Murder in Venice (Nintendo DS) Review

By Adam Riley 18.06.2011 6

Review for Murder in Venice on Nintendo DS

Last year City Interactive released the highly enjoyable Vampire Moon: Mystery of the Hidden Sun for Nintendo DS, taking the hidden object genre to a new level thanks to its engaging storyline, detailed-yet-clear presentation, varied item usage and impressive range of mini-games mixed in. Rather than opting to make a direct sequel, though, the team has taken the formula, tweaked it considerably and wrapped it around a brand new story that stretches across two time periods. Does Murder in Venice move in the right direction, though, or is this a step backwards?

Of particular note, right from the start, is how the presentation levels of Murder in Venice supersede those of Vampire Moon: Mystery of the Hidden Sun, with the visuals taking on an air of Broken Sword for location settings, character portraits and the general ‘feel’ of the game, whilst cut-scenes are a stop-go animated affair that add more flow to the segue sections. All the while there is an definite air of tension and intrigue thanks in part to the soundtrack that has clearly been developed much further than the score in Vampire Moon.

However, it is not merely the aesthetics that have been touched-up considerably, since even the ‘seek and find’ puzzle element has been revamped, with a mixture of the usual gameplay, where a list of items appears on the top screen and the player must scour every nook and cranny of the current location by panning around the area using the stylus or D-pad to search out the hidden objects, as well as some new elements. These include intriguing challenges where small groups of snapshots appear and the task is to find that same spot in the room, building, or landscape currently being visited, or using a special tracking device to hunt down surveillance bugs planted in everyday objects to listen into conversations between the two protagonists. All concerns of hidden object titles from the past appear to have been alleviated by the development team’s willingness to take criticism from past efforts on board.

Screenshot for Murder in Venice on Nintendo DS

The story itself is key to making Murder in Venice such a thoroughly enjoyable affair. An American tourist called Vera, a stern-looking retired Russian KGB agent by the name of Yuriy, and a mysterious murder - all three combine for the thrilling tale that ties together Murder in Venice so perfectly. Meeting up with the older gentleman proves to be the start of an exhilarating journey for Vera as she ends up helping Yuriy prevent a disaster from happening, with players taking control of the young adventurous lady in the present day, then jumping into the action of the past as more of Yuriy’s back-story is filled in through the form of playable flashback scenarios. The story progresses at a fair pace, switching between the two time periods, so it is pleasing to find that journal notes are regularly made, being stored for perusal at leisure in order to catch up on elements of the yarn that may have been accidentally brushed past with nary a second glance during the tense moments of the main journey. Whilst it may seem somewhat unbelievable that some young American girl gets roped into a tale of espionage and proving to be a dab hand at dealing with all sorts of life-threatening situations, it is not a massive leap from the successful recipe that many Hollywood directors cook up on a frequent basis.

Screenshot for Murder in Venice on Nintendo DS

Hidden object games definitely have a poor reputation amongst the majority of long-term gamers, and the criticism is certainly justified in most cases since they tend to be aimed at the lowest common denominator. City Interactive’s Vampire Moon dodged several bullets in this respect, and Murder in Venice does an even better job of righting the wrongs of other developers in this field. Whilst some examples can fall foul of a few points that drag them down into the mire, Murder in Venice comes through all tests unscathed. First of all is how items are almost impossible to find due to being scaled down from PC games to the tiny DS resolution without much care. Well, Murder in Venice is specifically made for the Nintendo dual-screen portable, and the development team has poured plenty of attention into ensuring items remain buried in the backgrounds of locations visited, yet are not so tough to discover that random tapping is required (something that is punished, anyway, with points being deducted from the chapter total if too many taps are made in quick succession).

Another key problem is how the objects that need to be found usually bear no relevance to the game itself, whilst in this game Yuriy and Vera regularly converse about what is required to make progress, meaning that even if something has an unusual name, the context alone of the scenario at hand gives sufficient enough a clue (plus a hint button can be used, which refills after usage and deducts points from the overall chapter total every time it is tapped). Additionally, the majority of items to be found all serve a key purpose, with some even hidden inside containers around a level, others being kept for a short time in order to use them in conjunction with useful apparatus in the surroundings, and the act of searching for them by dragging the stylus across the lower screen or moving the D-pad to scroll being extremely fun. Finally, the experience can feel very cold, stale and impersonal in other examples of the genre, yet Murder in Venice keeps players informed every step of the way, with comments being brought up regularly if specific non-item-filled sections of areas are tapped on.

Screenshot for Murder in Venice on Nintendo DS

City Interactive has not only included a wealth of hidden object fun in the main adventure, though, as it has given the players the chance to get up to all sorts of seeking and finding shenanigans in the ‘Hidden World’ extra mode where pure hidden object fun can be had on a whopping 26 different stages separate from the main story after the credits roll. All of these areas are littered with items carefully merged into the background for players to uncover, something that adds considerably to the longevity and replay value of Murder in Venice, making what was already a great ‘value for money’ product even more worthy of its price-tag. On top of this, the mini-games found in the story mode are opened up after the main game is finished, yet City Interactive has generously decided to include numerous variations on the themes. Therefore, there are several extra Match 3 puzzles, as well as a batch of mazes to navigate through, for instance. Murder in Venice is truly a resounding success on all fronts and fully deserves plaudits for its high level of quality.

Screenshot for Murder in Venice on Nintendo DS

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

City Interactive already impressed with its hidden object adventure Vampire Moon: Mystery of the Hidden Sun last year, but with Murder in Venice it has taken the already successful formula and honed it to perfection, whilst mixing in a considerable visual overhaul and a large batch of highly engaging mini-games to add even more value for money. Highly recommended.

Developer

City

Publisher

City

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date TBA   Japan release date TBA   Australian release date TBA   

Comments

Use the shop links above to get this pre-ordered! It comes out in the UK on 24th June and it's definitely one of the most enjoyable games of its type I've played on DS, with only Crime Lab surpassing it.

City Interactive is definitely on a roll! Smilie

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]
Piotr (guest) 21.06.2011#2

This is out on Friday? Might have to give it a try! You played Jewels of the Ages yet?

judy cook (guest) 02.07.2011#3

playing murder in venice and cannot figure out how to put something to block door handle on the roof sequence please help

AdamC3 (guest) 07.07.2011#4

I think it was a chair or something like that...did you manage to get past it?

What do you think of the game so far?? Smilie

Mika (guest) 20.05.2012#5

I managed to find the chair on the roof level, but it just disappears as soon as i click on it and i have no idea how to use it to block the door handle, as there's no inventory or anything. please help Smilie

SW (guest) 18.06.2012#6

For me, this one game has one huge flaw-sometimes you will not get Perfect after completing chapters and not know why. Not sure if it's a glitch or not. One chapter I kept playing through to the point of knowing where everything was, used no hints, and found all the chess pieces, but still no Perfect. I eventually restated the whole game, and now I'm having the same problem with chapter two!

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