Relentless Software had a huge hit on its hands when it released Buzz, the fun quiz game on the PS2, PSP and PS3. Following on from this success comes Blue Toad Murder Files (BTMF), an episodic murder mystery whodunnit for the PSN.
You and up to three other players select a member of the Blue Toad Murder investigation team, comprising of a young girl and boy, a granny and a middle aged gent. The mix of characters hints at the range of people the game aimed at; namely those of all ages – BTMF is a family style board game through and through, so despite the action revolving around murder, it’s all done in as light-hearted a manner as possible.
All the events occur in Little Riddle, a quaint hamlet set in the rolling hills of England, with The Town Hall, Jewellers, Church and Library being just some of the locations you’ll visit to solve puzzles, find arsonists and capture burglars. All of these are linked together to solve the greater mystery of who committed the murders.
Before divulging any valuable information they might know, the inhabitants of Little Riddle issue you with a puzzle to solve. These puzzles are cleverly related to the characters situation, making them feel a lot more relevant than those found in other puzzlers such as Professor Layton. These puzzles vary from logical, spatial and mathematical conundrums, each type ensuring they never feel too familiar or tedious. Solving each puzzle is graded on time and performance and those too difficult to solve can be skipped to reveal the explanation, but at the cost of forfeiting an award.
As an example of what to expect, one mathematical puzzle involves placing a set number of watering cans above seven plants, each requiring a specific amount of water. The further the plant is away from the watering can, the less water it receives. Factor into this overlapping cans and a ticking timer and you’ve got yourself quite the brainteaser.
The narration, music and graphical presentation all do a wonderful job of creating that quintessential British feel. The Pixar style characters have a great charm and the narrator does an impressive job of creating voices which all sound unique, despite them all coming from one person. Each of the episodes begins with a recap of what’s happened previously, and ends with a teaser which serves as an incentive to purchase the next chapter, which does a great job of creating that `TV episode` feel which Blue Toad seems to be aiming for. It’s also a clever way of making it feel familiar to an older generation who can relate more to something like Cluedo and Midsomer Murders, than Super Mario.
The main gripe with BTMF is the lack of replayability. Of course you can revisit the main storyline once completed, but only to be faced with exactly the same puzzles and solutions. At the conclusion of each episode the main culprit must be identified and, disappointingly, this never changes. Add to this unskippable cutscenes and you’ll find only die-hard trophy hunters will probably be bothered to sit and trawl through it multiple times.
Despite the lack of replay value the episodes are fun and, at present, are priced competitively when you consider you get approximately six hours of gaming for your money. It’s possible that Blue Toad could be treated more like a traditional board game, coming out at big family gatherings like Christmas. At least then, unless you’ve got a memory of an elephant, you’ll probably have forgotten the majority of the answers enough to enjoy a return trip to Little Riddle.
Relentless have certainly succeeded in creating not only a fun puzzler which everyone can enjoy, but one which also has a great amount of charm and intrigue. They drive the story forward and constantly keep the players guessing who the culprit is. It’s just a genuine shame they couldn’t mix it up for future playthroughs.