Hands On: Blue Toad Murder Files

So last weekend I made my way up to London to visit the throbbing Eurogamer Expo. Our very own Davs (djhsecondnature) was actually working at the expo so expect our reflection at some point in an audio format, although I’d have to stop coughing long enough to actually record stuff (yes, I’m sick, sympathy please). While there were several games that truly excelled at the show, one that’s stuck in my head as something completely new is Blue Toad Murder Files and it really deserves its own preview. The PSN exclusive episodic title is from Relentless Software, the developers behind the Buzz! series, and is genuinely the most enjoyable title I’ve played in a long time. That’s right, without condition this is probably the most fun I’ve had playing a game in a long time. Everything about the game from the art style, to the narrator, to the game play makes you smile and lose yourself in the game’s fictional world of Little Riddle.

As the game starts you select one of four characters, although as the game has four player ‘pass the pad’ multiplayer you can have all characters in one section, each with their own description which is pretty funny. From this opening the pure amusement and humour of the game come to the forefront and whilst the gameplay is simple brilliance – a style of game play that’s often overlooked – it really is the games humour that makes this game stick out as something special. The games narrator is brilliant, better than Stephen Fry in LittleBigPlanet, as are all the other characters. I was informed by the game’s producer that all of the games characters are done by the same voice actor, although it’s really not obvious even when you know.

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Whilst the games humour is probably the title’s key point for me, the gameplay is what would typically be described as ‘family fun’, with the game being pitched as being similar to board games. I can kind of see where they’re coming from as well, rather than just replicating a board game in video game form – a transition that isn’t all that interesting – this game follows the style defined in the Buzz! games in creating truly communal gameplay that “the whole family can enjoy”. Given that gamers are quick to remind the general public that games aren’t all about the nerdy kid sitting in his bedroom, it seems odd that these kind of games aren’t more prevelant. While games in this style may be lacking, Relentless continue to get it completely and utterly right. Gameplay is turn based with the narrator announcing who’s to get the pad – although weirdly you’re still told in one player mode – and then you work through the various puzzles.

That’s right, it’s all puzzle based. The puzzle style is best described as ‘Professor Laytonesque’, with the puzzles being well integrated into the plot of the game, rather than just arbitary sections to make it a game rather than a movie. Whilst I didn’t find it overly challenging to start with the game certainly has a difficulty curve that starts to ramp up as you play through the chapter. There was only one puzzle that I found genuinely frustrating, unusual for the genre,and that was more due to me misreading on-screen prompts than anything else.

In most previews I’d probably continue here talking about other features or how developers ‘claim’ that the title is revolutionary. There’s really no need here. Blue Toad Murder Files doesn’t feature insanely deep or complex game-play mechanics, you won’t spend days or weeks learning when to hit X. It’s actually refreshing to play a game that doesn’t focus on that side of the game, too many games seem to be focusing on trying to add huge depth to the control scheme, or to adding contextual controls. There’s no need here, it’s just fun to play and I couldn’t really ask for more than that from any title. In all honesty (and in a moment that makes me blush on reflection I told the games producer this) it’s the most entertaining and enjoyable game I’ve played in quite some time.

What more do you really need to know? Oh a release date you say? You can pick up Episodes 1 and 2 on December 17th.

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