April 2, 2009
Elephant Entertainment/ THQ
Recently dubbed “the man who can’t miss” by Time magazine, James Patterson is one of today’s most popular and prolific authors, releasing five or six books each year, most of which make the New York Times bestseller list and enthrall millions of fans. One of his most popular series chronicles the adventures of the Women’s Murder Club, four female friends (think the Golden Girls in their much younger days) solving crime through wit, friendship, perseverance, and hard work: Lindsay Boxer, a detective with the San Francisco Police Department; Cindy Thomas, reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle; Claire Washburn, city Medical Examiner; and Yuki Castellano, an ambitious district attorney. In this thrilling new mystery penned by Patterson himself alongside master game designer Jane Jensen, the foursome must use all of their sleuthing powers to uncover the truth behind a suspicious death at the prestigious Jackson-Moore Academy in Charleston, South Carolina, where a young military cadet’s fatal morning jog leads to much more than an open-and-shut case...
Through the course of ten investigations, you play as Lindsay, Cindy, or Claire. As Lindsay, you do most of the grunt work: interviewing suspects, collecting evidence, and searching rooms. As the game is in linear fashion, you go location to location with specific objectives, which are written in a panel on the left side of your screen. The game automatically stores suspects, evidence, and clues in a subpanel that you can refer to at any time. Most of the puzzles involve cracking codes, finding items, matching clues, etc. Some of them are used merely to fill time or make access to a particular clue or suspect more difficult, while others fit neatly into the investigation. Some are mind-numbingly simple, others more intricate. Overall, there is a good variety of puzzle types that should keep you engaged throughout the several hours of playing time.
The plot takes some considerable twists and turns as the investigation ensues. Patterson and Jensen certainly penned an interesting mystery that takes the women across the country in search of a killer. Each investigation is introduced by a comic-style cartoon vignette of the foursome discussing the case and planning their next moves (sans voiceovers). While these parts tend to move too slowly, they serve as good transitions between investigations – and if you haven’t played the game in awhile, they will remind you of what you know thus far.
The artwork in the game is just beautiful. There are scenes in which you can actually see dust particles dancing around in the light coming in from an open window. The twenty-five different locations that the game offers all look very detailed and realistic; even the small character headshots that appear during dialogue are nicely drawn. Combined with some haunting looped music in the background, the game has an appropriately mysterious, yet comfortable feel to it. It doesn’t take long to get used to the interface, which always sparkles to let you know where the important clues are and keeps track via a point system of your progress. If you do well, you will also gain hints and can even bypass certain puzzles by letting the game solve them for you.
Ultimately, I had fun playing detective for a day and trying to keep up with all the surprising developments that the case had to offer. It’s not without minor flaws, but it’s certainly a fun diversion that any mystery enthusiast – woman or not! – will enjoy. This is a series that deserves to continue and gain as loyal a legion of fans as Patterson himself already has.
This review was based on the retail version of the game – graciously provided by Highwater Group – and not the online, downloadable version.
Final Grade: A-