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Murder on the Virtual Machine

March 5th, 2003 · No Comments · Uncategorized

The last time the skies opened up and dumped a foot of cold white stuff on our fair city, the little woman and I trudged down the middle of the snowy street to the nearest CompUSA to obtain ourselves some digital diversions we could mutually enjoy. On the shelf, I noticed “Law and Order: Dead on the Money,” and in the back of my head I remember reading a review for it that said it had some merits. Keep in mind that I know ConnyWho is Conny? enjoys a good mystery, and I used to watch Law and Order all the time. While a game of this nature isn’t exactly deep, we figured it could be a fun way to kill a few hours.

For those who don’t know, Law and Order is a show that follows the investigation and the prosecution of a crime. One part of the show is about the police work, and the other part is about what takes place in the court. The game is structured in the same way.

The technology of the game is pretty simple. Basically you navigate around QuickTime VR areas where you gather evidence, or you question animated actors from a multiple choice menu. You also get to request research, lab analysis or surveillance.

The game shines in it’s voice acting and how well it captures the feel of the show. Even from the rather simplistic game design, the potential for an engaging game is there.

Sadly, the game misses in two important areas. Weak puzzles replace decent mystery plotting in too many places. For example, important evidence is in a locked drawer, but you can’t open the drawer without a key. I have never heard of police being stymied by a lock on a desk drawer. The interviews and questioning could be done a lot better too. They are much too simplistic and the choices you make don’t really effect what information you get.

Another area the game fails in is technical. For a rather simple point and click adventure style game, this game is nightmare. No other game I’ve installed, and I’ve put some real demanding games on my machine, ever needed as many patches, updates and tweaks to my machine. And even after jumping through hoops to keep the game from crashing every fifteen minutes, we got to a point where all animation in the game starts stuttering and freezing, and then the game locks solid. We’re stuck.

Turns out the real mystery in this game is why, for such a simple game, can’t it run? Who cares who the murderer is? What I really want to uncover is who made this piece of shit?

Here’s a huge surprise: the game is written in Java. Too bad they didn’t make the game in Flash, because then maybe it would have worked.

The good news is after playing the game for a bit, I got Conny View definition in a new window to watch some Law and Order, and now she’s hooked. Even though we can’t finish the damn game, we can at least enjoy the show.

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