Friday, December 17, 2010

J.B. Harold Murder Club

Hudson Soft / Riverhill Soft

I was so into this mystery game when it first came out that, as I proceeded with my virtual investigation, I actually jotted down notes in the little black-and-white case booklet that came with the disc. It's a simple game to play, a point-and-click affair that has you go around town questioning people and looking for evidence to help solve a murder case.

But through a succession of bizarre twists and turns, the plot eventually evolves into something incredibly elaborate and intriguing. I bet it's more substantive than any mass-market mystery you can find at your local bookstore.

To this day, I have lots of fun playing through the game, even though I figured out long ago which character committed the crime. There's still a rush to be felt when finding a key piece of evidence or breaking someone down in the interrogation room. Things get surprisingly intense when a suspect is reaching his or her boiling point and you're on the verge of eliciting a confession.

Also, there's some nice jazz music to enjoy at the opening, ending, and "rest" screens. You don't have to sit through any crappy FMV, and you can leave the character voices off if you want. What might prove annoying is that you have to visit certain locations and talk to particular people over and over again. I could see why some players would consider the proceedings monotonous after a while.

While it seems like most folks who've played the game enjoy it to some degree, it really hasn't gotten much attention over the years. VideoGames & Computer Entertainment magazine praised it but also took it to task for a minor (and largely irrelevant) plot point involving a rape. It was overshadowed by Sherlock Holmes when it was first released, as Sherlock featured FMV, and while Holmes is still mentioned these days (mostly when people are making fun of it), Murder Club is just sort of out there. It's a great game to try if you're up for a little point-and-click mystery solving, and it deserves more accolades than it has received.

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