Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: murder mystery

Tales of the Neon Sea? More like Tails!

I’ve been playing more Tales of the Neon Sea by Palm Pioneer and am completely charmed by it. I wrote about my initial hesitations, but I’m all in. Why? Because of the cats, bay-beeeee! Also, murder mystery that is being handled well so far. I’m only two hours in, but I’m loving every second of it. Well, not every second, but most of them. I’ll get to that in a minute.

Let’s start with the murder mystery part. i have tried for years to find a murder mystery video game that I liked to no avail. I’ve played almost all of the critically-acclaimed Sherlock Holmes games, and not to put too fine a point on it, I hate them. I know this is a me-thing and probably because I had specific expectations for the game which were not in any way fulfilled. I wanted to be able to deduce and figure out murder mysteries. Instead, I had to do a bunch of typical point-n-click games like how to cross planks atop a building in order to get to the other side but some are crumbling. Plus, the trope of seeing a thing that you KNOW you’ll need at some point, but you can’t pick up yet. Everything I did took away from the mystery aspect and I never finished one of those games.

I also tried the Poirot game because I am a HUGE Poirot fan. But,  it was a crashing disappointment and I didn’t finish that one, either. I loved Paradise Killer, but it made me constantly nauseous and had to finally, reluctantly, quit. I played several point-n-clicks and fell off all of them sooner or later. The one that hurt the most was Kathy Rain. It was so great for the first two-thirds of it (as long as I ignored the usual point-n-click bullshit like endless backtracking and esoteric puzzles that only make sense if you’re high as a kite when you try to solve them) as a retro ’80s feel to it with a strong female protagonist. Badass who smoked cigarettes and drove a motorbike. There was an interesting story about her mother going crazy and her searching for answers. Her father disappeared and it was really building up to be something special.


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The Sexy Brutale: An Underrated Gem

sexy sexy brutale!
All the world is a stage.

I’m a mystery aficionado, and I have been since I gobbled up Encyclopedia Brown’s adventures as a kid. I graduated to Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden, preferring the latter to the former because Trixie was a hotheaded teenager who oftentimes acted before she thought, which I could sympathize with. Nancy Drew wasn’t a real girl, but I do love Kate Beaton’s concept of Nancy Drew as a crazy woman who is making up all the mysteries in her mind (h/t Ian). I strayed into dreadful teenage romance novels (oh were they horrid), but I never gave up my true love–mysteries. I read every HerculePoirot story by Agatha Christie when I was a teen, each at least four or five times, and some up to fifty. My favorites are The Big Four and Curtain, by the way. I’ve seen all the David Suchet series, too, and he IS Hercule Poirot. I’ll have to see the Kenneth Branagh version of Murder on the Orient Express, of course, but it’s going to suck. He sucks as Poirot, and the trailer is devoid of everything that makes a Poirot story work. However, to be fair, all three previous versions of this movie are terrible (including David Suchet’s. His Catholic rant at the end destroys any credibility the movie might have). I think this is a Poirot story best left as a novel and not a movie.

When I started playing games, I wanted to find a mystery game that grabbed me the way a novel did. I played all the Poirot games. Atrocious. I played several Sherlock Holmes games. Disappointing. Lately, I played Kathy Rain, and while it started out strong, in the third act, it came crashing down around my ears. I will say even before then, I was done with adventure game logic. I like solving puzzles, but not when it’s ‘combine a twig, three pieces of twine, and a stone to make a key’. An axe, maybe, but a key? Or having to backtrack through several areas just to pick up that piece of lint you couldn’t pick up before, but knew you’d need. I tried the Blackwell series, and ten minutes in, I was following a walkthrough compulsively.

I admit it. I gave up on finding a mystery game that I actually enjoyed playing. It didn’t seem possible! The things that work in a novel just didn’t seem possible to recreate in gameplay. Then, I saw a review by Jim fucking Sterling, son. of The Sexy Brutale, and I was immediately intrigued. Now, as Jim Sterling notes, it’s difficult to talk about the game without ruining the brilliance of the conceit, so let me say if you’re looking for a good detective/murder game in which you have to prevent murders from happening, then this is the game for you. I bought it for $9.99 on Steam during the last of the endless Steam sales, and it’s normal price is $19.99. I’m not the best to ask about pricing because I usually wait for games to go on steep sale before buying them. I’d say The Sexy Brutale, developed by Cavalier Game Studios and Tequila Works, is worth $19.99, but it is a short game, and the replayability is very low. It’s definitely worth the $9.99 I paid for it. I might play again just to smooth out the rough edges, but probably not. If that’s enough to hook you at all, I’d suggest you stop reading and pick up the game. The rest of the review is behind the cut (after the Jim Sterling review).


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