Art of Murder: FBI Confidential
- Developer: City Interactive
- Publisher: City Interactive
And as if to put Rhodan and Dracula into perspective, here's an example of how not to create a modern adventure game. Art of Murder is poorly paced, illogically structured and often downright laughable.
Both the name and cover art suggest a riff on popular shows like CSI or Law & Order. I've always wondered why more adventure games don't use the police procedural framework, since it would seem to offer the perfect template for the genre - searching for clues, accumulating evidence, solving mysteries, it's all bread and butter for point-and-clickers.
To begin with, Art of Murder seems to be headed in that direction. You're playing as Agent Nicole Bonnet, a Clarice Starling rip-off whose partner has just been shot dead in mysterious circumstances. Assigned to investigate a series of ritual killings, the game starts off by asking you to...do your paperwork. Yep. This gripping task culminates in a heart-pounding brainteaser in which you must...find some more paper for the printer. It's absolutely bizarre, and for a while I actually began to consider that this budget title might be a work of subversive genius, using the drudgery of bureaucracy as some sort of sly commentary on, I don't know, something.
Unfortunately not. Once you've finished your quest for office supplies, things settle down into a predictable routine as you embark on your investigation proper. Locations won't let you leave until you've done whatever needs to be done, and the game only lets you pick up items once you've triggered the bit of the story that needs them. Puzzles are rather simplistic, yet awkwardly jammed into the game in a way that completely undermines the concept. I'm pretty sure that FBI agents carry torches, and therefore wouldn't need to tediously work out the correct configuration of broken switches to illuminate a cellar, and I'm positive all that intensive Langley training would mean even the feeblest female agent should be able to move a crate without resorting to an unlikely fire extinguisher and dinghy combination.
The story really doesn't make sense, and ends up taking you to Peru, where things become even more generic as the game plays out like a limp Broken Sword knock-off. The character of Agent Bonnet is all over the place, one minute grieving and brooding for her dead partner, the next cheerfully twittering away like one of those vapid hags from Sex and the City. The voice acting is uniformly awful, and not in the endearingly naff way most cheap adventures manage. Too many characters sound like they were voiced using the speech function of a word processor, and the cumulative result is a game that is all but impossible to immerse yourself in.
It feels a little cruel to come down too hard on a game that proudly boasts of offering "about 100 difficult tasks" on the back of the box, but endearing lo-fi naivety and a low price aren't really an excuse, especially since there are two far superior adventure games reviewed right here. Heck, if you're so skint that you're contemplating settling for this just to save some coins, just download the SCUMM engine and play some absolutely fantastic adventure games for free.