The Colour of Murder




Genre:   Adventure

Developer:   MDNA Games

Publisher:    Merscom

Released:  October 2008

PC Requirements:   Win 98, XP, Vista, Pentium 1000 or higher, 128 MB RAM, 16 MB video card, 800 MB free hard drive space. 






by nickie


It’s a pleasant experience to play this fifth installment of the Carol Reed series, like looking at a friend’s snapshots, or thumbing through a glossy coffee table book while daydreaming of a vacation in Sweden. There’s no violence, no vulgarity, and nothing is going to jump out and scare you off your seat.  Like all the other Carol Reed games, it is beautiful to look at, runs flawlessly, and while you’re admiring the scenery there is a mystery to investigate.

The game is point and click, with a snapshot presentation with no panning. The cursor becomes an arrow to move, a hand to interact with the surroundings, a gear icon to indicate an action can be performed, and a magnifying glass when a location can be more closely examined. Inventory is accessed by sweeping the cursor to the top of the page. A right click makes saving, loading and exiting the game easy. Saving your game can be done anywhere outside of dialogs, you can name your save, and the save spaces were ample. A gentle and thorough tutorial showing all these actions is available at the startup, which should make even the newest adventurer feel in a comfort zone.

The puzzles are simple and logical, mostly inventory based and well integrated into the story in this first person, point and click adventure. I appreciated that I could suspend belief and pick up inventory items here and there for later use, rather than having to do busy work in finding them again.

In this game the addition of a hint system is very nice -- a feature I would like to see in more adventure games. If you find yourself stuck there is a log book to access which has two tiers of hints. On the left page, locations are indicated to show where you need to visit to make the game progress. If you click one of these, hints appear on the right page of the log book.

Carol moves to these locations via a map, which makes changing locations a breeze. Each location has an exit to the map.  During the course of dialog with characters she meets or evidence unearthed, new locations are added to the map. I really like the flashing map icon which appears briefly when a new location is activated, accompanied by a sound cue.

“Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind.”—Ashley Smith

In the first game of the series “Remedy,” Carol traveled to Norrkoping, Sweden on holiday from her home in Britain, and became a private investigator by necessity. Warming to this profession, she’s matured in her investigatory skills through the series, and become very comfortable with making Sweden her home and with her sleuthing.

In this fifth game, an acquaintance asks Carol for help in locating his missing son. There are overtones that the son was hanging out with a “bad crowd” and may be somehow tied to a recent murder. Investigating the missing person’s apartment, Carol finds evidence that there indeed may have been a threat on his life. Carol sets out to investigate the murdered man’s environs to discover the connection to her missing person case.

This game seems to flow more smoothly than the first four, with a discovery at one location leading logically to the next. However, the historical tie-in seemed a bit awkward and unnecessary to me.

“Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms, you would never see the true beauty of their carvings”—Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

As in all the games, there are interesting and often beautiful places to visit. The stained glass and the rococo figurines of a church were stunningly lovely (see if you can find the Easter egg that may bring a smile).  I enjoyed wandering through an historic preservation site of petroglyphs drawn during the Bronze Age. There’s an exquisite scene near a brook that shows the sun rays reaching down to the little houses that could be a framed work of art. In all honesty, the photography is so good in the game, that even a limestone quarry is mysterious and appealing. The opening scene of a street at night captured in the glow of a streetlight, accompanied by the splattering of raindrops as they meet the cobblestones below, is magnificent. I would like to see more night scenes if they can be as beautiful as this, and was disappointed I didn’t see this scene in the game. I do mean night scenes to see the effect of light on the surroundings, and not tunnels or dark rooms. No dark rooms that can never be lit up appropriately appeared in this game for which I was thankful, and the tunnel was actually fun and of short duration.

The first time through the game, I thought the developer had abandoned the surreal watercolor effect that I so enjoyed in the early games. A second and a third playthrough made me aware that it’s there, but much more subtle. I would like it a bit more surreal, but it is gorgeous nonetheless. It’s clear that this time the photographer was more interested in capturing reflections, and that effect is plentiful.

“We live only to discover beauty. All else is a form of waiting.”—Kahlil Gibran

The ambient sound is exceptional. Papers rustle appropriately, horns blare in the distance, birdcalls are in the air, water rushes down a creek. The accompanying music is appropriate, and its simplicity adds a sweet charm to the beauty of the scenes.  I especially appreciated the music at the brook, which sounded like a dreamy lullaby. Voiceovers are generally serviceable, and Carol Reed is as always done very well.

One of the nice things in these games is that on occasion you can divert from the story path and just have a look through nooks and crannies that have considerable allure. I was very pleased to be allowed into a gift shop and to be able to view the merchandise. I only wished that I could tweak the nose of the Reindeer toy that was so very enticing. There’s also an organ in a different location that you can play if your heart desires.

“Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is Art.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson

There are always some quibbles with a game, and this is no different. Sometimes the movement is awkward, items easy to miss and locations become a maze as you get turned around. I became lost in an art studio and couldn’t find an exit for quite a while. The Industrial park may also be somewhat challenging to navigate. Perhaps if the movement arrows were spaced a little further apart, a larger view would make movement less bothersome.

There’s a strange quality to these games regarding the character interaction. In first person view, you see the other characters in captured poses showing emotion, as the voiceovers answer questions. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems a bit creepy. I couldn’t connect with any of the characters, and even Carol seldom displays emotion. Perhaps hearing more vocalized thoughts would help in this regard.

While many of the characters are introduced for the first time in this game, I was happy to see our eccentric, many-earringed janitor appear twice, and our handsome gardener make an appearance. There’s a rather delightful puzzle associated with the janitor that was quirky and fun. I don’t understand, with the warm reception that the gardener has received, why he doesn’t play a larger part in these games. In any case, seeing them was like greeting old friends. To be fair, Stina at the store is available to visit with more regularity. Unfortunately, she’s involved with a puzzle that seemed odd by its inclusion.

With the pace of the game serene and calm, it seems a bit out of sorts to place a timed puzzle at the end. In all fairness, I played the game three times and didn’t notice that puzzle was timed, so the time allowed must be fairly ample. If you exceed the time limit, you are directly returned to the scene for another try.

There are some puzzles in which color differentiation is necessary. There are no sound puzzles or sliders.

“People are like stained glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in; their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”—Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

It is obvious that this game is a labor of love from this independent developer. The low price alone for the content makes this a bargain, taking longer to complete than some other recent games at a much higher price. While it will not be for everyone, it surely fits a niche for those who love to look at beautiful scenery, dream of foreign lands, and do some thoughtful detective work to boot.

Grade:  A-

November 2008

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