder, I jumped at the chance to see what Peter and Curve Digital could do with this very interesting and engaging genre. If you read my review for Moorhead’s last scifi-based game, Stranded, then you might be scratching your head as to why I would be so quick to volunteer to review his next game. The answer is because of the subject matter. Based on the work of Masamune Shirow, Katsuhiro Otomo, Neal Stephenson, and other cyberpunk greats, Murder aims to be a fresh, but familiar take on the relationship between man and machine or more specifically, man and Artificial Intelligence. Set in Tokyo, Japan in the not so distant future, you take on the role of Lieutenant Motomeru Minori of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police on a most unusual and dangerous case, in a short story that explores morality and sentience.
Moorhead likes to bill his games as point-and-click adventures but I have to be honest and reveal that they are more closely associated with a visual novel. As a Lieutenant in the T.M.P., you are tasked with tracking down a gruesome murderer that has been stalking the streets of Tokyo. Night after night, you keep having recurring dreams of this murderer, but for whatever reason, you can never get a good look at his face. The game begins with you waking up from having this dream again in your apartment and it is up to you to solve the case. You move from one point to another by clicking on specific points in the environment that move the story forward such as the computer on the desk or some torn pieces of paper on the floor, but no where else. The story is very linear and you can’t venture outside of that linear path.
The visuals in Murder is some of the best pixel art that I have seen since Moorhead’s last game. I have to hand it to Moorhead in that he has the ability to really capture a scene that is completely created in pixel art that most game designers can’t do with high-resolution graphics. This Tokyo of the future is dark, grungy and dangerous and you can feel that in every scene of the game. While the character designs aren’t super detailed, they are detailed enough to make each one feel completely different and helps to complement the cast of characters as a whole. The locales that you will visit in this Tokyo are magnificent and feel alive even though your stay is a very short one.
The soundtrack and sound effects in Murder are spot on and wraps the whole experience up for the player with a nice bow. Being that this is a murder mystery, the musical score is dark and brooding and really sets the tone for the whole adventure. The sounds effects also help to immerse you into your role as lead on this baffling case as rain strikes the pavement at the scene of a murder or the sounds of a CSI droid as it combs that scene for clues. In addition, the voice over cast does a spectacular job of bringing the characters to life even if it is just for a short while. You may find the personalities of the characters that you encounter in this game to be somewhat cliched and campy but it all comes together nicely to create a cool cyberpunk world that has a lot of possibility.
Getting through one single play-through of Murder will take you between twenty and thirty minutes. That is not very long in the grand scheme of things but I have to say that it was a very interesting twenty minutes, to say the least. Again, this isn’t a game in the conventional sense but more of a visual story. I wish that there were more options to choose from when progressing through the story as you are kept tightly to one path without any way to just wonder and discover things on your own. This is a great start for what could have been an even greater gaming experience but there is just not enough here to warrant going out of your way for. Moorhead has the making of something special here if he chooses to make this into something that actually resembles a point-and-click adventure but as it stands, it is kind of disappointing. If you wish to take a chance on on it, you can get a copy on Steam for $2.99 but that money might be better spent on an actual cyberpunk novel.
Do robots dream of wiping out humanity?
Challenge - 1.0/10
Gameplay - 4.0/10
Design - 4.0/10
+ Awesome pixel art
+ Great start of a story and soundtrack
– Story is too short
– No real point-and-click gameplay
– Very linear “gameplay”