What happens when brain teaser mini-games, Pixar and a dose of over the top narratives are mixed into one game? Relentless Software’s Blue Toad Murder Files is born. This witty yet engaging title makes a great name for itself through great visuals, entertaining brain teasers and fun narrative.
Relentless Software (makers of the Buzz! games) has Blue Toad split in to six downloadable episodes. Three of which can be bought as a bundle for $14.99 or individually for $7.49 a piece. Episodes 1-3 were released March 25th with the later half of episodes coming April 29th. This DLC model may seem confusing at first, but the best thing to compare it to is how Tales of Monkey Island episodes were released on the Wii.
At the beginning of the game (or episode), Blue Toad gently welcomes users in to the town of Little Riddle with its wacky tone and luscious visuals. The graphic style is nothing less of a Pixar movie with characters from Buzz! in the most stereotypical tiny British town one can imagine. All the buildings are vibrantly colored with bright green meadows and brightly painted houses, as if one slipped into a cartoon world.
This world is only the foundation for the punchy characters that populate it. The townspeople are beautiful exaggerations that not only make one laugh out loud but also become memorable, which is good for a game that requires a collection of mysteries to be solved. From the first character the player meets, the conductor at the train station, one can tell by his overly round face and super emphasized British accent that this game will be a satire affair.
Even though there are scores of characters that could be described such as the crabby hotel clerk, the ditzy barmaid or the bumbling old lady, the narrator steals the show. This over the top and eccentric personality guides the visiting detective(s) on whatever particular mystery is trying to be solved. With a game that is heavy on narrative and attention to detail, the quirky commentator splashes the game with personality and wit as the mystery progresses.
Even though the tone and the characters may engage the player, the game’s nuts and bolts are tied to figuring out a mystery by paying attention to details and solving little mini-game brain teasers. The formula is simple enough; a piece of dialogue will be given to set up a particular mini-game and then players must solve the mindbending puzzle to hear the clue or the rest of the dialog. The mini-games range from simple number puzzles and fill in the blanks to complex pipe-like activities reminiscent of BioShock and recognizing visual patterns.
One mini-game in particular that stands out involves an old lady who has lost her bag, and in order to talk to the suspect, the old woman must have the mystery solver find the bag. Oddly enough, the woman is barely understandable and the crime stopper must accurately pick out her bag from eight others from the information she gives. This puzzle is as much fun as it hilarious as the details of a specific bag are mixed in with her squabbling gibberish.
A drawback about all these mini-games though is that if multiple people are playing, each person playing solves their own puzzle. In other words, the puzzle described above would be played by one person in the party and then the next puzzle would be done by another player. There are times when partners can help each other, but it comes down to individual answers attributed to the player. The mini-games would have been more fun if all the players could play them together.
After about ten or so of these games and clues, the episode ends by picking the suspect who committed the crime. There is no real penalty for picking the wrong suspect except for loss of coolness among friends and if alone, a gold ribbon is not awarded.
Blue Toad Murder Mysteries is a well crafted game intended for those who want to throw a relaxed party with wine and cheese while they try to solve puzzles and mysteries. The game is especially fun to play with friends as all exchange guesses and hypothesis’ about Little Riddle’s colorful population.
The mini-games are mentally engaging (as opposed to button mashing a dualshock to oblivion) but not hard by any means. Blue Toad does have a familiar feeling of an adult Mario Party, but still stands well on its own through it’s mystery capers and spunky characters albeit odd group gameplay.