Distinctly British sleuthing is taking place in the latest title to come from Brighton-based UK developer Relentless Software. The studio is responsible for titles in the hugely popular family quiz series Buzz. Relentless are now turning their collective hands to a distinctly more Professor Layton-esque title with the release of Blue Toad Murder Files – The Mysteries of Little Riddle on the Playstation Network.
Set in the picturesque village of Little Riddle, this is a picture perfect representation of the quintessential English village, complete with comedic caricatures, flying ducks and steam trains. You play the part of a voiceless member of the Blue Toad Detective Agency. Taking a rest from the normal harrowing pace of crime solving, you are ordered to get some rest in Little Riddle. Soon after arriving, foul deeds are revealed and it is up to you to track down the perpetrators of the various thefts, murders and nefarious criminal acts taking place.
There are six episodes on offer in total and each contains a series of logic, math or language based puzzles. These take the familiar form of slide puzzles, word/letter jumbles, jigsaws, calculus, etc. The game can be played by up to four players at once. The point of all these little tests? To take you through the story, whilst you track down all the clues. At the end of each episode, each player can reveal the criminal, Cluedo/Clue style.
In a similar style to Professor Layton, you have no direct control over your character. Instead, you move from location to location in a disembodied fashion – unfortunately, this leads to a total lack of interest in your actual character. It’s probably just as well then that the inhabitants of Little Riddle are bursting with personality.
The audio work in this game, especially for a download title, is exemplary. All voice work has been undertaken by UK voice actor Tom Dusseck, and he brings a tone and professionalism to the project that without him may well have fallen flat. Each character is a complete stereotypical send up of what that character might be like in a real environment. From the hotel manager who is a blatant John Cleese rip-off homage, to the crazy old busy-body that spreads the village gossip – Dusseck does an absolutely marvelous job. The narrator persona is also worthy of a special mention, as he does a superb Tom Baker impression that fits the game perfectly – if anyone has seen the UK editions of Little Britain then you will know what I mean.
Graphically, the title again exceeds the limitations of its distribution medium. The village is a bombastic explosion of colours. It’s like Nintendo and Sesame Street had a baby. The characters are bright, large, and colourful, taking a visual cue from recent titles from TellTale games like Sam and Max as well as the recent Tales of Monkey Island.
Sure, over the course of the whole experience the areas vary very little and you may become sick of the same locations, but that doesn’t stop them from being well realised. The animation is very slick if a little plastic at times. Due to the large construction of the characters, there are sometimes awkward frames that cause a hitch in the fidelity, but these are easily forgotten.
Whether you are playing alone or with friends, there are always a set number of puzzles to take on in each episode. For example, if there are ten puzzles, these will be split between the number of players. As well as the ten to thirteen core puzzles, you will also be quizzed in three separate observational recaps. All this puzzling is great fun either alone or shared with friends, and an episode can be ripped through in around forty to sixty minutes, dependent on your particular skills.
If you reach a puzzle you simply can not complete you can opt to skip past it. The down side of this easy way out? Well, you won’t be able to get one of the completion rosettes that are awarded at the end of each puzzle. Completing the puzzle correctly in super fast time will get you a gold rosette, whereas taking your time or making one wrong guess will get you silver. Finally, if you scrape your way through you will only get a bronze. Each of these awards will help distinguish the overall “winner” in a multiplayer game. Otherwise, they do little more than give you a reason to retry the puzzle to get gold to unlock trophies.
Here, we come to the main crux of the issue with Blue Toad Murder Files. As mentioned, there are six episodes in total, which will cost you in the region of £20 to purchase if you buy the two bundles – separately, this will obviously total up to a more expansive prospect. This will give you roughly six hours of gameplay, possibly more if you really want to get that Platinum trophy. The puzzles are the same every time so once you have completed an episode you have very little reason to return to it. Sure, this can be said of a whole load of puzzle games, but it is certainly worth pointing out.
What it boils down to is: are you comfortable with dropping the price of a few beers on the six hours of amusing puzzle entertainment? For my part, I was more than pleased with what I got from the experience. The puzzles range from basic to mildly taxing, and the whole “Whodunnit” aspect is a great change of pace. For a download package, this has fantastic production values, excellent voice work and the ability to entertain and amuse. The longevity, the irritation of a few repeating puzzle types and vacuous gaming avatar does drag the overall score down a touch, but for the money this is a blatantly British game with a fabulous Ealing Studios dollop of comedy gold.
Not exactly in the same league as Heavy Rain or Uncharted 2, but this is well presented with a lovely clean look that captures modern day kids TV.
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The puzzles are varied and offer something for everyone. They do get repeated with only minor changes throughout the episodes though. Some more character interaction would of been nice also.
Fantastic voice work from Tom Dusseck and some great tunes elevate this download title greatly. There are the odd patches of wonky voice work (like the Chef) but otherwise this is fantastic.
Each of the six episodes are over in 40 - 60 minutes at most. Once done the puzzles stay the same so there is no real reason to go back other than Trophies.
For a PSN download title the production values are fantastic. The puzzles are good family fun and the characterisations are consistently funny. A worthy addition to your collection of puzzlers - just don't expect to be playing it in a months time.