Review – Murder Mystery Machine (Switch)

Murder Mystery Machine is yet another game that has managed to escape from the pit of irrelevance being a former Apple Arcade exclusive, just like other unfortunate titles like Shantae and the Seven Sirens. I have to thank Microids and Blazing Griffin, a Scotland-based studio also working on an upcoming Agatha Christie game, for bringing this game to the masses in a more accessible way. This review will be a weird one, as I’ll mostly talk about how not exactly good or polished this game is. However, I can already spoil the end for you: I actually really liked it.

Murder Mystery Machine Tammy

She’s got a point.

If I had to describe this game in a simple elevator pitch, it would be a murder mystery puzzler where you link clues and statements into your own massive, utterly bloated, “Pepe Silvia from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” board. You will explore really small, diorama-esque environments in each chapter, where you’ll be told to investigate your surroundings for clues and talk to suspects and witnesses. You will unlock icons in your board as a result.

Link the correct clues and you’ll unlock new dialogue options, which will then unlock more clues, and so on. You will always have an objective in each chapter, usually in the form of having to find a lead for a new area to investigate or a suspect. Once you find what you need, you have to “deliver” the results to a subscreen on the far right side of your board. Do it correctly, and you’ll unlock the next level.

Murder Mystery Machine Board

It looks confusing right now, but it gets exponentially more confusing once you link all leads with each other.

Murder Mystery Machine has a very simplistic gameplay loop, but its controls are actively trying to make your life a lot more complicated at all times. Your main character moves at a snail’s pace, and she’ll constantly be unable to interact with items and characters standing right in front of her. Interacting with your board is also a hassle, as your cursor moves pretty slowly. This becomes a nightmare once your fill up your board with tons of clues and leads. Weirdly enough, the game does not feature any kind of touchscreen support, which is absolutely baffling, considering the fact that this game was originally developed for freaking smartphones. The developers didn’t even include the chance to tinker with your cursor’s speed and sensitivity.

Murder Mystery Machine Park

Pretty sure this is just a bad hangover.

The game’s presentation is passable at best. Its art style is charming. I loved its diorama-like levels and the way their walls just fall from the sky once you spin the camera around, but the character models and textures looked way too basic, in my opinion. To make matters worse, the game doesn’t exactly run at the best of framerates. Sure, this is a puzzle game at its core, meaning that a clunky framerate isn’t an egregious issue, but it did annoy me regardless. Its sound design was also quite poor, being the typical combination of a bland (and really low) soundtrack, underwhelming sound effects, and complete lack of voice acting, resulting in the player usually not even remembering there is sound actually coming from the Switch’s speakers.

This Switch port feels clunky and unfinished. Yet… I actually couldn’t stop playing it. As bad as its controls are, I really loved its gameplay loop. Each of Murder Mystery Machine‘s cases take just a mere hour or so to finish, with each chapter inside each case lasting for just a few minutes. Even though this game is story-heavy, focusing heavily on the relationship between protagonist Cass and grumpy detective Nate, the bite-sized levels, rewarding investigative gameplay, and shockingly generous hint system gave Murder Mystery Machine a borderline arcade-like vibe I certainly did not expect from it. It’s the closest to an arcade whodunit I have ever played, and without the cliché of having a butler as one of the perpetrators!

Murder Mystery Machine Jane Doe

It was Colonel Mustard!

The fact I had a lot of fun with Murder Mystery Machine despite its myriad of issues is a testament to how strong its gameplay loop and core concept are. I loved solving these murder mysteries even though I was constantly struggling with the game’s controls, as well as asking myself the reasoning behind the lack of touchscreen support on a Switch port of a former Apple Arcade exclusive. If you can put up with some clunky controls and underwhelming visuals, Murder Mystery Machine is an easy recommendation.

Graphics: 6.0

Murder Mystery Machine has a strong art style, but its environments are simplistic and its framerate is average at best.

Gameplay: 6.0

Its gameplay loop is excellent. Its puzzles are creative. Its controls, on the other hand, are beyond clunky, with a really slow-moving cursor and the sinful lack of touchscreen support on the Switch version… this was originally released on phones!!

Sound: 5.0

Murder Mystery Machine is one of those games you’ll barely remember there’s any sound coming from the speakers while you play, given how mediocre its sound design is.

Fun Factor: 8.5

Murder Mystery Machine might be rough around the edges in terms of its presentation and its controls, but its core concept and gameplay loop are really strong, meaning you will be easily able to overlook its issues.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Murder Mystery Machine is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC, Switch and Apple Arcade.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Murder Mystery Machine was provided by the publisher.