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James Patterson's Women's Murder Club: Games of Passion Review

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On 09/25/2009 at 11:12 AM by Lauren Lewandoski

This ain't your grandma's murder mystery.

Only recommended for fans of the series.

James Patterson sure knows how to write an interesting story. Right off the bat, the player is thrust onto a crime scene involving a young Asian woman washed up on the shores of San Francisco. James, you have my full attention.

Played through the perspective of Detective Lindsay Boxer, the game follows the deaths of seemingly unrelated people. The player becomes a detective, receiving assignments from police headquarters for what to investigate the scene for. Holding the DS on its side like a book, the player investigates the scene of the crime depicted on the touch screen for assignments given on the opposite screen. The crime scene is generally 4.5 times larger than the screen itself, so you have to use the stylus to slide the image, which is actually not as annoying as you'd think. I found it made the assignments more challenging to complete, and surprisingly not annoying. Tasks include examining the dead body, finding clues and murder weapons that prove that the crime was truly a crime, and cleaning up the scene of the crime by finding objects or silhouettes of random shapes, such as a spade or a ballerina.

Occasionally there are mini-games used to solve mysteries. For example, a note is left under a mahjong game and the puzzle must be solved in order to read it. When Dr. Claire Washburn, your friend in forensics, runs tests on evidence, you have to complete a puzzle game where you must remove all of the spores in 30 moves or less by morphing them together. These really do add to the game since they are fun divergences, but they are far too sparse to really have a major effect on the game.

The plot spans a plethora of topics and people. Broken down into chapters, each one focuses on a newly found dead body. To be honest, when I think back to certain homicides I don't even know how they, or the original suspects, fit into the whole case. And for the first three chapters I thought that they were all entirely separate stories. The variety and number of characters and their development is fantastic, though. I might not be able to tell you how everyone really fit together, but I can tell you a lot about them. I was actually expecting the story to delve into Detective Boxer's depression over her lack of a love life, although it never went that far.

Every chapter is summed up over a dinner with the ladies of the titular murder club, although they aren't so sadistic that they acknowledge themselves as that. During discussions between Lindsay, Dr. Washburn, and friends, the player must answer the questions about the cases posed to her by her friends. This is done by selecting the image of the answer. While the majority of these are obvious, there were some questions that I answered confidently but were met with a loud noise and I'm sorry I don't know what you mean, detective. There's no penalty for answering questions wrong, but it's tedious and occasionally frustrating.

The graphics are comprised of well-drawn stills of characters and scenarios. The closest to animation the game gets is by placing a series of stills together to simulate movement. In the scene where a man falls, it takes him about four stills to fall, with each displaying for enough time to allow the player to appreciate them as stills rather than animation.

I found the touch screen-only controls to work well. I originally hated the touch screen map section for a while, because I was tapping the point where the location was, not the image of the location that floated nearby.

There's an added feature for the DSi called Photo Mysteries, which allows players to take pictures to create characters in their own murder mystery. The game prompts you to photograph a man, a dog, etc. These are all put together in the end to create a story that can be shared with family and friends an infinite number of times until you turn the game off. It's a fun distraction, but not really anything to come back to often as there are only 8 different scenarios.

While I had fun playing Women's Murder Club: Games of Passion, the fun was short-lived; the game only took me two and a half hours to complete. I thought that it was a great idea to hold the DS sideways like a book, since the game is based off of a book series. I really liked investigating the crimes, but I can't get over how I don't know how they all fit together. To be honest, I'm really looking forward to more James Patterson games, because it was an interesting romp around the seedy underworld of San Francisco.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.



Emperor Pilaf

09/25/2009 at 11:16 AM

Is it only a murder club for women? That means guys can't play it? That's not cool.. I'm a fan of murder too!

Lauren Lewandoski Staff Alumnus

09/26/2009 at 12:48 PM

Sorry Emperor, it's pretty much all women. Detective Boxer has a male assistant who is largely inept and hungry. You can play the game though, as long as you don't mind pretending you're an Empress for a few hours.

And there's a good number of images of the faces of the recently deceased. And they look good and dead.

Neal Ronaghan Staff Alumnus

09/26/2009 at 01:50 PM

Are they all men?

Emperor Pilaf

10/13/2009 at 11:56 AM

Empress detective adventures?... HOW DARE YOU! I like my murder mysteries full of moldy stabbed prostitutes and the main character detective has to be Jack Nicholson with a bandage on his nose... It seems like quite a couple DS mystery games have it that you play as a female. Like Trace Memory and that gawd awful Syberia. I guess ladies are the only ones who have the brains and patience to solve a crime without going on a random side quest full of criminal punching.

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