Women’s Murder Club: A Darker Shade of Grey
As the novels follow the theme of numbers, the games follow the theme of colours, it seems. A Darker Shade of Grey advances the formula set in Death in Scarlet by… removing the ‘hidden object’ aspect. Yes, a hidden object game without traditional hidden objects may seem like an odd concept, but it does manage to just about work here. For starters, there are still objects to find, although now rather than being tasked with finding a variety of things, you’ll always be searching for sets (for instance, twelve scraps of paper in a sheriff’s office). Gone are things like hairbrushes, samurai swords or mobile phones. Every challenge is part of a larger puzzle; find fridge magnet letters to leave a secret message, piece together a shredded fax and whatnot.
At times it leaves levels feeling a bit empty. Random hidden objects could have been deployed as well to lengthen the game somewhat – A Darker Shade of Grey comes in considerably shorter than its predecessor – but it does make for a much more refined, tightened experience however, with a much wider variety between locations. Fewer puzzles are repeated and generally duplicate puzzles mix the solutions up a bit, although poor Cindy is forced to play a laborious ’save a baby duck’ pub game multiple times. With that and being forced to work undercover as a cleaner, Cindy fans may find their heroine gets a bit of a raw deal.
The tale told by A Darker Shade of Grey begins well, with promise of a tantalising mystery, but tapers off towards the end when the plot jumps the shark and starts to get incredibly silly. It’s entertaining, but should have remained a lot more grounded given the subject matter.
Gameplay-wise, A Darker Shade of Grey just pips Death in Scarlet to the post on variety, even if it does this by sacrificing the core gameplay mechanic. For the third game, a mixture of Darker Shade’s minigames and Scarlet’s hidden object searching is a must. In terms of plot, Death in Scarlet shines considerably brighter than its younger sister, though if you’re a Women’s Murder Club fan, you’ll enjoy both.
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