Women's Murder Club:
Death in Scarlet
Based on the James Patterson novels (and the subsequent television spin-off), Women's Murder Club: Death in Scarlet is a murder mystery wrapped in an adventure game spiced with light hidden object scenes and a few simple minigames. Investigating crimes is the central focus of gameplay, with heaping doses of clue sniffing, murder scene scrutinizing, and some light labwork here and there to keep the story moving along. You don't need to be a fan of the series to enjoy the game, and even if you are, Women's Murder Club: Death in Scarlet weaves a completely new tale (penned by Patterson) that stays faithful to the original characters' personalities. This time, however, you're in charge.
With each crime you're presented a scene with a small list of objects to find and points of investigation to cover. Not only will you need to grab items, you'll also examine the body and a few key points of interest in the murder scene. The interesting twist is that you play different characters, each with specialized knowledge that will uncover new facts in the case. Everything you discover is catalogued in evidence and information tabs that can be reviewed at any time.
Many scenes come with a simple inventory puzzle that pulls the object finding into an adventure-style riddle. In the first investigation, for example, you must locate items to block holes in a rock so you can capture a key item from a feisty crab. Simple, but an effective diversion from the streamlined pattern of the game. The rest of the game is divided between short dialogue sequences, quick mini-games that are integrated into your investigation, and character specific tasks. Claire, for example, spends a lot of time in the lab mixing chemicals to discover the type of poison used on a victim.
Analysis: Hidden object adventure games are the new bag, and titles such as Miss Teri Tale, Cate West - The Vanishing Files, and Agatha Christie: Peril at End House set a high bar for aspiring crime-themed games to reach for. Women's Murder Club: Death in Scarlet comes across as a smartly written, interesting, and altogether fun casual game that divides its focus brilliantly between adventure, mystery, and minigames.
As far as the hidden object chunk of the game goes, items are usually easy to find and a hint system can give you a nudge if necessary. You aren't timed, and mis-clicks offer no penalty, so take your time and use the mouse button liberally. Objects are usually quite small and difficult to pinpoint, but at least your poor eyes aren't sifting through several hundred images to find what you need, just scrutinizing groups of pixels here and there.
Production values are suitably high, with a nice visual presentation underscored by a good soundtrack. The only real downer in Women's Murder Club: Death in Scarlet is that the uniqueness wears off pretty quickly as chemical mixing, object finding and rote labwork become little more than chores. Click here, click there, fill in the check marks and you're done, there's little challenge and no reason to complete the tasks other than obtaining the information.
A good genre-bender that reels you in with intrigue and keeps you hungry for more.