MURDER BY NUMBERS / DEVELOPER: MEDIATONIC / PUBLISHER: THE IRREGULAR CORPORATION / PLATFORM: PC, SWITCH / RELEASE DATE: 6TH MARCH
Featuring a combination of genres that surely nobody in the world saw coming, Murder By Numbers is a visual novel / puzzle game that blends the detective work of Phoenix Wright with the pixellated picture-painting puzzling of Picross. It sounds like it shouldn't really work, but the two actually play together really nicely!
Set in mid-90s Los Angeles, MBN follows Honor Mizrahi, an actress on a hit TV detective show who suddenly finds herself on the unemployment line after being fired by her boss. Moments later, just when Honor encounters a strange "reconnaissance robot" called SCOUT in the car park, news breaks that her boss has been found dead in his office. Realising she's likely to become the number one suspect, Honor teams up with SCOUT and sets out to clear her name and defend her... well... honour.
MBN contains four cases which are spread across Tinseltown's TV studios, award shows, drag clubs and beyond. The game plays out as a visual novel, with Honor questioning other characters in an effort to solve the various murders that are inexplicably occurring all around her. Between interrogating the supporting cast, you'll be undertaking Picross-style puzzles (nonograms, if we're going to use the non-brand name) to identify evidence. Presented with a blank numbered grid, you need to figure out which squares need to be filled and which to leave blank in order to create a picture. It might turn out to be something useful like a fingerprint or some strangulation marks, or something as seemingly inoffensive as an empty hip flask, but showing the right item to the right character during your investigations moves the story along as the relevance of these items becomes clear.
Many of the characters are incredibly camp and the dialogue contains an extremely high amount of sass. Combining these with an excellent soundtrack courtesy of Viewtiful Joe / Ace Attorney's Masakazu Sugimori and visuals by Hatoful Boyfriend's Hato Moa (seriously, look it up if you haven't heard of it) makes for an incredibly memorable experience, the likes of which are hard to come by. If the setting and genre-bending gameplay appeal to you, chances are this is going to be right up your street!