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Murder in Great Falls Reviews
Author: Mel S
Date: 2001

Reviewed by Alex Kingsbury

Not too bad, but... 

The game lacked ease of use. I spent most of the time trying to work out where I was and where to go (confusing system of rooms) and trying to guess verbs and asking people about things who never respond. It left me feeling lonely in a ghost town where even my boss wouldn't talk to me. 

Reviewed by Cannibal

Personally, I think there is a serious lack of quality detective adventures in the IF world. For me, none have really set the grey cells working as did Infocom's classic Deadline. So, how does Murder In Great Falls by Mel S stand up to cross-examination? 

I found this adventure had plenty of ideas but the implementation was flat and lifeless. The introduction was clumsy and hardly inspiring. I didn't feel like a cop from the word go and I never felt there was any urgency to solve the murder of Donald Wisker. The opening scenes of a game (or book or movie or anything, really, including conversation) are so vital. You need a decent hook. I can always understand the comment "well, it started very good but then lost its way afterwards". This is so true when an author has poured every last sweat and tear into snagging the player or reader with a top quality opening but simply cannot maintain the pace throughout. Murder In Great Falls doesn't even have a good opening so how does the rest fare? 

You begin with a call from the Chief who needs you to crack a murder case. Location descriptions of your house are fairly unexciting and the sequence is dull. You move around and collect items that you should already have (police ID, evidence bags) and off you go to explore the coastal resort of Great Falls. You move around by foot (no need for a car) and, in true adventure fashion, pick up anything that is lying around. I found the lipstick the second time round and handed it in at the evidence desk. This was a nice touch (although the expert Jake, who told me it would take a few days for analysis, needs to get off his ass and do some work). The police station itself has no atmosphere and seemed to be lacking any cops as well. 

Still, I was able to get a camera from my locker and head for the crime scene. This was a very enjoyable section of the game and it would have been best to start the game here. Why have the game open at your own house staring out to sea? That's more like the end of a game not the beginning. This would have packed more punch. Anyway, back to the crime scene. The area was sealed off and I was able to photograph the body and sweep the scene for evidence. Although strictly the job of a crime scene unit to collate hair and stuff I had fun examining the car and finding clues. This was a good part to the adventure but could have been far more detailed and involving. I headed back to the police station and gave my evidence to Jake (the lazy guy who couldn't get off his ass to process the crime scene himself) and went off to find something to do. 

Conversation is handled in the dreaded "ask about " which usually has me typing "quit" not so long afterwards. I simply can't get to grips with this style of conversation. I go blank. Then I think of a hundred topics and none of them get an answer. So I then give up in frustration. 

I made it to day 2 of the job but woke with a headache (why?) to learn that we had a suspect (where was I during this?) that I needed to investigate (send the other guy, he's obviously doing better than me). 

I continued with the case - finding more evidence for Jake the lab whiz to look at and exploring more locations with the familiar bland style of writing. In the end, I resorted to the walkthrough when I got stumped. The guilty party took me by surprise but the ending - where you coax a confession - was too forced to give closure. 

It's often forgotten that Mel S is a very prolific Adrift author (well over a dozen games) but this is certainly not one of his best. If I was to offer advice it would be to make location descriptions more fleshed out, work on the introduction and consider how credible plot and dialogue and puzzles are when using a modern-day genre. Fine if the game is a comedic crime caper but if this is supposed to be the dirty busy of investigating murder then it was more Murder She Wrote than CSI. 

Not the best. 


Reviewed by David Whyld

This game came out a while ago (at the end of 2001) and I have few memories of playing it at the time. I did play it because there's a short review I wrote of it on the main ADRIFT page at www.adrift.org.uk but I really can't remember a lot about it. So when I decided to review it for the Reviews Exchange, I was approaching it pretty much as a new game. 

What's it like? 

You play a police detective. Someone has been murdered. Yep, it's a murder mystery. That's the game in a nutshell. 

It doesn't start well. That much becomes quickly apparent from the opening sections, which were weighted down with so many spelling mistakes that if they'd been a boat it would have sunk. Descriptions of these locations are poor: the word "large" pops up three times in the very first location, giving me the impression at one point that my character was some kind of dwarf. This sort of things bogs down the rest of the opening locations: you also have a small living room complete with a small TV on a small stand. There's also a couch here as well but that's apparently of normal proportions. The TV can be examined but trying to watch it produces a message that the game doesn't understand what you're trying to do (what else does it think you'd be trying to do with a TV?) and trying to turn it on produces an even more baffling message stating that you can't do that here! As the TV isn't portable, I'm assuming this is either an unfortunate bug or the TV that I can turn on is somewhere else. Not a good start 
to the game at all. 

As I wandered about and tried to solve the murder, my character seemed to fulfil a whole array of duties which I'm pretty sure real life police detectives aren't required to. I photographed a crime scene (surely that's the job of the scene of crime guys?), collected my own evidence and took it off to the evidence store (why not the forensics lab?) and seemed to be left to pretty much handle the case on my own with any assistance from my fellow officers. An officer who was stationed at the crime scene didn't seem especially interested in helping me out and the first response I managed to obtain from him basically told me that it was my job to solve the murder. Gee, thanks. Worse still was my boss who spent the game in his office and didn't lift a finger to help me. 

Logic doesn't play a very large part in the game unfortunately. I showed up at the garage owned by the father of the murdered man and was refused entry to the father's office by a security guard. Even showing him my police ID didn't gain me entry. Surely as a police detective I should have access to whatever potential witnesses there are and any security guard standing in my way would quickly find himself spending a night in the cells at the police station. 

The police station? I expected this to be a hive of activity as a murder had just been committed but the only two people there - my boss and the guy in the evidence store - didn't seem unduly concerned. The rest of the force… er, were nowhere to be found. No wonder the poor chap got murdered if this is the entire police presence in the town. 

Conversation is handled in the unhelpful "ask [name] about [subject]" format which always has me tearing my hair out in frustration because it's such a damn awkward way of handling conversation and generally results in a not very interesting game of guess-the-subject which is even more tedious than it sounds. Fortunately, I was able to obtain responses more often than not. Most of the characters in the game can be asked about the other characters, although I was never really sure whether this made a difference. Certainly none of them gave me any clues that seemed to lead anywhere. 

I didn't get very far with the actual solving of the crime, I'm afraid to say. I wandered around the town and noted a strange discrepancy when trying to go east from inside a garage actually leads you back to the town centre which is actually several locations distance. Going back west takes you to a different location altogether. There's also a strange loop in the police station when you can keep going north unto infinity and yet arrive at the entrance time and again. What else did I do? I found a few pieces of evidence and managed to hand them over to an unhelpful chap at the police station. This resulted in a nice little boost to my score so clearly I was on the right track. And then… well, I got stuck. I'd wandered around every location, collected as much evidence as I could find, asked every character in the game questions about every subject I could think to ask about… and was still stuck on day 1. The game is split into three parts and certain tasks have to be completed before moving from one day to the next. But how to move to day 2? 

Fortunately I'm not above cheating and so I fell back on the walkthrough which the author kindly e-mailed to me a while back. There I got a little baffled as to progress any further I was required to ask one of the characters about a subject I had never come across before. Even doing a search through my transcript of the game didn't reveal any clues as to why I should think to ask the character about this particular subject and as I'd spoken to every character and searched every location as best I could, it's unlikely I missed it. But I'll give the game the benefit of the doubt and assume that, tucked away somewhere that I didn't think to check, there's a hint about this. 

The game moved to day 2 and I experienced a level of dismay at being told that a suspect had been found. Where and by whom? Certainly not by me and as no one else seemed to be doing anything on the case, I'm not sure where this suspect turned up from. Are there people helping me out but so desperate to avoid the limelight that they're doing all this stuff behind my back? Maybe they should be put in charge of the case as in a single day while I wandered around and collected a few bits of not-very-useful evidence, they managed to find a suspect. Clearly the wrong guy is in charge of the case… 

Negative things aside, this isn't a terrible game. In parts, particularly photographing the crime scene, it's actually quite good. But there are too many rough edges - spelling, guess the verb, lack of logic - for me to heartily recommend it. 

4 out of 10 

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