Jane Jensen is a sneaky, sneaky person. It all started with Inspector Parker in 2003. A casual game with just a smidgen of adventure elements, which was understandable as Jane’s Gabriel Knight games were – and still are – considered classics in the genre.
Next followed BeTrapped, another Inspector Parker game that allowed you to choose between adventure or puzzle modes. By 2007, an Agatha Christie doubleheader of Peril At End House and Death on the Nile continued this growth of casual games from their humble beginnings as brainless, addictive time-killers to games that now had plots and character interaction.
Now Jane finds herself shooting for sales figures that would be unimaginable for a normal adventure game as she has teamed-up with James Patterson, the #1 best-selling author in the U.S., to develop a downloadable casual game based on hisWomen’s Murder Club series of books.
James Patterson Womens’ Murder Club: Death in Scarlet has, according to Jane, “.. a lot of adventure elements including inset pop-ups and puzzles worked into the scenes (vs. the bonus round puzzles typical of seek and find games)” and is, in our opinion, a successful merging of best-selling literature and popular game mechanics that never falters and is one of those games that keeps you playing for ‘just ten more minutes’ and then an hour later, ‘just ten minutes more’.
Created in conjunction with best-selling author James Patterson, WMC Death in Scarlet features the characters from both the WMC novels and television series (with the exception of ADA Jill Bernhardt). A murder has occurred in the Chinatown section of San Francisco and your investigation will take you to eighteen unique locations that will challenge your puzzle solving skills.
The scenarios match the occupation of your character, so if you are playing as detective Lindsay Boxer, then you will find yourself at a crime scene, medical examiner Claire Washburn in a forensic lab. While there is still a lot of ‘find the hidden object’ puzzles present, many of the objects you need to find are relevant to the investigation, such as a blood sample or piece of jewelry.
WMC: Death in Scarlet is mostly though a compilation of puzzles that could be found in the CSI games, the Agatha Christie games and the Sherlock Holmes games. You will need to collect and analyze blood samples, some puzzles are inventory based – a rarity for a casual game, interrogate suspects, solve word puzzles, reconstruct torn pieces of paper, follow a maze and much more. If any one puzzle seems too difficult, there is a bypass option.
The graphics are crisp and clear and comic book style cut-scenes progress the story between levels. The only thing missing that keeps this from being labeled a full-fledged adventure game is the absence of voice actors and animation, though there are some short, animated sequences.
Now adventure game purists may blanche at the thought of playing, much less labeling a casual game as ‘adventurish’, but that’s okay, let them continue to replay their twenty-year-old Sierra and Lucas Arts games. Me? I’m honestly getting a kick out of the evolution that casual game market has taken and anticipate the next step. WMC: Death in Scarlet would also be a perfect fit for the Nintendo DS (Are you listening THQ? And not the Wii either, just the DS).
Thanks to developers like Jane Jansen, gamers are now demanding and getting much more for their money from casual games instead of an umpteenth variation of Tetris. She seems to have a vision in mind and is not willing to make concessions - the fatal mistake made by so many adventure game developers, let’s add an action sequence!! The line between casual and adventure game has been mightily blurred, if not almost entirely erased, and there’s no going back.
Final Grade: A
James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club: Death in Scarlet will be available exclusively at MSN games from May 15 to 29th and then elsewhere after May 29th including the JA Casual Game Store. There will be a boxed version of the game, which will include an exclusive novella, for sale in August.