Murder by Numbers Reviewon March 5, 2020 by GlennShiraishi
Murder By Numbers is developed by Mediatonic and published by The Irregular Corporation. It’s a Visual Novel Nonogram/Picross-style logic puzzle game hybrid. Is this adventure worth it or is it something that should remain a mystery? Let’s get out a magnifying glass and find out in our Murder By Numbers review!
Game reviewed on Nintendo Switch. To keep the review spoiler-free as possible only screenshots from early on in Case 1 are shown.
Graphics and Sound
Murder by Numbers looks really good. The character artwork for the many fun and wacky characters in the cast is done by Hato Moa, the creator of Hatoful Boyfriend and they look amazing. The OST is by Masakazu Sugimori, the composer of Viewtiful Joe, Ghost Trick and Phoenix Wright:Ace Attorney/Phoenix Wright:Justice For All. It’s also really well done with nice tunes that are fitting for the setting of the game. I admit I vibed with a good few of them! The animated intro was a particular highlight. It’s also worth mentioning that the game looks great in Switch handheld mode.
The game is set in Los Angeles 1996 where the player takes the role of Honor Mizrahi a young actress who stars in a show called “Murder Miss Terri”. After filming re-shoots, the show-runner is found dead and Honor ends up being the prime suspect in this murder mystery. It’s up to her, with the help of the discarded investigative robot known as SCOUT, to solve it and clear her name – meeting a bunch of wacky and fun characters along the way.
I have been enjoying the story thanks to the colourful cast of characters that each have their own quirky personality and moments to shine. K.C Leblanc is a flamboyant makeup artist for the show, Detective Cross is a serious detective and Becky Call is a bit of an arrogant actress, just to name a few. Some of them can be hit or miss but most of the characters are really likable especially Honor and SCOUT who build up a very good relationship with each other that works for me.
The game balances out the suspense and mystery with some lighthearted humor that often got a good laugh out of me even if some of the referential humor is pretty on the nose and not so subtle. There are also various dialogue options during story segments that can get different reactions out of the cast. The dialogue at times can be delightfully campy but I do not see that as a bad thing as someone who loves a good bit of camp and cheesiness in their games. All in all I’d say the dialogue is a joy to read.
Since this game is a visual novel/puzzle hybrid, you travel from location to location, talking with the people who are present as well as investigating the various locations. Investigations lead you into the Picross-style puzzles that are actually challenging on Normal difficulty. There are hints if you need them but they will lower your score the more you use them.
For people who are new to this kind of puzzle like me, or people that have trouble solving these puzzles, there is an Easy difficulty that will automatically cross out completed rows when you correctly fill in the blanks – and hints are on by default.
These difficulties can be switched at any time, except for when you’re working on completing a puzzle. Some puzzles in the game will be unaffected by the difficulty you pick. These are really difficult and challenging regardless of your chosen difficulty and I ended up getting stuck on these specific puzzles for a while.
Completing these puzzles will give you evidence that help you out in the story. You’ll face a puzzle while questioning characters that are on the scene or location, for example. You can however sometimes get some funny reactions out of characters if you show them things that don’t have anything to do with the case at hand.
Outside of the main story you also have SCOUT’s Memories. These are puzzles you unlock by raising your Detective Rank, done by scoring well at main story puzzles. Finishing SCOUT’s Memories gives you more insight on SCOUT’s origins.
I admit I’m not the best in Nonogram/Picross-style puzzles but I have had a good fun throughout the game and I’m sure that people experienced in these types of logic puzzles will have fun taking on the challenge!
Murder by Numbers launches on March 5th on Steam and March 6th on Nintendo Switch.
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GlennShiraishi is a freelance writer for Rice Digital and a YouTuber who enjoys games, anime and manga.
Murder By Numbers Review Verdict
Despite some awkward difficulty spikes, cheap reference humour, and some characters being hit or miss with me, I have had a good time with Murder by Numbers. It was a huge learning curve to solve these puzzles and I’m certain that fans of Ace Attorney and similar titles who also happen to be skilled at Picross will have a fantastic time with the story and the cast of colourful and wacky characters.