Murderous Muses is another FMV infused game from D’Avekki Studio after their previous release two years ago, Dark Nights with Poe and Monroe. This isn’t quite as FMV heavy as their previous game, the video mainly cropping up in the form of interview footage with the six suspects of the piece.
It’s a bit of an oversimplification perhaps, but Murderous Muses replicates the feel of Cluedo somewhat. Though rather than your guessing Trevor in the study with the baseball bat, you have to watch a fair chunk of interview footage to unlock the respective police interviews.
You play the role of an unseen nightwatchman in an art gallery on the island of Mirlhaven and it’s down to you over three successive nights to deduce who the killer of one Mordechai Grey is. He being the artist responsible for all the paintings in the gallery including the six suspects, they being the titular muses.
This chap Mordechai has given all of the muses just cause to be rightly peeved with them, if not actually out to murder him. It’s down to you to seek out the respective portraits and place them in the right spot within each night’s gallery to unlock the three or four videos. These in turn will make the police interview for each available.
However, it’s not quite so simple as that. You see, when you place a portrait and unlock the video for one character, the same video prompt isn’t available for another suspect as the frames rotate the video shown. Critically, not all captions are immediately available at the outset, so you have to hope that watching a video with one portrait rotates in your favour.
The six main characters are Dominique the saucy amdram maven, Lilith the undertaker, Otto the ventriloquist with backchatting puppet, Professor Myers the apparently straightlaced academic, Sunday who’s one half of a pair of primadonna tennis twins and finally Xavier the doctor who may not be that competent or ethical. Rounding out the cast you have the gallery voiceover J.A.M.I.E.; a slightly contrived acronym that we’ll leave it to you to groan at; and Sasha who’s your boss of sorts that you only interact with via videocall.
There’s also Kira and Higgins, but they’re rather more deeply hidden requiring a fair bit more exploration and unlocking of content by way of solving puzzles and unlocking extra lore paintings. Kira’s video’s are viewable by collecting urns and placing them on pedestals and we’ve always come up short on getting to Higgins. We presume his commentary is unlocked by way of getting all the lore paintings for a suspect or perhaps even finding the murderer successfully.
Your first task as nightwatchman each evening is to place paintings in the main gallery area. These aren’t quite so complicated to resolve as the suspect paintings thankfully though they do require a couple of nights work to place them all as not all frames are immediately available. Their positions shift depending on your initial seed too. You’ll know they’ve been correctly placed when an interactive button becomes available for a J.A.M.I.E. audio segment at least.
Once you’ve done what appears to be busywork, you interact with the TV at your reception desk, though rather than repeats on Dave that send you into a slumber, the videos are semi-hypnotic that make you flake out. It’s at this point that you find yourself needing to interact with another TV, only in this case you’re watching a short video clip dubbed ‘Unsolved Mysteries of Mirlhaven’ with yer man Klemens Koehring, reduced to a minor role after his co-starring in Poe and Monroe. These act as switches to open up the gallery sections that let you access the video footage proper.
For example, Dominique might have a set of clues headed Rock, Paper, Scissors and it’s down to you to place her portrait in a frame labelled as such in turn. Then, and only then, will you unlock the associated police interview footage. Critically, the next step is only available once you’ve viewed the first. On our first playthrough, we confess we didn’t twig until the second night that pushing the button beneath each picture actually played the associated video.
This is all well and good, but due to the randomised nature of the game, the pre-recorded video footage is a one size fits all for all scenarios, so the bright and breezy nature of Lilith’s interviews or Xavier’s dour delivery have no actual bearing on their being the killer or not. In fact, her bright delivery threw us entirely off the scent with regards her actually being the murderer in our second playthrough.
Further complicating matters, Sasha wants the portraits of a couple of suspects for external examination. Despite this being a clear gambit to remove the portraits in question from your rotation and hence unlocking the required footage, you’ll don’t have any option but to oblige as the next section is effectively locked at this point.
Each portrait has a limited number of video viewings available per night into the bargain, these so-called Eyes of Mordechai being effectively your lives. If you’re fortunate to manage to get all the footage from one portrait early though, you can retrieve these eyes from the portrait to use on other attempts if need be. Or if you’re truly stuck, use six of these precious eyes on the hint line that will automatically eliminate a suspect. However, this will no doubt leave you short of tries for the five suspects that remain.
Once you’re done for the night, you have no option but to return to your reception desk and begin the cycle anew. On night two there’s another gallery available and the same goes for night three. It’s at the end of night three that you hope for good fortune in terms of having unlocked as many police interviews as you possibly can. This is when you make your whodunit guess and it is revealed to you whether you’re successful or not with a final police interview. In our case, we got told off by the prim professor for our crap deductive skills only for Lilith to skip away without our correctly having guessed it was her.
We’re tempted on our next playthrough to try and be as thorough as possible but also utilise the hint line if we’ve enough eyes remaining, just to make sure our suspect isn’t eliminated at this point. Thankfully urns stick around on subsequent playthroughs or we confess we’d have been completely stumped given they only appear once each night and there’s seventeen of them. Not to mention there’s an associated trophy for catching them all.
Talking of trophies, most will come through gameplay but one for successfully solving the murder with twenty eyes left over, that’s a big ask. We suspect you can’t get too cute and replay a seed for an easy completion either, but we may yet try. Another is hamstrung by the controls on a telephone dial puzzle where it’s possible to fail by inadvertently hitting exit. A bit annoying.
In conclusion, Murderous Muses is a fun deductive puzzle game that’ll need serious hours to clock everything there is in the game, but it is also a little prone to luck. As thorough as you can be, if you simply don’t get the RNG to play nice when it generates the galleries and subsequent picture changes, it can feel like you’re on a hiding to nothing if the choices you need aren’t available.
+ Well done video segments with only occasional hammy acting
+ Lots of backstory and lore
- Puzzles can feel a bit arbitrary and unfair through no fault of your own
- The videos being misleading can make for frustrating sleuthing if you’ve not unlocked police interviews
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