The Colour of Murder is the fifth Carol Reed mystery from independent Swedish developer MDNA games. To date the series has shown very little technological change in design from one game to the next, and this latest installment is no exception. But if you’re a newcomer to the series, don’t let the old-style format deter you, as this is a lovely little game. And those already familiar with the amateur detective will find a game that continues to develop Carol’s character by giving her more of a social life and brings back characters we have become familiar with previously. I found this game to be an improvement over the last game in the series I played, largely due to the fact that it has such a strong story with good pacing that pulls the player along.
The game is nicely laid out, once again filled with beautiful pictures of Norrköping, Sweden. Colour of Murder still uses the static slideshow set-up from previous games, with graphical effects added to photorealistic images to give them a softer, painterly look. This time around, the unique art style is displayed in such environments as a pretty abandoned limestone quarry and some historic buildings where Carol learns about the process of creating bronze implements, along with a handful of domestic locations. I often wondered as I roamed through various apartments what the developers at MDNA say to their friends to get them to agree to having their private domains captured for a game that will be played worldwide.
As in previous games, it sure doesn’t hurt that Norrköping is easy on the eyes. All the building exteriors are painted in the liveliest colours, and there always seems to be greenery in abundance wherever Carol goes. With such lovely surroundings for Carol to do her sleuthing in, I was constantly frustrated by the fact that I couldn’t pan 360 degrees to see more. However, the designers do a fairly good job of using pictures that offer continuity from one node to the next, only slightly marred in a few places where rotating left and right becomes disorienting. Still, I would have really enjoyed it if these pictures were seamlessly tied together so I could crane all the way around and get a more complete view of the environment. Perhaps that is asking too much of an indie studio, but it would be a very welcome addition to a series that has proven it can create an intriguing story to fill it out.
The game is marvellously constructed around a murder case that somehow seems to be connected with the disappearance of a young man. The youth has been missing for a few days, and Carol is asked to look into his whereabouts by his father. He is especially worried as he found an article in his son’s apartment regarding the recent murder of a set designer with a local theatre group, and suspects his son may be involved. Even though Carol was looking forward to a relaxing holiday, she agrees to take the case and starts sleuthing immediately. As she begins to unravel the mystery of the young man’s disappearance, all signs seem to point to a blackmail scheme on top of the murder listed in the newspaper. The deeper she digs, the more it appears that all this intrigue might just revolve around an issue of homosexuality in the royal family in years gone by, adding even more spice to what originally appeared to be a simple missing person case.
Series veterans will recognize Stina, who does double duty as Carol’s friend and the player’s guide through the game, providing advice and clues when needed so that your adventure keeps moving ahead. For those new to the series, Stina was originally the shop girl at a local store that she now owns, where you can visit her at any time. As a local and friend of Carol’s, Stina serves as a sort of Google Map for nearby sites and information. She often points Carol in the right direction when she needs to find a new location, or provides background information about historical or local importance to the case.
While helpful at times, Stina is really just back-up resource, as most necessary information is provided by interacting with the game’s various characters, and the dialogue and written material does a good job of giving you most of the clues required to advance at a steady pace. And pacing is one thing this game definitely does right. Colour of Murder ticks right along, only once grinding to a halt when I realized I hadn’t completed a necessary action to open up another location. This is largely due to the fact that the plot itself unfolds naturally as you progress. All the threads logically connect to each other, creating not only a strong story for the game to be built around, but one that lends itself intuitively to the locales that have become a hallmark of this series.Continued on the next page...