Originally written for ThumbGods, a coupe years ago, but I recently dug out my DS for visiting some old favorites.
James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club has been a successful series of novels, a TV show and a series of casual mystery PC games before coming to the DS. The new Women’s Murder Club: Games of Passion seems designed for a casual DS gamer to tuck her into her purse, instead of a Patterson mystery novel. Most of WMC is played with the DS turned sideways, using the read-only screen to display a list of objects to find, instructions, or images to accompany the action in the interactive screen, which creates a book-like format for more of an interactive novel feel.
WMC follows the usual pattern of story cutscenes, hidden objects and minigames. The hidden objects casual adventure game is a pretty crowded genre, so it’s hard for a new game to really stand out. Probably the most unique characteristic was the James Patterson characters. Players solve crimes and meet with the WMC ladies as Patterson’s detective Lindsay Boxer, and supporting characters with solid personalities made this more that just a reskinned HO game.
The story progresses via cutscenes and dialogue options. Players have some choices for what to say, but it was more of a quiz on recent plot events. Believable banter makes the cutscenes worth reading, and the linear storyline makes it feel like reading a novel, not being hemmed
Random side note: The mysterious Chinese markings found on the victim actually do say bu zhong, Not Loyal. My Chinese literacy is just good enough to be completely thrilled with the developers for using real words when dramatic red scribbles would have acceptable. (It always cracks me up when I see upside-down characters or random other words.) Thanks, THQ.
A lot of the game was hidden objects, whether it was tidying a crime scene or looking for clues, but this was a particularly bad HO. The small DS screen doesn’t really lend itself to searching, and players search a picture that’s larger than the screen, for maximum squinting-at-the-screen annoyance. It was also the Highlights magazine type of hidden objects, instead of the cluttered-room HO. It felt oddly childish to look for giant peace signs and lightning bolts, especially on crime scenes with mysterious dead bodies. The game does mix up the hidden objects a bit by giving players a clue instead of a list of items, but still gives the feel of an activity book more than an adventure game.
The story leads to several minigames, which were much more engaging than the picture finding bit. I was pretty excited to see the game included a science lab minigame, and the puzzle’s gameplay didn’t disappoint. You guys, I love pretending I’m in a lab solving mysteries. I would play about a thousand of these games.
One of the minigames was a mah-jong game, which is also accessible under an icon that says China (This character is a different zhong than the one for loyal, an object lesson on why I am not so good at Chinese!). I usually consider mah-jong games to be computer solitaire 2.0, but I found something charming in the tiny tiles and stylus interface, and ended up playing this minigame more than I’d expected.
Women’s Murder Club: Crimes of Passion offers a solid storyline and characters from the popular novels to fans of the hidden objects mystery.