Impressions: Women’s Murder Club: Death in Scarlet

When one thinks of the “casual adventure” genre, one’s mind undoubtedly turns to games with low production values, simple puzzle-solving, and absurdly paper-thin storylines. These days, those are such archaic accusations to make of the average casual adventure title. They’ve come such a long way that it’s difficult to differentiate a “casual” adventure from one that would be accepted within the confines of such inane circles as the “hardcore.”¬† That said, James Patterson’s Womens’ Murder Club: Death in Scarlet is an entertaining and fully-featured adventure title that should attract fans from all walks of life – not just women and not just casual titles. What a silly assumption to make!

Deep in the heart of Chinatown in luxurious San Francisco, there’s been a murder. Of course, right? How clich√©. As a member of the investigative team assigned to get to the bottom of this unfortunate tragedy, you’ll need to put your puzzle-solving skills to good use and keep your wits about you. You can choose to play as several different characters from the books and television series: Lindsay Boxer (detective), Claire Washburn (medical examiner), and others you will be familiar with if you follow the books or the TV show at all, which I do not, so I was going into this entire ordeal blind. Depending on which character you’re playing as, your scenarios will alter. Choosing a woman who works in the police department will ensure you encounter puzzles of that nature, and so on.

The name of the game is solving puzzles. Like most adventure game before it, Death in Scarlet follows a very similar formula of collecting items, finding items, navigating mazes, and even putting together pieces of paper that have been ripped to pieces. They should have used a shredder! You’ll be asked to scout areas for clues pertaining to the task at hand, including some very devious seek and find missions that seem to have become quite popular as of late with the casual gaming crowd. Since the iPod’s screen is a little small it can be very difficult to pick out clues and hidden items, but this is a caveat that is most certainly to be expected. I do think that less “find what’s hidden” stages are necessitated in order to keep the mini games on topic and relevant to the “investigation” at hand, but that’s a major selling point and for the most part the rest of the game assigns tasks that make sense in the context of a murder mystery.

IIf you begin to have trouble with any specific minigame or part of the investigation, the option is always available to skip that scene to head straight to its resolution, ensuring that gamers of all skill levels can make steady progression throughout the game. This is a welcomed feature, one that several titles should employ…within reason of course.

The graphics are crisp and cut scenes are presented in the form of sharp comic book scenes, which seem to be the norm in graphic adventures of late. I’m not complaining, but overall there is little “real” animation. You’ll be treated to a lot of standard and flat (yet complex) standard images, as well as cartoon representations of the girls within the books.

James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club: Death in Scarlet for the iPhone/iPod Touch is an appropriately challenging casual adventure title that delivers intrigue, interesting hidden image puzzles, and several other well-done mini games for those who are fans of the genre. Anyone can pick it up and get into it, and the touch controls work very well. In fact, I could see this working quite swimmingly on the DS in addition. If these games take off like I’m thinking they will, we’ll be seeing a lot more similar titles on the platform soon. And with a recognizable name like James Patterson involved, there’s no mystery why!

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