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It's difficult to categorise Murder on the Mississippi -- is it an arcade game? An adventure? An arcade adventure? Who cares? It's great. Well, at least I think so. It's a subtle blend of adventure and 'strategy' which requires very few arcade skills, and it struck me as being a sort of enhanced Cluedo (although it's really nothing like it!). I found it absorbing and quite compulsive to play, even though there isn't a great deal of action. The music isn't outstanding, but it does enhance the wonderful atmosphere generated during play. If you've got a disk drive and want a different kind of challenge, then I recommend you take a look at this neat 'adventure ' variant.

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I don't like this much, but that's not saying it's a bad game. In fact it's very good, it's just that it doesn't appeal to me -- too slow and too much of a reliability on the old brain cells, personally I prefer my action a little faster. Mind you, if you like adventurey sorts of games then this is definitely one worth looking at, it's got a hell of a lot in it, as well as sporting some nice graphics and sonics. Try it, it's just a matter of taste to whether you think it's worth buying or not.

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Welcome to Game of the Week! Each week there will be a new featured game on this page. The game may be good, average or diabolically bad, it really doesn't matter! Just look at the pics, read the text and enjoy the nostalgia! :-) Game of the Week! is open to contributions so if you would like to contribute a game article for this page you're more than welcome to! Every article we receive will be considered!
Murder on the Mississippi
1986 Activision
Programmed by Adam Bellin
 
Most text of the present article comes from the review published in the sixteenth issue of the British C64 magazine ZZAP!64 (street date: July 10th, 1986).
 

MURDER ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Activision, 14.99 disk only, joystick only


What victim? Has there been a murder? There most certainly has. Whilst enjoying a leisurely trip on the Delta Princess, a steamboat bound for New Orleans, wealthy businessman Raleigh Poindexter Cartwright III was shot at close range in the privacy of his own Cabin! But by whom? And why?

Murder on the Mississippi follows the exploits of the famous (?) British super sleuth, Sir Charles Foxworth, and his sycophantic sidekick, Regis Phelps. It is up to you to help them determine who murdered Mr Cartwright before the Delta Princess docks at its destination . . . in three hours time!

'Regis! Look at that!
Yes m'lord. Someone is sleeping.
Yes, he's sleeping on the floor, Regis, what a curious thing to do.
Quite, m'lord. Perhaps he isn't just sleeping.
What are you suggesting, Regis, a mishap?
Well there is that pool of blood . . . '

And so the mystery begins with the discovery of a body in cabin four -- the captain of the Delta Princess, Willard Overbight, identifies the corpse as being Raleigh Poindexter Cartwright III. There are eight suspects -- two crewmen and six passengers -- to be scrupulously questioned, as they all had the opportunity, if not the motive, to kill Cartwright. Sufficient evidence must also be gathered by searching each suspect's cabin. That is, if they agree . . .

The top section of the screen shows Sir Charles and Regis' surroundings. As the investigative duo move around the decks, the scenery scrolls to keep up with them. Beneath this, various lists of commands and any relevant text are displayed. Sir Charles and Regis can walk around the ship, inspect the immediate vicinity, or 'talk' to any of the characters. The commands are selected by moving the joystick and pressing the fire button.

A notepad is thoughtfully provided so that notes can be taken when 'interviewing' suspects about either the deceased or other suspects. Whatever the interviewee says is displayed at the top of the screen and a hand icon is used to pick out any relevant bits of text. For example, 'Captain Overbight, tell me about yourself' elicits the response 'Running a river boat like this one is no easy matter, young man. I sleep in the wheelhouse. Sometimes I even eat in the wheelhouse. It lakes a hard worker like myself to run a ship like this.'

Only a single line's worth of text can be removed, so words must be chosen sensibly. Notes can be recalled at any time and even shared with suspects to reveal further clues, essential for solving this whodunnit.

Incriminating evidence can be studied closely for more information by taking it back to Sir Charles' cabin and putting it on the examining table. This way, connections can be made between certain pieces of evidence and thus any theories strengthened as to whodiddit.

There are four possible endings to the game, but Sir Charles can only accuse a suspect when he has enough notes and sufficient evidence. If he's wrong -- well, needless to say, the innocent accused won't be too pleased and the real murderer will get away scot-free . . .

So who did kill Raleigh Poindexter Cartwright? Was it dainty Daisy Du Pree, who denies ever meeting any of the other suspects? Or Henry Stoker, the illegitimate son of Raleigh Cartwright and the Delta Princess' maintenance man who is secretly enjoying the carnal delights that the lissom Twylia Smallworth has to offer? Maybe it was Twylla herself? Or Circuit Judge Roderick Ishmael Carter, better known as Death Head Carter in certain quarters? Or even the captain of the ship, Willard Overbight?

Then again, who would ever suspect the Reverend Aloysius McMurdo Godwin, who continually quotes from the bible? None of the other suspects trust him, that's for sure. Maybe it was 'close' friend, Gladys Thrillington Des Plaines? Or Lionel Humphries, who insists on shooting birds from his cabin in the early hours of the morning? Who knows? One thing's for sure, though -- whoever dunnit is out to get Sir Charles before he gets them . . .

     

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What a good game, a strange mish mash of adventure and detectiveness and a lot of fun it is too. Its appeal lies mainly in its dry sense humour throughout; the whole thing seems to be a parody of Death on the Nile anyway. The different characters are so stereotyped, to the point of satire, making it great to play. And all the time you need never touch the keyboard since commands are input quite easily with a joystick, and unlike other such systems it really is easy. Murder on the Mississippi is very good indeed and brings back the old Activision sparkle which was present in their early projects. Have a look as soon as possible.
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Presentation 93%

Cinematic look and feel, impressive and effective text entry system. Instructions good too.

Graphics 80%
Clever scrolling but tepid sprites and lukewarm backgrounds.

Sound 88%
Atmospheric music that works with the game and adds a lot
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Hookability 85%
If the thought of solving a good whodunnit appeals then yes.

Lastability 85%
Four different mysteries to keep the amateur sleuth sleuthing for several chapters.

Value For Money 84%
Good disk only price for a gripping whodunnit.

Overall 89%
Novel approach to an interactive murder novel. Agatha Christie would be proud.
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Htmlized by Dimitris Kiminas (15 Aug 2006)
Only the first 2 of the above screenshots existed in the original review.

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