Murder by Numbers – Review (PC)
So since the announcement of Murder by Numbers, and the first 25 times I listened to the theme song, I’ve been fairly stoked on it. Based in the 90’s, a buddy cop relationship with a CRT monitor for a face robot, with characters that are on a murder mystery TV show inside the game? I mean it was checking every box with me, and believe me, you’re going to be checking a LOT of boxes in this game. Even though Murder by Numbers is a murder mystery game, the core of it is a puzzle game. The puzzles are Nonograms, or some of you may be more familiar with Picross.
The gameplay of Murder by Numbers is heavy on point and click. You can investigate scenes or talk with people within that scene and even present evidence to them to see their reactions to it. Every chapter has a few scenes to go through to make sure you can find everything to be able to solve what’s happening. When you investigate you scan around the room waiting for your magnifying glass turns red meaning you found something to investigate. Depending on how many mistakes you made with the puzzle you will gain points, the overall goal (besides solving the puzzle) is to make a few mistakes as possible. Why? Because if you can get to S Ranking on a chapter, you’ll have options to play more puzzles outside of the chapter to unlock SCOUT’s memories! Onto the puzzles!
Nonograms or Picross, whatever you’re more comfortable with, isn’t too difficult to understand but can be very challenging when the puzzles get larger. The puzzles start off on a grid, with the same amount of squares on each side to make a larger square. Around the left side and the top of the larger square are numbers. For example, if it is a 10×10 grid you cannot have a number higher than 10, as there are only 10 squares in that row/column. The numbers are how many squares in that row/column to blackout. If its a number 10 on a 10×10 grid then that’s easy, all 10 squares get blacked out. But say it has 3 numbers. 1, 3, 2. That means one square will be blacked out, then space somewhere, then a chunk of three, then space than a chunk of 2. When it gets tricky like that you will then need to compare the numbers in the row or column opposite of what you’re doing. So if you’re looking into where to put them in a row, cross-reference the column to see if using those numbers one could possibly be placed there. It is a really fun puzzle game, and each grid will very pixel-ly have an image of what you just found. Once you found more evidence you can continue on your quest to solve the mystery.
Story-wise, they did a pretty good job! I really enjoyed the characters and the theme of the whole game. A murder mystery following an actress that plays in a mystery tv show? I think it’s great! The lead character Honor, and the robot, SCOUT, really have a fun dynamic of they don’t really know what they are doing, but are learning and becoming friends along the way. I really don’t want to ruin much more of the story, but they do get pretty deep into Honor’s past and family to shine a light on what drives her.
Graphically, Murder by Numbers is pretty basic. There isn’t really any animation, as it is more images of the characters changing poses or reacting to what happened. When something happens you’re treated by anime-like water droplets or the (lack of a better word) angry hashtag(?) Sorry, that’s the first thing that came to mind. But I am not complaining whatsoever. The art style and everything fit the 90’s theme perfectly. With it being a point and click adventure, and you don’t move the characters, it all makes sense. A really great take on a visual novel!
Besides the amazing theme song (go listen to it), the audio was about as simple as the visuals. Simple, not jarring, and it fit the style they were going for.
But overall, Murder by Numbers was a fun game for me to play. It was a nice change of pace to a lot of the current games and the puzzle aspect got my brain working well towards the end of the game. I would definitely recommend Murder by Numbers to puzzle and point and click fans. Take a break and enjoy something different!
Note: GameOctane received a digital code from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing this game. Any code or product intended for reviews is distributed to the team to review and stream for our audience.
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+ Fun and challenging puzzles
+ Story is decent with some backstory involved
+ Point and click style fits perfectly
+ Completionists will enjoy unlocking SCOUT's memories
- Some hardcore puzzle fans may grow tired of Picross in later stages.