Review: Murder in the Abbey

Chris LaVigne | 16 Oct 2008 16:51
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Murder in the Abbey just wasn't designed to be anything more than generic. A huge amount of the game involves questioning other characters, but you're not given an interface by which you can do this meaningfully. Instead, players get the standard "click on the dialogue you want to say" scheme that doesn't let us affect the outcome of a conversation. You can't ask the questions you want answered, just the ones the game will let you ask. Alcachofa Soft should have implemented some kind of dynamic interview system where the conversation choices players made would alter the responses given and provide you with differing levels of clues. By the end of the game, the big reveal comes out of nowhere with Leonardo having deduced the mystery's solution without any assistance from the player. We barely ever get to feel like we're participating in the investigation, just witnessing it. That's a big failing.

Alcachofa Soft relies on a bullet-list of current adventure game clich├ęs, the same ones that turn off everybody except hardcore adventure game fans. For example, players can barely interact with the environment. Limited hotspots can be left-clicked for a description and right-clicked for an action. That's it. Some items can be picked up. Some can't. Who knows why? Leonardo just tells you, "I don't think it's important," when he won't interact with what you've clicked on. And it makes you want to punch him in the face.

Along with the disappointing gameplay, Murder in the Abbey has some distracting bugs, too. A lack of collision detection means the head of Leonardo's teenage sidekick Bruno will often protrude hilariously from the monk's crotch when they stand close together. During one conversation, a character spoke while facing the wrong direction, ruining a dramatic scene by turning it into a farce. Often, dialogue cuts out or the wrong voice comes from a character's mouth. Also, while technically not a bug, the voice acting for Bruno is so bad that it's worth pausing the game, switching subtitles on and muting the voice volume whenever it looks like he's about to speak.

Other elements of the game show promise. The graphics are gorgeous-the game's cel-shaded 3D character models look great among the hand-drawn backgrounds. Character close-ups during conversations are accompanied by revealing facial expressions, which are a nice change from the usual marionette-style presentation of most adventure games. Murder in the Abbey's plot, though it shamelessly steals from Umberto Eco's novel The Name of the Rose, is engaging and touches on interesting themes of evil, asking whether people can escape from it by hiding away from the outside world. These positives aren't nearly enough to compensate for the monotonous and dreary gameplay, though.

Bottom Line: Nothing ever draws you into the investigation to let you feel like you're solving a crime. Murder in the Abbey doesn't deliver anything more than a generic adventure game experience.

Recommendation: Only for adventure game completists.

Chris LaVigne thinks Monk's Crotch is an awesome band name.

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