James Patterson Women's Murder Club: Games of Passion
DS | THQ | 1 Player | Out Now (North America)
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2nd July 2010; By KnucklesSonic8
You hold the game with your DS held sideways like a book, using your Stylus to advance dialogue options and make menu selections. Players take the role of Lindsay Boxer, a high-class detective who always solves the case. This game's mystery centers around a series of young women who are turning up dead in seemingly-unrelated incidents. But what starts out as a mere coincidence develops into a whole string of related events that comprise the entirety of this game's mystery.
There are 7 chapters in total with a good number of supporting characters as well as possible suspects. Taking control and examining each chapter's crime scene starts off with you looking for items as in a Hidden Object game. Environments are littered with junk, so by locating certain elements and clearing them off the area, you'll be able to get to work and uncover what really relates to the case. All of them are presented as still images. To navigate the space, you drag the stylus across the page or use the D-Pad, whichever you prefer. Performing a single tap with the stylus will check whether or not an item is what you're really looking for on the list.
You'll need to perform various other actions at the crime scene as well. For one, you'll need to examine the deceased's body and follow-up with an additional investigation of objects that are tied with the victim. Other times you'll need to take part in observational tasks such as finding a murder weapon. I thought it was quite unrealistic to have so much stuff laying around in each of these areas. Especially when you'd find the murder weapon left behind, as if the murderer didn't even try to cover their tracks. But if you enjoy Hidden Object games, you'll likely appreciate this system of deducing clues and details.
In each chapter, you have a total of 3 hints that can be used to help you locate items on your list. There are a few tricky ones that will get you to say "Why didn't I see that before?" when you waste a hint. But it's good to see that the game has a fair amount of difficulty. Over the course of an investigation, you'll go to different locations on the map converse with different suspects to gain valuable information. In order to get details out of them, you'll be given a question that can be answered using one of the image cards. For example, you may need to identify why it is that you feel the person you're speaking with is a suspect to begin with. It's fairly straight-forward, so long as you're following the story.
There are some mini-games that you'll encounter along the way as well. These aren't particularly fun and although they help add variety, they could've been more enjoyable. In one event, you'll have a screen full of molecules and be required to connect them all together within 30 moves. Starting with the cell in the bottom-left corner, you'll need to tap a colour that corresponds to an adjacent cell to attach it to the existing single-cell. Eventually you'll create a whole batch of cells that are all connected to reveal important details.
Other times, you'll play a game of Memory Match using 6 different images in order to figure something out by process of elimination. And at another time, I had to play a game of Mahjong to uncover a hidden note. The least enjoyable of all of these, though, was when I had to do a flat Rubik's Cube-like photo puzzle. Because I'm not a big fan of Rubik's puzzles, I found this very frustrating. Added to the fact, too, that I was unable to pause and come back later. But just in general, the mini-games aren't all that great and are entirely forgettable.
By the end of each chapter, you'll sit with three other members of the 'Women's Murder Club' for a relaxing meal. At this time, you'll use pictures to summarize the events that took place over the course of the chapter. There are some decoys to throw you off on the wrong lead, but nothing too tricky. It's much like a review at the end of a lesson in a high-school Science textbook - except, less stressful. This review along with the interesting script make the game very intriguing to play. It's obviously a very story-driven kind of game, but I personally enjoyed the entire mystery, especially when plot twists started to come into the picture.
I also appreciated how nicely the presentation suits the game. The visuals are decent for what they are, so there's little to say about them beyond that. The music, on the other hand, is more noteworthy because of how well-suited it is to the action that takes place in the game. Songs do a good job at conveying the sometimes-tense moments in the game, or even just the usual occasions where things are shrouded in uncertainty. Overall, I thought THQ did a good job with this aspect of the game.
With 7 chapters full of mild gameplay and interesting dialogue, you'd surely expect this game to last you quite a bit. Unfortunately, this isn't the case. I beat the game in less than 3 hours overall, which is a short amount of time for a DS game. Consider, too, that this once retailed for $30 or even $35 (depending on where you live). If you bought the game at that price, this was a huge, huge rip-off. There's nothing to keep you coming back to the main storyline beyond playing it in a few month's time. It's just too short for its own good.
In addition to the main game, there's also what's called 'Photo Mysteries' mode. Basically, the game lists specific kinds of people or things you need to take a picture of. Then, once all of the photos have been taken using your DSi's Camera, the story will play out with sometimes-humorous results. It's a nice extra, especially since there are over 8 different stories to try. But it doesn't help give the game a great amount of additional leverage in terms of replay value.
I admit that Women's Murder Club: Games of Passion is a very interesting title, with a rather suspenseful script. However, you'll complete it too quickly, likely leaving you with a desire to sell the game afterwards. If you have yet to give this a try, don't settle for anything above the $10 mark. I recently got this for $20 and even then, I think that price was too high for this game. Even if you're a fan of James Patterson, like a good mystery (like I do), or enjoy Hidden Object games, the value in purchasing this is just too low to recommend.
16/30 - Below Average
Gameplay 6/10 - Storyline gets very interesting later on, lame mini-games, some variety, find hidden items in an unrealistic, messy crime scene
Presentation 6/10 - Great suspense-filled music, decent visuals with almost no animations, makes you feel like you're part of the investigation
Enjoyment 3/5 - If you enjoy reading mystery novels, you may get into it; if you're not a fan of text-driven games, you won't
Extra Content 1/5 - Terrible value, photo mysteries only fun for a short time, way too short, not worth more than $10
Equivalent to a score of 53% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)