Being both a penny-pinching player and a nostalgia junkie, it’s only natural that I should love old DOS games that have been put up on the internet by the lovely people running those websites. Recently I’ve been on a murder mystery kick and discovered some weird and wonderful old detective adventure games:
1. The Alphine Encounter (1985, Random House), which places you as a secret agent at a Swiss ski resort supposedly to stop some terrorists from going through with their world domination conspiracy. Charming and incomprehensible, the gameplay seems to consist of following fellow guests around and listening to their conversations? That’s really the only thing I’ve been able to do that moves the plot along. The rest – buying newspapers, concert tickets, breakfast – don’t seem to have much consequence. All the residents appear to have some connection and backstory – this man and this woman are accomplices in a crime, this man appears to have had an affair with this woman, and the woman appears to have been the one to break it off eventually, etc. I played it after watching The Grand Budapest and it felt kind of nice and familiar.
2. J.B. Harold in MURDER CLUB, in which you are J.B. Harold, an apparently “really cute” detective, investigating the murder of a rich man’s son. You start with nothing, and have to figure out what has happened by talking to everyone you can talk to about everything you can talk about, in the process unlocking new locations to visit and new people to talk to and suspect. The plot opens up like the ground giving way into a story quite deep and full (if not totally fantastical and very Japanese), the characters taking on a satisfying roundness as you find out more about them, well worth the many treads and re-treads and lighting up at the crime scene waiting for inspiration to strike.
I’m next trying to find MANHATTAN REQUIEM for DOS, but so far only the $5 iPod version with way too advanced (ugly) graphics is turning up. (Look at the beautiful DOS graphics!)
3. Murders In Venice, perhaps even more incomprehensible than The Alpine Encounter, in which you play a detective in Venice with no clue as to what case you’re meant to be working on. The police chief, when you find him, tells you he hasn’t got time to give you work and to go practice your bomb defusing skills at the defusing centre next door. So you roam the streets of Venice clicking desperately on windows, doors, under the Bridge of Sighs, in the hopes that a photo will pop up and you can finally speak to someone or frisk them. But how? Well, you click on your (the detective’s) mouth to speak to them and your hat to frisk them. Of course. On top of that I can’t get the camera function to work – you’re supposed to be able to take pictures of suspicious persons and show them to other people to get more information. I haven’t got very far on account of the exasperating gameplay but the graphics and delightful dialogue and the potential of that camera function are appealing enough for me to give it a second go very soon.