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Relentless Sfotware serves up a quintessentially quaint murder mystery in downloadable episodic form...
The creators of the prolific Buzz Quiz series take a bit of a departure with the release of the first two episodes from Blue Toad Murder Files: The Mysteries of Little Riddle, a series of six downloadable episodes released across the PlayStation Network from today and across into next year.
Taking an undeniable slice of influence from Level 5's Professor Layton series, Blue Toad Murder Files: The Mysteries of Little Riddle is a compilation of mind-bending puzzles in the quintessentially quaint town of Little Riddle. The charisma from Buzz is evident from the first moment you step off the train, with a cast of ever-so slightly deranged characters and a hammy narrator making for a classic whodunit with plenty of whimsical charm.
Each episode comprises of 12 puzzles, which are largely of a good and creative nature. By presumably targeting a family audience the vast majority of the puzzles are of a fairly easy standard, with only a couple across the two initial episodes causing any serious amount of head-scratching puzzlement. The puzzles cover a fair range of cryptic challenges from riddles and anagrams to tests of logic and mathematics, each providing that smug sense of satisfaction when you come up with the correct answer.
The game can be played with up to four players, with each player taking it in turns to solve a puzzle. Opening up the game to multiplayer is a touch of genius, and firmly puts the game into the realms of good wholesome family fun ideal for Christmas. Relentless hasn't forced the structure of the multiplayer so the choice of playing competitively or working together is up to you, although each puzzle is set against a timer, which along with the number of failed attempts, is taken into account to award a Gold, Silver or Bronze medal (the person collecting the most awards at the end wins the game). The time limit is increased for puzzles in the second episodes, although we didn't particularly notice the difficulty ramp up as a result. Case study challenges then sit in-between the puzzles and challenge your powers of observation by forcing you to answer a couple of questions on things you've seen or heard.
Unfortunately, as much as we enjoyed the game it has a pretty severe flaw with its relative lack of content and virtual zero replay value. Unlike Professor Layton there's very little to do outside of the puzzles. Occasionally the choice of which location and accompanying puzzle to head to next is available, but there's a distinct lack of padding (of the good variety). That's not to say the conversations between characters are all inconsequential, as each episode ends with a mystery to solve and a suspect to accuse, using the statements and information gained from their interviews. This is undoubtedly the toughest bit of the game although the solution is always based on sound logic, so remember to keep an eye and ear out for everything that occurs. The opportunity to go back and gain gold awards across the board is a slight extension, but this is largely diminished by the answer being displayed whenever you choose to give up. If anything replaying the challenges is largely a test of your memory then your mental powers.
Episodic games shouldn't necessarily be compared to more traditional games, but unlike other examples of episodic releases, most notably anything by TellTale Studios, the hour length is a little on the short side. This wouldn't be too much of an issue if the pricing was reasonably set, but £6.49 per episode for approximately an hour of entertainment seems on the steep side. Certainly the option to buy two episodes at a time for £9.99 is a more attractive price, but our overriding opinion is that Relentless Software has got its pricing strategy a little wrong. Admittedly the price isn't exorbitant, but it's the complete lack of replay value that also plays a factor. Like a classic TV whodunit, you wouldn't necessarily watch it again because the surprise is spoiled. In this case, the puzzles remain the same, as do the solutions and suspects at the end of each episode. Blue Toad: Mystery Files would be a great title to wheel out at Christmas for the entire family, but the experience is fleeting and won't stick with you beyond a single playthrough.
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