Murdered: Soul Suspect is a game about Detective Ronan O’Connor, who has to go about solving his own murder from the afterlife before he can move on, presumably to Heaven. It’s based in Salem, Massachusetts, famous for the Salem Witch Trials, wherein a bunch of crazy people accused many women and girls of being witches, and burned them at the stake.
There are a lot of things to hate about Murdered: Soul Suspect. I mean, just heaps. The game is a technical mess, the writing is mediocre at best, and the puzzles are absurdly easy.
And yet, I didn’t hate it. Scribblings about this game from my notebook include phrases such as “appears to be smoking a ghost cigarette” and “I can possess a cat – that is awesome”. In other words, Murdered was never going to be game of the year. Instead, it’s more like a B-grade movie. If you know what you’re getting into when you start to play, then you can enjoy it despite its many failings.
The disclaimer here is that I really enjoy relaxing games. I don’t want every game I play to get my adrenaline pumping. I enjoy Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls and adventure games that aren’t too taxing. Occasionally I like to take a slow, relaxing cruise through a game. And that’s what Murdered was for me.
But if you prefer something challenging, something that gets your brain working and your heart pumping, then put this game back on the shelf. If you’re not into the horror genre or ghost stories, put it back. And if you don’t know who Bruce Campbell is and love his campy style, then don’t pick it up in the first place. Not that Murdered is in any way comparable to Army of Darkness.
If Murdered had better writing, it might have had more universal appeal. Unfortunately, describing it as “not great” is a bit of an understatement. The main story is a straightforward ghost story, nothing to write home about but not awful either.
But I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry when confronted with the side stories – particularly the story of Ronan’s deceased wife Julia. I would be extremely surprised if any woman so much as cast an eye over the writing of Julia’s character, because her notes – which are scattered around Salem, for some unfathomable reason – read like a perpetually single man’s idea of a woman’s thoughts. In other words, Julia’s story is actually about Ronan, and how he’s her “knight” despite being a “bad boy”. It makes me shudder just thinking about it.
The puzzles are usually pretty half-baked, as well. You walk around a crime scene, picking up clues which are usually sparkling and glowing, particularly if they’re important.
Some of the clues are required to proceed with the game, other clues make you wonder if Ronan’s got a ghost concussion or something, because honestly, why would he need that?
Once you’ve collected enough clues, you’re given the opportunity to figure out what happened at the crime scene by combining three of the important ones. You may have wandered around collecting 14 clues, but yeah, turns out you only needed three.
There’s no real combat in Murdered, and only one type of enemy that can kill you. Throughout some of the buildings, demons are scattered. They want to eat your soul, which apparently means you never get to leave this purgatory and continue onto the afterlife.
To defeat them, you have to approach them from behind, which isn’t too difficult, but the demons slow the game down significantly and I found them to be more of an annoyance than anything else. They also have a bad habit of turning around on you at the last second, even when you’d been standing behind them waiting for a button prompt for some time.
There’s one other big issue, and that’s the way the world of Salem is constructed. All of the characters within the game are on an endless loop: they walk the same path, or say the same things, over and over. Some of the characters are thinking the exact same phrases that others are thinking.
If this weren’t a game based on a supernatural premise, I’d find that even more jarring than I did. As it stands, it’s kind of creepy to see this town that just repeats itself, over and over.
The best parts of Murdered – aside from the kitty possession, of course – happened when I veered away from the main campaign. There are about 200 collectibles to gather in Salem, and collectively all the pieces form something of a celebration of Salem’s history.
Then there are the side missions, which I found slightly trickier than the main campaign puzzles and also more satisfying. Scattered around the town are ghosts who are, like Ronan, having trouble coming to terms with this whole death thing. Wander around the environment for a bit and you can work out the stories of their final moments and help them find peace. For some reason I found watching their ghosty souls disappear much more satisfying than when I actually completed the game.
Murdered: Soul Suspect is for a very specific kind of gamer. I kind of liked it, despite (and occasionally because of) the fact that I recognised its many, many flaws, but a lot of people will see those flaws and catch the first train out of town.