Mario’s Picross was my introduction to what has since become my favorite kind of puzzle. Although it was released in 1995, I didn’t buy it for a few dollars at GameStop until about ten years later. I quickly became obsessed with the idea of tapping on squares to create a pixelated sprite of Mario’s famous characters and objects. The original proposal was not very well received in the United States, despite the fact that Mario’s name was attached to the title. Fortunately, thanks to the success of the Nintendo DS, Nintendo and Jupiter ventured back into the market and there has been a steady stream of games for Nintendo platforms ever since.

There have been many imitators over the years, but few have had the right mix of audiovisual prowess from the official games. We are now seeing many other companies incorporate elements of this puzzle solution into their games. The best I’ve played is Mediatonic’s Murder by Numbers. They managed to take a mysterious graphic adventure game and mix it with Picross puzzles to create a masterpiece. From beautiful character illustrations to an absolutely stunning soundtrack, this time around the content is rich and will keep your eyes glued to the screen for a long time.

In Murder By Numbers, you play the lead role of Chesty Mizrahi, a ’90s actress who stars in the TV crime series Murder Miss Terri (get ready for a lot of puns in the series). The game begins with you suddenly being fired for mysterious reasons, and before you can get any answers, your boss is murdered. Now you have to clear your name and find out who killed him. It was leading lady Becky who seems to have given you the idea? Or maybe it was a handyman, or a stylist, or even a superfan or two who somehow got past security and weren’t happy with last season’s scenario?

You have a case to solve, you have to interrogate suspects and search the area for clues, and that’s where SCOUT comes in. SCOUT is a scanning robot capable of detecting objects in different environments. It’s actually a flying computer screen whose memory has been erased, so there’s another mystery you’ll discover as the story progresses. Even though the game is set in the mid-90s, there are a lot of crazies and heartbeats you have to endure. The writing style is funny, and I often laughed out loud at the absurd plot twists and crazy dialogue. Just the thought of a flying, sentient robot that can move freely means you have to follow the movement.

Once SCOUT has joined your team, you can use it to search for clues in the area. You move the cursor on the screen and the sensors start beeping as you approach certain clues. When you find it, you go into Picross puzzle mode, where you create a pixelated object that then offers you a clue. As you collect objects, you can go back to the characters and ask them questions about the objects you found, furthering the story and deepening the mystery. The game does not support touchscreen controls, so you will be using Joy-Cons or Pro Controllers everywhere.

Simply combining two types of games rarely yields impressive results, but it works surprisingly well here. The whole game is supported by fantasy writing and character building. By the end of the first act, I found that I really cared about Honor and SCOUT and was 100% invested in the story. Each of the four chapters tells a new murder to solve, but the characters and recurring plots manage to connect the stories and create a cohesive narrative. As you solve more puzzles, you finally get enough points to unlock some fragmented SCOUT memories. These are other Picross puzzles you solve to unlock his past. One of the concerns I had about this game was the longevity – how long would it take to win the game? If you’re familiar with visual novels and Picross games, you can probably expect the game to take about 15 to 20 hours. If you don’t already know any of these features, you can probably add a few, but either way, there’s a lot of game to ruminate on here.

Picross games are not known for their beautiful graphics, as they consist mainly of a grid that you fill in to create an image. Murder By Numbers has the best presentation of any game I’ve ever seen. Of course, the visual aspect of the novel is fantastic, even if most of the characters only have two or three different poses. Don’t expect detailed and fancy animations or anything like that here – it’s a $15 game, after all. The introduction is welcome, though, because it gives us an idea of what we might see in a full-budget $60 game. The game features bright colors and detailed environments. The aesthetic of the 90s is in the spotlight with giant cell phones and a fashion statement. Even the Picross puzzle screens are beautifully detailed and their clean, uncluttered interface really stands out. In fact, the only thing I have to criticize about the presentation is that when I finally solved the puzzle, I had no idea what the image was supposed to be until the game proudly showed the text of the object below it, and even then it seemed a bit far-fetched at times. Depiction works best in this regard, but unfortunately it’s common in most Picross games.

Anyone who knows me personally, reads my reviews or listens to our podcasts knows that I’m a big fan of video game soundtracks. Music plays a big part in my appreciation of video games. I’m happy to announce that Murder By Numbers has a killer soundtrack that gets into your brain with its catchy melodies. As with any good catchy soundtrack, the musicians have found a way to incorporate the main theme of the song into many other songs, and this rehearsal really only takes a few hours with the game. The main jingle is upbeat and catchy, and I’ve heard it more than once. It’s even more impressive in a puzzle game like this, where I’ve already had to turn off the background music because it was too bad. With different tunes to play through the various puzzles, I never tired of them, despite hearing them over and over again. All thanks to the great composer Masakazu Sugimori, who has worked on games like Viewtiful Joe, Ghost Trick and Phoenix Wright : Ace D.A. The overall soundtrack is a pleasant surprise in an already very interesting game.

Fans of visual novels or Picross will just have to get Murder By Numbers. Newcomers should still consider buying it if you like high-flying thrillers and intrigue. I mean, where do you see someone getting killed by a giant stiletto that’s part of a gay pride parade? I found the game to have a perfect balance of exposures and puzzles, and I was captivated throughout the experience by the charming characters and crazy storylines. This one is a winner from start to finish!

Assessment of murders by emissions
  • Charts – 9/10
  • Sound – 10/10
  • Game – 10/10
  • Last call – 10/10

10/10

Final thoughts : OUTDOOR WORK

Murder By Numbers combines puzzle-solving with romantic graphic gameplay, and features witty writing, intriguing characters, stunning graphics and an excellent soundtrack. Fans of both genres should fall in love with this game, and newcomers will find it accessible and appealing.

Craig has been covering the video game industry since 1995. His work has been published in various media. He is currently an editor and contributor to Age of Games.

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