Rizzoli & Isles: The Masterpiece Murders
It's murder most foul with Pastel Games' latest point-and-click mystery, Rizzoli & Isles: The Masterpiece Murders. Created for TNT's series of the same name, the first murder case you'll wind up trying to solve is anything but routine; people are dying, and when paintings showcasing the very crime scene you just entered begin to turn up, it becomes apparent that you're not dealing with your garden variety whack-job. Is Bob Ross striking back from beyond the grave? I never trusted that guy. Who knows how many happy little lumps were buried under those happy little trees?
The gameplay will be familiar to anyone who has played either The Scene of the Crime or its sequel, The Golden Doll. The game is played in a first-person perspective, presenting you with different scenes to explore and hunt in for clues as you tackle cases. A changing cursor will indicate an item, place, or person you can interact with, and you can make use of items that you gather via your inventory at the bottom of the screen. Gameplay is essentially split into two parts; tracking down clues across various locales, and trying to make connections with your evidence back at the office based on things you've found or new information Rizzoli and Isles have for you. You can take a closer look at certain items on your desk, but the bulk of your work will be to make connections between pieces of evidence on your bulletin board; drag items together to see if they "match", and try to form conclusions that will lead you to new locations. For example, I conclude that based on my timely write-up of this game, and how spectacularly wonderful my boss is, I will be given an all-expenses paid trip to Las Vegas. [Nice try. -Jay] D'awww...
Analysis: Okay, so maybe murder isn't necessarily foul; visually, the game is as artistically striking as we've come to expect from Pastel Games, with great artwork that matches the overall theme and wonderfully detailed environments. The repetitive soundtrack does get a little old, but then that's what disabling the music via the options and playing Lady Gaga on loop is for. (Why, how do you get "in the zone"?) Considering that the game is based on a television drama, you might wish that the characters were more involved than relegated to what feel like walk-on roles, but hey... don't we all want to star in our own stories?
Investigation, unfortunately, winds up feeling like it takes a bit more guesswork than anything else. You'll spend a lot of time blasting every surface you come across with blood stain spray, then trying to fingerprint everything, then trying to swab it, just in case you missed something. Since you actually play as neither of the two lead characters (I always dreamed of being Nameless Detective #41!), it seems like allowing for an option to ask Rizzoli, who always seems to be hanging around the office, for a hint or a hunch would have been helpful. But, alas, if she doesn't have anything new to say, she just stares at you like your shirt is covered in day-old pizza sauce, leaving you to shuffle meekly back to your evidence board and bump papers together in the hopes of stumbling across a connection. As of this writing, there are also a few glitches to stumble across that might hinder your progress, which stinks since one of them (an apparently random "infinite tutorial loop") essentially forces you to reload the screen and lose your progress.
Play all the Rizzoli & Isles games:
Ultimately, however, if you stick with it and doggedly cover every scene for fingerprints, bloodstains, and belly-button lint, justice will prevail. The Masterpiece Murders isn't a particularly long game, but it's just the right size to fit a bit of prime-time mystery murderin' into your evening for those of us too lazy to do it ourselves. (Maaaaan, it's not my turn to do it this week! It's joye's turn!) If you enjoyed the Scene of the Crime series, you're definitely not going to want to miss this chance to gum up your shoes, as the pros say. That... is what the pros say, right?