Blue Toad Murder Files: hands – on

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If you’re a relatively small developer promoting your upcoming game, showing it off at the Eurogamer Expo is a great way to go about it. Less than ideal is to be tucked away from the main show floor, in an area openly referred to as ‘The Basement’, which nonetheless houses crowdhogging titles such as Heavy Rain (which wasn’t actually hogging any crowds when we tried to check it out, as it had crashed), FIFA 10, and The Beatles Rock Band. This is how Blue Toad Murder Files was presented at the show; but nonetheless, the screens were never less than busy. Why? Because it’s shaping up to be something special.

A series of six PSN exclusive downloadable episodes from Relentless Software, Blue Toad is being touted as a murder mystery for up to four players. “It’s not really a murder mystery, is it?” I heard one expo goer say after playing for a little while. Well…yes and no.

Blue Toad has often been compared to the Professor Layton games. The basic concept is certainly the same; an overarching story told via animated scenes holds together a series of lateral thinking puzzles. Comparing the two directly is somewhat pointless, as they are nonetheless rather different games; but if you insisted on doing so, Blue Toad would actually come out on top in a few respects. Up to four people can take part for example, and this is clearly the way Relentless feels the game should be experienced for maximum effect. It’s simply a matter of taking turns with the joypad (it started life as a board game concept), though this has two advantages. Firstly, you can play with three other people without having to splash out on more peripherals; and it also means that it’s just as easy to play on your own.

PhotobucketAlso, the lack of the touchscreen that Professor Layton enjoys means that Relentless have innovated and offered variety in other ways. Questions (in the first episode at least, which I played from start to finish) include straight questions, a pipe puzzle, mathematical problems, anagrams, and even one instance where we had to listen carefully to sound effects to plot the route the murder victim had taken. It was all simple, though sometimes challenging. Yours truly picked the correct answer first time round every time, of course. Well, apart from one maths based question; but the three things I was never any good at in school were geography and maths.

It’s a very British game.” said PR & marketing manager Helen Jones enthusiastically. “Because we’re a British developer of course, and I think that shows.” She’s right; it does. Not just in accents and dialect, but also in the general feel of the village setting and script. It runs no danger of alienating non – Brits, however. Monty Python and Little Britain are both incredibly British, yet have enjoyed huge success across the world. Incidentally, there is a sense of humour that runs throughout Blue Toad. It rarely raised more than a brief grin from me, but more than once people who came and went to play alongside me laughed out loud; perhaps I’m just a grumpy old git.

PhotobucketWhat’s impossible to convey perfectly through words, is the atmosphere of camaraderie and good natured fun poking that Blue Toad creates when playing with other people (particularly with the maximum four players). Complete strangers and friends alike were swapping ideas and offering help, pointing at the screen in excitement and declaring the logic of their answers (which usually turned out to be wrong). Every single person I saw who sat down to play Blue Toad walked away with a smile on their face; even the guy who gave up almost straight away because a puzzle proved too frustratingly difficult for him.

One potential problem that has cropped up time and again whenever Blue Toad is discussed, is that it isn’t the sort of game that will appeal to the core PS3 demographic. I certainly thought that to be the case myself. As you can imagine though, it’s exactly this demographic of young trendy/geeky (delete as appropriate) people with lots of disposable income that made up the bulk of the expo’s visitors, and certainly the bulk of the people who played Blue Toad there. Will it appeal to these people, who are more used to the latest Call of Duty or Gears of War? See my comments above.

It is a murder mystery, in that a character is killed at the beginning of the episode, and you have to name the culprit at the end. If you haven’t been paying attention to what the various characters have been saying, you’ll suffer. What it’s looking to be above all, is great fun with family and friends.

Blue Toad Murder Files will be available to download from PSN just in time for Christmas on December 17th, at a price of £9.99 for the first two episodes (or £6.49 if bought individually). You can check out the official site, and swap messages with the developers on the forums, at www.bluetoadmurderfiles.co.uk

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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